I sat with my back against the trunk of the birch tree, tears threatening to burst forth from my eyes. With all the horrific events of the last week, I felt as if my life was finally falling apart, torn apart by demons; ruined by all the evil doers in the world. He had taken her, stolen her from those who loved her. Now that she was gone, and now that there was no way to pay for the land or the house, he was taking that from me too.

As the memories came rushing back, I felt the scars on my heart being slashed right open again, the pain just as raw, cruel, and relentless as it was the day that I had found out that my mother had been murdered. She had been just another innocent bystander who'd had their life stolen away from them, killed by a cold-blooded demon with no heart or soul, controlled by the King of Hell. No one else had seen it coming, and neither had she.

I felt the last rays of warmth disappearing along with the sun, the cold chills of the shadows already setting in, completing the days cycle. I know I should get up, I know it's only going to get colder out, and I know the pain is only going to get worse with every passing second, but I can't move. I'm too sad, too hurt, and too dead to move. I was frozen, caught in time reminiscing about my past. It's funny, how when you hurt so much inside, it's no different than Death itself.

The leaves on the ground around me started to rustle and a voice as thick and smooth as honey blended in. "Elizabeth, why are you still outside? It's dark and dangerous out here at night." I refused to look up. "You look sad, why don't you stay at my place for the night?" my curiosity had been quenched the minute I had heard those famous words. The words every boyfriend longed to get the chance to say, the words every girlfriend longed to hear. "You know Austin? Thanks, but no thanks. I'd honestly like to die alone and in pain thank you very much." The leaves rustled again and I could hear someone moving around on the other side of the tree. I held my breath and moved not even a muscle, just in case it wasn't the man I'd thought it was. I saw a flash of his black TapOut jacket out of the corner of my eye and before I knew it, he'd somehow gotten his arms around by waist and under my legs and was carrying me off to his truck; just like a prince would a princess. (although the Prince and the Princess are usually riding off into the sunset on a gorgeous stallion to some castle "Far, Far Away", not a rusty Ford pickup truck to a boyfriend's house. But this isn't your story, now is it?) "Is the idea not tempting?" I could hear the curiosity and wonder in his voice quite clear. "It is Austin, it is…." "Do you prefer Death over me?" I could still hear the curiosity, but the wonderment had turned to hurt. I looked him directly in his blue-gray eyes "Austin? Do you really think that I'd want to die than spend the night with my righteously hot boyfriend?" "Ahhhh…" he let out a deep sigh. "I don't know, why don't you tell me?" we had reached his truck at last, which he had parked in the lower driveway. He set me down gently and opened the passenger door for me, making funny hand motions just like a prince. "Milady." His voice was soft, sweet, with a hint of an English accent. "Why thank you, my sweet prince." I decided I might as well go along with it. I leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek before climbing into the passenger's seat. He walked around the front of the truck to the driver's side. A slight breeze catching his hair and a small sliver of moonlight peeking out from behind the darkened clouds illuminated him, casting upon him a heavenly glow; making him truly look like my Knight in Shining Armor. He opened the door and quickly sliding into the truck, started the engine. The truck emitted a deep, loud growl before residing into a low, steady