Elain walked into the school building she so rarely attended and predicted everything that would happen. She would walk into her classroom, sit in the ver back, ignore every single set of eyes on her and try to pay attention to the teachers droning. Then, when class was over, she would go to the same teacher and receive a butt load of makeup work that probably had to be done in the next week. After her bookbag was a quarter of the way filled, she'd walk to her next class, repeat the process then be free for lunch. She would sit alone, outside somewhere under a tree and think. Can't eat lunch without food and food cost money. Neither of which she had. So, she would dream a out what it was like to never be hungry again. When she was rudely awakened from her thoughts by the bell she would walk to her next two classes, do the same thing as earlier then walk home. Learning little and going back to her sweet, little hell hole she hated to call home. Everything was planned to the minute.
So, when she was punched in the face and slammed into the lockers, she didn't react like she usually did in a fight. Sitting there stunned, Elain blinked at the people ruining her perfectly bland, perfectly planned out schedule of the day.
The black girl staring down at her snickered. "Hey look, the mixie don't know how to fight. Ain't that funny?"
Elain didn't react to the taunt, just stared up at the not-so-pretty girl and her two white friends. Great, more racial shit, Elain thought sourly. Like she didn't have enough problems that her mother was white and her father black. Elain certainly didn't give a damn about their color, just that they were as far from her as possible.
"Hey, Mixie, can't choo talk? Maybe you's a retard too! It ain't enough bein' half nigger, half whitey, you's gotta be stupid too?" the black girl asked disbelievingly.
Saying nothin, Elain stood up slowly and looked all three girls in the eyes. She had nothing to worry about here so she didnt, just kept quiet. Just keep your temper in check, Elain told herself firmly, you can't get kicked out of school, not here. You have to get an education and get the hell out of here. If they hit her first, she'd let them because she could take it. However, if they start fighting dirty, she had a few tricks of her own.
"Don't make me kick the shit out choo, girl. If you's gonna talk do it now or foreva hold ya peace 'cause I'm 'bout's to do some damage," she told Elain seriously. Popping her knuckles, she eyed Elain's size. Elain was a good five inches taller than her puny five feet, four inches but was still as skinny as a twig. The other girl probably had a good twenty pounds on her.
Elain finally decided to speak. "No, I'm not stupid and don't call me Mixie, it's not my name. Now let's just get to class so we can head home," she said calmly.
The black girl laughed nastily. "You actually wanna get home? What choo got there? Last I heard your whore of a mother was down in North Carolina screwing the richest man she coulda found. And your pa's drunker than those hillbilly's down South. Bet your ma's already screwed them though-" she didn't get to finish her sentence.
Understandable; it's hard to speak when someone's fist just about knocked half your teeth out.
The crowd that had gathered stared at Elain who was shaking her hand without any expression on her face. Her fist had been just a blur as she knocked out the horrid girl. The two white friends stared at her as well then grew angry. Elain knew what was happening before anyone else and still, she let it. Those two white girls pinned Elain to the lockers without any struggle from her. One of them held her while the other started punching her with all she had and Elain let her, trying to look as vulnerable as she could. One punched graze her shoulder and the next nearly knocked her lights out as pain exploded in Elain's cheek. A choked cry barely made it past her lips when the two girls were pushed away from her and she dropped to the floor.
"Who is at fault for this?" A stern teacher stood in front ofthe two girls. She glanced once in Elain's Direction and then shot he glare back at the two girls. The teacher listened as they examined how this was Elain's fault and she flicked another glance at Elain, obviously already believing it was entirely Elain's fault.
"Elain Annette, did you star this fight?" the teacher asked, the tone saying she wouldn't believe any excuses that came from Elain's mouth. Elain managed a slow shake of her head and the teacher's lips pressed into a thin line."I'm sure," she said sarcastically.
Elain closed her eyes, already resigning herself to her fate when a boy's voice rose up from the murmurs of the crowd. "Mrs. Lee Anne, Elain did nothing. They taunted her and when she didn't respond, they started beating her."
At the sound of his voice, Elain's eyes popped open and she stared in disbelief as the boy who barely knew her saved her ass. Apparently, Mrs. Lee Anne found the same thing to be amazingly shocking for her eyes were almost as wide as Elain's.
"Ren," she said sharply, "are you sure of this? Did you see the entire thing?"
He nodded, turning his innocent gaze on her. "Yes, ma'am. I was here the entire time. Elain is innocent," he said when he pierced Elain with an angry gaze which somehow she knew wasn't for he but the teacher which didn't make any sense.
"If… If you're sure then," Mrs. Lee Anne said uncertainly. "You two, office, now. Somebody carry Miss Angelina here to the nurse," she said referring to the unconscious girl Elain had hit.
The crowd dispersed and Elain was left sitting with Ren staring at her. She wanted to ask if he was going to keep staring at her but she held her tongue for the boy who just saved her. Slowly and painfully, she got up, checking for bruises.
Well, new bruises. She lightly gouged her cheek and knee a bright blooming bruise would appear later. At least her eye was fine, couldn't say the same about the shoulder though. Robert ha a knack for shoving her into walls and it was usually her left shoulder that got the worst of it. Being punched there repeatedly had definitely not made her life any better. She stretched, mentally checking everything before picking up her discarded book bag and walking towards the doors out of the school. No use being there anymore today, she was sick of being stared at and she hadn't even been in any classes yet.
"Whoa, where are you going?" Ren asked her as he walked beside her. She didn't answer, didn't have an answer as she didn't know either.
Ren, persistent, stepped in front of her to keep her from walking. "Elain.…" his mouth held her name like a caress. "You'll talk to trash like Angelina but not someone who's trying to help?"
She raised her eyebrows in realization and burned with humiliation. Her grandmother would have smacked her on the head and told her to quit being rude to this nice young gentleman. Elain, still blushing finally looked him in the eye.
"... Thank you, Ren. I'm sorry for being rude. Goodbye." It all came out in a rush, sounding oddly formal. She really liked him which might have affected her someone. It could have just been because she doesn't usually speak, especially to boys like Ren. Smart, popular, good-looking... kind. She really didn't talk to kind people, they either avoided her or their kindness abruptly ran out when they saw yer home, her family. She desperately didn't want that to happen to Ren, she wanted to keep her image of Prince Charming with him. "Apology accepted," Ren said, smiling at her. "Now you should probably get some ice on that bruise or it's going to be quite the shiner tomorrow." It looked like he wanted to touch the spot where the bitches slugged her but saw her closed off expression and thought better of it.