purr. He looked at me, eyes shining as if he had a thousand suns trapped inside of him. The second he looked at me I was in a trance, caught in his eyes, frozen in his stare. "It's chilly out, huh?" Breaking the connection, I was hoping he'd get the hint and turn up the heat and start driving. "What? Oh yeah!" he got the hint. He backed out of the driveway and started the ten minute drive back to his house. The silence was painstakingly comforting. For a while. After about five minutes, I could stand the silence no longer and decided to ask the questions that were burning a hole in my brain. "So, how did you know where to find me?" I mean seriously, I could have been anywhere. I could barely manage to squeak out that sentence, and wasn't quite sure how I was going to carry on a whole conversation. "I just had a feeling that you'd be here is all." He didn't look away from the road when he said this. Strange….. But okay. "Kay, next question," I paused for a second so I could rearrange my thoughts in my head before I spoke. One slip-up and someone would be offended or crying. I was born tongue-tied. "Is your dad home?" The silence that followed my question was so distinct; it was as if the silence was feeding upon itself. It was a minute or two before he answered, but when he did he looked me in the eyes. "No, he's not," I heard him gulp. "He's out on a week-long Billiards trip, we've got the house to ourselves." What stuck in my head was the way he said 'we've got the house to ourselves', it sounded so cute and kind of romantic. He could have said 'I've got the house to myself ', but instead he said "we". Awww… and since when does Billiards become a weeklong event? Not that I'm not grateful, just curious. "Alright Elizabeth, my turn to ask the questions now." Austin looked at me for a while before turning his attention back to the road. "If you don't mind me asking, and if you do I completely get it, but, what exactly happened to your sister?" I was no longer looking at my boyfriend, the road, or anything for that matter. I was watching the firemen trying to put out the flames that reached up past the tops of the trees, licking towards the sky. Watching the paramedics frantically searching through the heap of flaming car parts and tangled, burning brush for any sign that the victim might still be alive. Watching the red and blue lights still flashing and the sound of the sirens still echoing in my ears, taking in the scene, icy claws wrapped around my heart, freezing it completely as realization sunk in. she's gone. she's not coming back. There's NO WAY she could have survived that . . . "She died in a," I gulped and had to regain my composure before barreling on. "In a car crash" "She was going way over the speed limit the police said. And as she was rounding the corner she lost complete control of the car, her car swerved off the side of the road and crashed into the trees flipping on its side and continued driving in a line against the trees until it hit the power pole. It burst into flames and rolled down the embankment." "They said that even if they had found her, there was no way she would have been alive. The flames were t-t-t-too much and would h-have fried h-h-h-he-r-r al-live." The memories had come back to life and I could do nothing to rid my heart of its heaviness. I looked out the window, wiped my tear filled-eyes, and held back a tidal wave of sobs. "Hey, Liz, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up." He put his hand on my knee, trying to get my attention. "No, Austin. It's okay, really" I wiped my eyes one more time nodding my head and looked at him. "Really. It takes some of the pain away, talking about it with people I love." I shuddered and took a deep breath, ridding my subconscious of sadness and guilt completely. I took his hand in mine and smiled lovingly.

My mind wandered places for the last three minutes of the drive, testing the limits of my imagination. I wonder what his room looks like. I hope there are no whitie-tighties on the floor. I wonder if his dad has any beer or whiskey. Or better yet, Butterscotch Rum. I wonder how soft his blankets are. I hadn't realized that we had already gotten to his house until the moment he opened my door for me (such a gentleman.) I snapped out of my fantasy and as soon as I looked at him I got that warm, fuzzy feeling all over, as if my whole body had fallen asleep.

"May I?" Austin reached out his hand. "You may." I couldn't help but smile. He took me by surprise once again. And reached out and grabbed me by my waist and knees, again; and not even bothering to lock the truck behind us as he walked to the house. He fumbled in his back pocket for his house key, and when he couldn't quite get it, I reached back and easily plucked them from his pocket, plopping them in his hands and smiling like a little kid. He said nothing, but the smile that crossed his face said everything. I loved that smile of his. It was his 'you are soooo gonna get it'; naughty, bad boy smile. He easily unlocked the door and walked across the threshold, locking the door behind him before tossing the keys on the counter and asking me if I wanted anything to eat. "No thank you. I'm fine." I believe it's always good to use manners, even if the only person you're around is your boyfriend. It's one of the best quality's a person can have. He walked up the stairs (still carrying me the whole way), to a door that I assumed was his. He opened the door, and without turning on the lights, closed the door behind us and walked over to his bed gently setting me down on the soft, black blankets. He walked back to the door and locked it without a word. He grabbed the hems of his shirt and easily peeled it off, tossing it to the floor. He kicked off his shoes and socks and started unbuckling his pants. The same thought that kept running through my mind was: oh god, I love you soooo much Austin. "Elizabeth, I do so believe it's your turn." I had forgotten I was still dressed. Not that he was pressuring me to do anything, Austin wouldn't pressure me to do anything I didn't want to or wasn't comfortable doing. It was an unspoken, sexy, desperate decision to have sex that we made together. I stood up and kicked off my shoes and socks and turned so my back was to Austin and slipped my shirt over my shoulders. Austin came up slowly behind me and undid my bra clasps for me. The second his hands touched my skin, a hot and intense electrical surge went through my body speeding up my heartbeat and breathing. He got closer and slipped his hands around my waist, unbuttoning my pants. I could have sworn I was about to pass out on the floor if I didn't get to the bed immediately. I sat on the edge of his bed and pulled my pants off one leg at a time; they slid to the floor. Austin walked over to his dresser and grabbed what I was assuming was a condom from his wallet. He walked over to me and leaned over me, tossing the covers back and I slid into his bed, shivering only slightly. "Don't worry, it'll warm up soon." He crawled in after me and pulled the blankets over us. I slid closer to him and reached down and started pulling his boxers down as he pulled my panties down. "Elizabeth, you don't have to do this if you don't want to, you know that, right?" "I want to Austin." "If it hurts at all, let me know and we can stop okay?" "Okay." When he had adjusted himself, I got as close as I could to him, putting my arms underneath his, holding on to his shoulders and wrapping my legs tightly around his waist. He reached down and cupped my butt in his hands, grinding intimately into me. At first it was painful and I winced a few times, I even considered asking him if he'd put a knife into my vagina instead of his dick, but then thought better of it. But then it felt good, so damn good. I leaned my head back and a small, deep groan escaped my throat. "That is the sexiest thing I've ever heard." Austin mumbled around my lips, groaning deeper and hornier than I had. I wrapped my arms and legs tighter around him, pulling him closer to me. He rolled over so I was on top. I looked at Austin, his eyes were shining and his face was warm and slightly sweaty. "I love you Austin Erickson-Bates." "I love you too Elizabeth Pearl Douglas." He started giving me little kisses everywhere, on my nose, my forehead, my lips, my shoulders, and my breasts. He pressed his lips against the nape of my neck, holding me firmly to his body. We laid there just like that for quite a while, and I was almost sure that he'd fallen asleep when I heard him ask me quietly "You asleep?" "Naw, I'm awake, whata 'bout you?" "I wouldn't be talking to you if I wasn't awake." "Heh. Yeeaaahhh. Naw, you could be talking in your sleep." "I don't talk in my sleep." "How in the hay bales would you know?" "Touché." Once I gathered up the courage, I put my hands on the bed on either sides of him and slid down towards the end of the bed. I placed my hands on his thighs and attached myself to him. Beneath my hands I could feel his muscle clench and I heard him shudder and start breathing more rapidly. I would have laughed, he sounded like he was giving birth, but that would've required me to stop. And, plus, it sounded kinda sexy; it definitely turned me on even more. When I could tell he was growing tired, I slowly trailed my hands over and up his body, caressing his thighs, his butt, and his chest, making my way slowly back to the surface. I laid there on top of him, my arms crossed on his chest and my ankles crossed in mid-air. I kissed him on the lips. He looked at me, something somewhat among disbelief lurked in his eyes. " .God." "You fuck like an angel Elizabeth!" "You have a gift!" he sounded as excited as someone who just won the lottery. There's no reason why Austin should ever doubt me again now. "Soooo," I trailed my fingers around on his chest, randomly making patterns. "Do you mind if I use that 'gift of mine' some more?" Austin's tired eyes lit up, "Not. At. All."