Good, Elain thought bitterly. He might get infected just by touching me, a mixie...

Elain nodded then walked around him and out of the school, heading toward the road that went to her house. She could practically feel Ren's gaze burning holes in her retreating form. Let me go, she prayed, just let me go. Don't be nice to me anymore. Please.

Elain Annette and Kindness have never gotten along. She was afraid to try now.

Without any warning she was grabbed by the arm and stopped. She didn't let herself think, just reacted. Dropping to we knees and surprising whoever grabbed her, she swung a leg put and caught him in the back of the knees making him land on his ass. Quickly so he couldn't react, she brought a knee down on his chest, sending a warning while her other knee pinned down his left hand. Both of her hands grabbed his right one and twisted it very uncomfortably. Ren squirmed from under her, indecisive as to whether he should laugh or just stare in shock. He couldn't make up his mind and the combination of the two was so funny Elain almost laughed but she didn't even smile. No, she was a tad pissed.

"Never again," she hissed. "Don't ever grab me again. I can't help my reactions and I could end up killing you. I. Almost. Crushed. Your. Lungs." She was so angry at herself for almost hurting him and at him for putting himself in danger like that and just entirely too angry that she just couldn't seem to get along with nice people.

He stared at her for a moment and then started laughing. Laughing. He was-laughing! The boy had been moments away from death and he's laughing? She let go of his hand and got up quickly, her face a mask of disgust. Her so-called Prince Charming was a lunatic who got high off of near death experiences. Great.

"Wait-wait," he gasped out, trying to control the chuckles that kept bubbling their way out. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's really not funny, sorry. I just- I thought you were mad at me for following you but you were actually scared for me." he said it so quietly she had to strain to hear.

Her eyes widened a little and she couldn't seem to stop blinking like an idiot. He was worried about her being mad at him? Well, she was but she had been terrified when she realized what was happening. She was so scared for him. Why did he find that funny? Maybe he was just relieved.

He saw her look of confusion and was quick to reassure her. "I'm fine, I swear, just happy. That was pretty awesome. You should teach that to me one day. Hey, let me drive you home. It's the least I can do for scaring you half to death. Not the best move I've ever made..."

She stood there, visibly thinking, still watching him with those beautiful gray eyes of hers. Sometimes Ren would catch her staring at the board in class working out the problems and think that a storm was brewing behind those eyes. There wasn't a net you catch yourself with, if you stared too long you could get lost in her eyes.

Ren stared at her until she finally nodded and he gave a really goofy grin and she rewarded him with a small smile. The expression was wiped off her face and replaced with one of surprise. When she smiled, really smiled all of the storms rolled away from her eyes and it was the most beautiful sight he's ever seen. With barely any notice, he briefly realized he was on dangerous ground, this girl could break him if she so wanted, physically and emotionally.

Shaking his head free of his thoughts, led the way to his car and gallantly opened the door for her. She gave him another smile, this one timid but grateful. Smiling, he got in the drivers seat and drove out of the school parking lot, not giving a damn he was technically skipping school. She was so he would too, simple as that.

They were driving in silence until she slapped her forehead and shot him a rueful glance. "I forgot we don't have bandages at the house, is it alright if we stop at a store and get some?"

He grinned. "Well, if I get to spend more time with you then hell yes!"

She said nothing, just smiled and looked out of her window, hiding her blush. He was ridiculous but it only made him that much more likable. It seemed like she smiled for the first time in forever by just being around him. She had almost forgotten what it had been like to smile, yet he made her do it so effortlessly.

When they got to the store about five minutes later, they both got out while he held out his hand towards her. She stared at it in confusion. He saw her expression and laughed a bit before walking towards her and grabbing her left hand with his right one, entwining their fingers. Seeing her blush, he smiled, not caring who saw. He most definitely wasn't going to let go, he was enjoying himself too much.

Walking into the store, she swept away any emotions from her face as the cashier recognized her and started glaring. Against her hopes, Ren noticed and his hand squeezed hers comfortingly. The cashier saw him, recognized him as well, looked down at their entwined hands and his lips pursed in disappointment as if hoping Ren had been above trash like her with the rest of them. Ren turned his cold gaze on the college boy then turned and walked towards the bandage aisle. When they were safely out of range of the boy Ren turned and saw her watching him with sadness in her eyes.

"Why..?" she asked. "Why turn your back on someone like you?" He heard the silent 'Why don't you turn your back on me and be with them?'

He squeezed her hand again. "Just because the color of my skin matches theirs doesn't mean I have to believe they're right in their hatred. Unlike most, I don't believe that your color defines who you are."

Tears welled up in her eyes but she refused to let them fall. "Why don't you hate me like they do?" If hated her like the rest of them then she wouldn't have to feel that damned kindness that seemed to make everything worse rather than better.

"Are you asking me to hate you? Because if you are then you're going to be sorely disappointed as I've begun to take a liking to you." His eyes were hidden by his long lashes as he brought their hands up to his lips and kissed her knuckles.

She sniffed and blinked the tears away so she could give him a sad smile. "Thank you," she whispered.

He nodded so she turned away and looked at the bandages trying to find the cheapest ones so she could still eat that night. Finding the ones she wanted, she based then to Ren since it seemed he wanted them.

"How come you don't get better quality ones? Oh, and why do you even need them?" His question gaze locked onto hers.

Answering his question, she held up her right hand, the one she used to punch the girl, Angelina. The knuckles were raw and bloody already staining the long sleeved shirt she was wearing. A small breath of air puffed out of his mouth as he cradled it with his left hand so he could see it better. Not bad, she's had plenty worse. Very worse, actually and most of them have been caused by Robert.

He gently let go of her right hand and, box in hand, marched towards the cashier so he could pay. The cashier glared at her again and Ren subtly stepped in front of her, shielding her from the cruel gaze. Gratefully, she squeezed his hand and he squeezed back. He gave the other boy a cold look again and was happy he had Elain at his back.