Love was made, sins were committed, and the hungry desire for love had been fed. When the first rays of light from the morning sun touched the tops of the trees, and the songbirds were singing, I wasn't quite sure if I was on earth or still in heaven. But the constant gnawing feeling in my stomach and the loud, vicious growls that came from it told me that I had lived to see another day. And that it was breakfast time. I was starving. Literally. I hadn't eaten in three days. I've been too stressed out lately to eat. I wasn't sure if Austin was up yet, I was still trying to clear the foggy haze from my head. The effects of getting drunk off of love are stronger than alcohol or beer. I felt something around my stomach loosen and tighten. Tired and startled, I turned to see what it was, only to find that I couldn't. Then it dawned on me, Austin. He was still asleep .His arms tightened around my waist even more and I heard him grunt "food" before playfully biting me on the neck. "You can't make dead the Undead, Dracula." Hee. Hee. I made a funny. That sounds like something my m-. I shook my head and cleared my thoughts before the memories could come back to sink their vengenceful roots and razor claws back into my heart. "Come on sleepyhead…" "It's time to wake up now sleeping beauty…." I rolled over on Austin's arms hopefully unnoticed and started tickling him on his side just right under his arms. He giggled and jerked back. "You can do it…" he rolled over again. An interesting thought came to mind and I said "Don't look! I'm naked!" He shot forwards, "What?" "Wait, I already knew that." He was about to lay back down when I crawled into his lap, wrapping my legs around his waist. It was time to use the "woe-as-me" girlfriend card. "Austin….. I'm getting kind of hungry… do you think you could make me something for breakfast?" I looked at him through my lashes, or at least tried to. It was a skill that I probably would never master. "Please? For me….?" "But I don't wanna get up…" Heh. I know what'll work. "Can you help me with something then?" "Hmmm…?" "Well, I'd like to take a shower, but I" I hadn't even finished my sentence before he shouted "Deal!" "We shower and then we eat!" "Is that it?" "Ummm, well…" I mulled over my thoughts. There were some things I needed from my place, like, fresh clothes, deodorant, tooth brush….. tampons n' pads just in case. But I wasn't quite sure how long I was staying, how long he wanted me to stay. With the house foreclosure coming up within the year, I wasn't quite sure where I was going to stay. I have no relatives. And I can't stay with my boyfriend and his dad who currently has no idea that I'm even staying at his house, forever. Talk about wearing out the welcome mat. Thoughts and options chased each other around in my head, playing tag and tripping each other. "Shower and then food." Top of my list at this second. "Got it!" "Austin, you wouldn't happen to have any, ah…." "Don't worry, I gotcha covered." He pulled out a clean, I could only hope, pair of sweatpants, an extra-large t-shirt, and a pair of boxers... "Ummmmm…" Heh. Heh. Heh heh heh. Tired boys are always slower. "Elizabeth! We just had sex for Pete's," may you rest in peace old pal. "sake, I'm pretty sure you can wear my boxer's." "Not that, you're fly's down." Wooowww. Austin looked down, and remembering he still had no pants on, said "Oh. Real funny missy!" He lunged forwards and grabbed me by my waist and threw me over his shoulder in one swift movement. "Into the shower you go!" Sliding into the bathroom, Austin shut and locked the door; when he wasn't looking, I turned on the water and silently climbed into the shower. Within seconds there was a thick layer of white steam covering every single inch of the bathroom, camouflaging me perfectly; and with the fan turned on you couldn't even tell the shower was on. Perfect. Victim unsuspecting. I felt along the wall until I found a small ledge-shelf thingy. Ummmm….. let's see… soap. bottle. sponge. washrag. Ah ha! One of them fancy 'body poufs'. Perfect. I grabbed the body pouf and held it under the faucet until it was soaked in warm water. I peeked out from around the shower door, searching for the Victim, unable to see anything; I had to base my target from the sounds he made. Hmmm…. nothing. Ohhh pretty boy, where are you? Come out, come out wherever you are….. I looked around the bathroom, searching for anything that might give away the Victims hiding place. A cool breeze swept past me, lightly caressing my face as it went. Aw crap. Did someone just open the bathroom door? Austin's voice came right over my shoulder, his breath tickling the inside of my ear. "Nice try Liz." I almost screamed, but instead, I stepped back into the warmth of his body. "Nice try yourself, Austin." The fan kicked in again and the thick, foggy steam started to clear a bit. I turned around to face Austin and reached up and caressed the side of his face with my hand. His eyes fluttered slightly closed. He reached down with both hands and grabbed me by waist, lifting me up, and backing up against the wall.

Hands wandering high and low, lips wandering everywhere, we spent a good hour in the shower. Most of the time was spent making out and making love, which was perfectly fine by me; but we made sure to clean ourselves up, too. I had crossed the line and there was no way in hell I was going back.