When the bandages were payed for, he handed them to her and they walked out of the store together. Elain was petty happy and felt like laughing but she controlled herself. She was lost in her thoughts and accidentally let go of the box. As it fell to the ground she reached down to get it and her shirt rode up and the bottom half of her back showed.

Looking back on it, she wished she had just remembered.

He gasped and she looked up at him in confusion. Realization dawned on her and she straightened with great speed and scrambled backwards, yanking her hand out of his so she could hold them up in explanation. She started to explain but his shock quickly turned to anger and the words died on her tongue.

"What," he said with barely controlled fury, "are those bruises from, Elain?"

She gave a nervous chuckle. "Fights, I get into a lot of fights."

"With grown men? Those bruises are from punches, brutal punches. Only a man could..." Realization dawned on him as well and his anger soared. "The rumors about your father being a drunk, are they true?"

She only managed a nod. A breath of air flew put of him as he tried to control himself. Her own father was beating her, the drunk bastard. If Ren didn't control himself now, he might literally go and kill him. In fact, the only thing that calmed himself down was the look of fear in her eyes. Not at him, he saw, but for him. She didn't want him doing anything stupid.

He calmed himself down enough. "Elain, get in the car. Now."

She scrambled into the passengers seat and stared at him worriedly as he put the car in drive and headed towards her house. Everyone already knew the trashiest place in town, her home.

They drove in silence until they got there where he looked at her and said harshly, "Is he in there?" When she shook her head he nodded to himself. "Grab whatever you want to keep then meet me back here, alright?" She nodded and hurried into the run down shack.

The screen slammed behind her and the holes ripped a little larger but she didn't care, she barely knew what was going on. Still, she didn't ask questions because she didn't think he could bear any more test to his control. She ran into the closet that had become her room when Lily, her mother had left Robert, her father. Shoving her hand under her ratty mattress, she felt around for her Nana's wedding ring and necklace, treasures she needed to keep. She never got the chance to wear them in fear Robert would take them and sell them off for drinking money. After she found them, she grabbed her Nana's favorite book off her dresser and tucked it into the back if her pants, hidden by her shirt. Quickly, she put the necklace and ring on so she wouldn't lose them in her pockets. Grabbing a trash bag, she shoved what little clothes she had in there then tied it off, slinging it on her shoulder. She didn't know exactly what was happening but she knew she probably wasn't coming back so she kissed her fingers and rested them on the cabinets that her grandmother had loved.

"Goodbye, Nana, I love you. Wish me luck, I think I'm finally off on an adventure, like the ones in your books. Ren, he's a knight, Nana. I know you would like him. I like him, too. Bye," she whispered before heading out to meet Ren, eyes dry and determined. They got in his car and drove with Ren controlling his temper but needing to understand her story.

"So, what's your story?" he asked quietly.

She considered saying nothing but decided he deserved to know. "Even though you just moved here, I'm sure you've heard the rumors about my family, how my mother is a whore and my father a drunk. I'm sure you've also heard how my mother left my father and there are many reasons but the main one was that she just didn't love him. She told him so and it broke him for he loved her with all his heart. He started drinking and at his worst moments, the alcohol twisted his brain into making him think I was my mother. We look alike, I suppose which made him hate me all the more. I don't think he really knows what he's doing..." She trailed off at the murderous look he gave her.

"Don't you dare defend the bastard. Don't you dare, Elain." he told her fiercely. She hesitated then nodded and silence fell between them.

After a moment, he broke the silence again. "How did you not turn out awful like your parents?"

There wasn't a single pause when she spoke this time. "My grandmother. She saved me when my mother left. I went to live with her when I was six and she basically raised me my entire life. I guess she was always my true mother," it sounded sad to him but she had the happiest smile he's ever seen on her face as she remembered her Nana.

"She died?" he guesses.

"A year ago, yes." It was so quiet coming out of her mouth and he had to strain to hear her.

"I'm sorry."

"She would have said thank you but she doesn't want your sadness, she's too busy having fun with the angels."

He watched her smile grow and found himself chuckling. "She sounds pretty funny."

"She was."

He let her be and drove in silence again. When they finally got to where he wanted, he shut the car off and jumped out, taking her stuff from the trunk. She slowly go out, awestruck at the mansion in front of her. Four stories, it looked centuries old and still as beautiful as if it were new. Grand marble stairs led to beautiful mahogany doors that opened outward and made no noise when Ren opened them. Inside was even more amazing. A grand staircase led up to the second story as soon as you stepped in. Two more spiral staircases led up to the third and fourth floor. It seemed everything was covered in red velvet with the walls painted black with silvery spirals painted randomly.

She gasped. "Ren... This is... amazing... But, where are we?"

"We're in my home."

She looked at him shocked. "What am I doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious? You're staying here now." He grinned at her.

She gaped at him.

He blushed. "It's really not that big a deal, just until you can find your own place. I swear, nothing will happen. But, for now, you'll live here."

"I couldn't... I can't possibly... There's no..." She stammered around, unable to take this huge act if kindness.

"Really, it's not a problem. My parents are away and even if they weren't, they would gladly take you in. My brothers will love you. Please say you'll stay." he begged her, wanting to give this to her.

Finally, mind numb with surprise, she nodded and he grinned. Taking her hand, he led her up the stairs and right before he reached the top step, her eyes landed on the most handsome boy she had ever seen in her entire life. His brown hair seemed to have red highlights peeking out at her as it fell into his angry brown eyes. He looked so much like Ren and at the same time was totally different. While Ren was smiling happily at her, the boy glared with utter dislike and anger. She stopped and yanked her hand out of Ren's, staring at the boy who was looking down at her.

"Ren," he said coldly. "Who is this girl? What is she doing here? Why have you brought a stranger into our house?"

Ren's smile faded and he looked at his brother defiantly. "She's staying here, Alex. This is her home for now."

The boy, Alex, scowled at the both of them. "She most certainly is not! It's not my fault she ran away from home." At this, he turned to her and sneered in her face. "What? Is Daddy not giving you your allowance because you got grounded? Or maybe you're angry because you didn't get to see the poor boy you like and you're throwing a tantrum."

Elain stared at him calmly while Ren grew red with anger. "Alexeth! Don't you dare taunt this girl!" His hands turned to fists and he took a threatening step towards Alex who just scoffed and stood his ground.

"Has she suckered you with one of her stories, Ren? You always were so gullible. Or maybe you've got a crush and she's just got you wrapped around her finger. Is it true, girl? Have you fed my brother some sob story? Get out! Now!" Alex screamed at her.

She glanced at Ren and saw him adjusting his position then immediately knew what he was going to do. Lightning fast, she grabbed him around the middle right as he tried to launch himself at his brother. He fought to get free of her but also tried not to hurt her which let her use all of her strength and root him to place.

"You're right. I should leave. Thank you, Ren, for everything. I'll see you at school," she told Ren who abruptly stopped fighting and turned to look at her. She let go and turned around, scrambling to get to the door so she could walk home and cry in peace.

"No! Elain, stay!" She heard him running after her and turned to see him right in front of her with a pleading face.

"Yes," Alexeth sneered. "Stay and take advantage of everything you see! Wouldn't be the first time I'm guessing."

Ren turned to face him. "Alexeth, you've no idea what you're talking about."

"Of course I do! This little girl ran away from her mommy and daddy because they were being so utterly unfair and wouldn't buy her a pony or maybe a pair of earings," Alex laughed cruelly.

She just stared at him without giving any emotion. "You, Alexeth, are heartless and cruel. Assuming my story is one thing and many people have but to laugh about it? I did not come here to take advantage of anything. In fact, I'll be leaving right now as you so want. But I beg you, spare a thought to others." With that, she turned and walked out the door, not even bothering to close it as she wanted to get out of there as soon as she possibly could.

"Arrogant much?" she heard Alexeth screaming after her. "Who's to spare a thought to a spoiled brat like you!"

"Alex!" Ren yelled, outraged. "She is beaten but her drunkard father and her mother is a whore! She has nothing! You of all people have no right to look down upon her! Elain! Wait!"

She paused for a moment but shook her head and continued down the grand steps. Best to get out of here fast and never look back. Maybe Alexeth was right, running away was quite foolish and did sound stupid.

Ren lightly touched her elbow so as not to startle her again. "Elain, you can stay. I mean it. Alex doesn't have any power over me and he knows it. This house is mine as well and I want you to stay. Please."

She stopped. "Ren," she said softly. "Your kindness knows no bounds but honestly, I think it's for the best if I go back home. This was just a stupid kid's dream. I mean, look at us. We're just kids and strangers at that. Think."

"I am thinking, and I'm thinking that this should be your home now. Stay as long as you like." He told her.

"Yes, stay."

Alexeth's quiet but deep voice said from atop the stairs. Elain and Ren both looked up and saw him resignedly coming down to meet them at the bottom.

"That was quite awful of me, Elain. Forgive me and stay."

She blinked and smiled a small smile. "I can't but I thank you for the offer."

"Please, Elain, please stay. You can't go back there," Ren begged her. "That's too awful for anyone to bear. Just stay here for at least a week. Please."

She hesitated a moment before giving in. "Alright," she said tiredly. "I'll stay. Thank you. So much. For everything."

Ren grinned and took her hand, leading her back inside and upstairs to a rather large room. "Here, this is now your room. We can redecorate it if you want, my grandparents were real hoarders so we've got plenty of everything lying around."

"It's... It's amazing. I love it, Ren, thank you," she beamed at him.

Blinking, he had to remember how to breathe for a minute before he could tentatively smile back at her. When she was truly grinning, it chased away the sadness in her eyes and transformed her into a gooddess of beauty with her beautiful brown hair that ran down her back and gray eyes that captured men's souls and never let go. Or maybe it was their hearts. He glanced at her again. Oh yes, definitely hearts.

"Well," he said breathlessly. "I'll let you unpack. Dinner's at seven so do what you want until then."

"Do you cook?" she said curiously.

"Yeah," he said sheepishly. "Though I'm not that good."

"Can I... Can I watch?"

He blinked again. "Uh, yeah, of course."

She smiled. "Alright, then I'll leave you to it."

Laughing, he said, "That's my line. Anyways, welcome to your new home." Turning around, he stopped in the doorway when she tugged on the back of his shirt.

"Ren..?"

"Yeah?"

"... Thanks."

"Don't mention it." And with that, he left, leaving Elain staring at the doorway while tears dripped down her face.

She waited a moment before grabbing the book from her waist band of her pants and hugging it to her chest. Crying and crying and crying, she said her goodbyes to her hopes that she would ever live with a normal happy family and thanked whatever higher power there was for bringing her to Ren. Strange, kind Ren who took strangers in no matter their skin or family. Elain prayed that nothing bad would come of it, that she was picking the right thing to do, that her grandmother was really watching over her and helping her along in her life. Wiping away her tears was useless as more just kept coming in so she just let them fall onto the plush red carpet she was kneeling on.

After a long moment of crying, she shook her head, wiped the last of the tears away and stood, surveying the room. The bed was too big for just her as was the entire room. This was too much for little Elain, she would have been happy with a broom closet. Maybe she would just sleep on the carpet instead of facing her fear that she might sink into the bed and disappear all together. She didn't think Ren would mind... Actually, a nap sounded quite nice. After all she'd been through, today, her whole life, some actual sleep sounded heavenly.

She put the book down beside the carpet and turned towards the door to closet but stopped in her tracks when she saw Alexeth staring at her with absolutely no emotion on his face. Preparing herself for anything, she wiped all emotions from her face as well.

"...Yes?" she asked.

He stared at her for a moment. "I'm sorry. Earlier, that was rude of me. It's obvious you've been through a lot and-"

"How long were you there for?" The question came out sharp though she hadn't intended it that way.

"The moment you started crying, so as soon as Ren left." He was giving his apologies by not lying to me and saying he hadn't seen anything. Elain understood though she almost wished he had.

"Oh."

"Again, I'm sorry."

"I accept. May I ask a question?"

His reply was hesitant. "... Yes."

"What did Ren mean when he said that you of all people should understand my story?"

His jaw clenched and his entire body tensed, giving almost everything away. Elain had touched a raw spot and she knew it.

"Alright, never mind. It doesn't matter because as you said, I won't be staying here long. I'm sorry for intruding on your home, Alexeth."

"Alex."

"I'm sorry?"

"You can call me Alex."

She peered at him strangely. "Is that what everyone calls you?"

He nodded.

"Is that what you want to be called?"

Shock splashed across his face and Elain had to hold in a smile. Apparently, no one had ever asked him whether he liked his nickname or not.

"...No."

"Then to me, you are Alex."

He blinked a couple of times before nodding again. "You can stay..." He said softly.

"I'm sorry?"

"I said, you can stay for however long you like. Ren was right, this is your home now."

She smiled a small, fond smile, remembering Ren. "You are both very kind. Yes, even you Alexeth, are very kind. Thank you for the offer but I really won't be staying here for very long."

"Where will you go?"

She sighed a happy sigh. "I don't know, maybe my aunt's house. My grandmother once spoke of my mother's sister, her other daughter, how she and my mother had a spat and never talked again. Maybe she'll see me and forgive my mother and take me in. Who knows?"

"Do you even know where she is?" he asked concernedly.

Her answer was uncertain. "No... Nana once mentioned that she was last in California. I'll start there."

"That's all the way across the country! How do you even plan on getting there?"

"Well, I was going to get a job, and I've already got a couple hundred of savings I got from selling Mother's old jewelry," the sigh she gave was regretful. "She said she was never coming back and we needed the money so I... sold it."

"I would have done the same. You did nothing wrong," Alexeth told her kindly. "A couple hundred isn't going to get you across the country, you know that right?"

She smiled mischeviously. "I've got an aquaintance who sells used cars and would gladly give me one."

"I sense that word 'gladly' is just a euphamism for what he'll really feel," he chuckled.

"Your senses are correct. I saved his and his daughter's life a while back so he owes me," she said matter-of-factly.

"That's a story I'll have to hear later. For now, I'll let you rest, you look like you need it." He turned to leave.

"Alexeth..." She continued when he paused in the doorway. "Don't tell Ren, would you? I... I don't plan on saying any goodbyes... Tell him when I'm gone, though, okay? Please? You don't have to, you've already done so much for me... I just... I don't want to hurt Ren more than necessary."

There wasn't any emotion in his voice. "You know, leaving in the middle of the night and having Ren find your empty bed will hurt him more than saying goodbye to his face."

"... I know... But..."

"You don't want have the risk of him convincing you to stay here."

"... Yes."

"Alright... I won't tell him until you leave but if I see any sign of you pausing in your plan for leaving, I'm letting him know."

To his surprise, she laughed. "That's actually a good plan for my assurance of leaving. Very subtle. It almost sounds as if you said that to make sure I stayed. Don't worry, I won't let Ren pursuade me at all. I'll be gone by the end of this week, tops."

Alexeth paused again. He had said that because he actually did want her to stay for a little while longer. There wasn't a single part of him that wanted her going off to California by herself, he wasn't a jerk about to let a young girl go off like that. Still, it was better if she thought that, there was no need to let her know that Alexeth was in danger of growing attached just like Ren was. He wasn't kidding when he said that she had Ren wrapped around her finger, she just didn't know it and soon, she might just have Alexeth himself wrapped around her finger as well. He'd make her leave if it came even close to that.

Yes, this girl had to go.

"Well, get some rest. We'll find a job for you tomorrow, unless you're still going to go to school?" he asked, still no emotion.

She snorted. "I'm good, I'd rather not get into another fight just so soon."

As his back was to her, he hid his surprise well. "Another story we'll have to share later. For now, good night."

"See you and... thank you. Again, Alexeth, thank you." Her voice sounded so soft and lonely that he almost turned and stayed but after steeling himself, he left, closing the door behind him.

He stood outside of her doorway and listened intently, making sure he hadn't heard a sniffle, a sure sign of more tears spilling from the girl. When he heard nothing, he moved on, knowing she heard him walking away and also knowing, that she probably was crying. Still, he walked on, hating himself a little bit more that day.

When she heard him walk away, she sank down on the plush carpet and let the rest of the tears fall. She didn't know how long she cried just that, when she was done, she fell into a deep sleep, dream free, nightmare free, emotion free. Real sleep. For once.