"So, what's for breakfast, huh sexy?" I was sitting at the table in one of the three chairs in the kitchen. The walls were Snow White, with a hint of dust; and completely bare except for a few pictures here and there. The sun filtered through the windows, casting a peaceful light about the room. Somewhere, a clock ticked insistently. Austin was sitting on the counter with his elbow on his knee and his chin in his fist, intently staring at me. His hair was still wet and dripping from the shower and it hung in wet, shaggy clumps, framing his face beautifully. "I feel like you're looking into my soul." "I dunno. Maybe, I, AM." The urge to reach out and touch his face, hold him in my arms, and kiss his heavenly lips became too strong to resist any longer. I slowly stood up and walked over to where he was sitting. I reached out my hand and brushed the hair away from his eyes, revealing a pair of blue-gray eyes looking lovingly into my own chocolaty-brown eyes. My lips trembled and my eyelids fluttered closed as he reached out his hand in turn, and stroked my hair. His hand slowly slid down my back to my waist and thighs, I whimpered. I could tell he now realized just what power he had over me. The power of love and irresistibility. He gently grabbed me by my waist and easily lifted me onto the counter with him; so easily in fact, it was as if I weighed nothing. As if I was as light as a feather. He had me in his lap, my legs were once again wrapped around his waist and I was resting my forehead against his. This moment was different than all of the others: instead of it being a desperate, horny, hot n' sexy moment; it was a comfortable, relaxing, and comforting moment. Like we had been together for a thousand generations, all in 11 months, 2 weeks, 6 days, and 19 hours and 35 minutes.

This was the young man that I had learned to know, come to love, and lost my virginity to. I cannot sum up all how I feel right now, I know longer feel empty inside. I feel more complete somehow, and older. Not by, like age, but by maturity. Cheesy, stupid, and cliché as it might be; I feel like a woman. There are people who have fallen in love before they met the person God has chosen for them, yet somehow, someway, Austin knew we were meant to be; this entire time. What started out as friendship, blossomed into true love. I sighed contentedly as he wrapped his arms around my waist, bringing me even closer to him. I saw stars when our lips met, the feel of his warm breath on my neck sending me to the soft, fluffy clouds of heaven once again. I breathed the smell of him in, holding it in as long as I possibly could as if that could keep him from ever slipping away from me. He smelled like old spice and cologne. He was like my own personal drug; my heroine, my cocaine, my crack. Mine and only mine. Some people need cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs to get by, all I need is Austin. Austin is my lifeline, my connection to reality, my life support. I was starting to fall asleep in his lap when I was rudely awakened by a savage animal in my stomach viciously clawing and growling at me. "Feed me NOW!" it seemed to say. Austin looked at me, pointed at my tummy, and said "Was that your…? When was the last time you ate, Elizabeth?" "Ummmm….." I think about five seconds went by. "If you have to think that long about it, I'm guessing more than a day and a half." "Haven't had," I yawned and rested my head on his shoulder. "Time to eat." He was so warm, and I was so comfortable, I couldn't care less if I starved as long as I didn't have to let him go. He pulled me back, holding me at arm's length and looked me in the eyes; his filled with overflowing concern. "Elizabeth, you can't starve yourself! And what do you mean you haven't had time to eat? I offered you something to eat last night when we first got here. Remember?" His eyes and tone softened just a bit, but just barely. "This isn't the answer." I looked at him and feeling the burning pressure of his stare, looked down again. "I know" "You're right, I'm sorry." I'm not sure why I was apologizing. I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do at the moment. He gently slid me off his slap and onto the floor and jumped off the counter. Running over to the cabinets searching for food and finding none, slid in his socks over to the fridge. Closing it with the same answer-nothing. Austin called out like a drill sergeant "Move out, move out!" I straightened and saluted him "Yessir!" Still in sweats, we both slid into sandals and jogged out the front door towards the truck. I opened the driver's door and scooted over to the middle seat. Austin grabbed the roof, slid into his seat, and not even a second later got right back out and ran back up to the house. He returned with the keys in his hand and I burst out laughing, unable to keep it contained any longer. He looked over at me, clearly amused by my outbreak in laughter. "What's so funny, huh missy?" He reached over and poked me in the side, knowing full well that my reaction would be to jolt, giggle, and return his jab in the side. "You can't drive a truck without the keys smarty pants!" "haha. ha. hahaha. Real funny chicky!" he reached out and closed the door, jabbing the keys into the ignition and starting the truck. Holding up a finger, I said "Safety first." He looked at me with a look that said What the Hell? "Seatbelt?" I reminded him, putting mine on and tugging at his. "Ah! Right you are." "Always am." "Little bit cock-" "Just drive Sexy Beast!" Austin put the truck into reverse and backed out of the driveway. "Where to, pretty boy?" He looked over at me, mouth hanging slightly open. "Uhhhhh…" I tickled him in the side. "S'that all you got?" "Hey!" he jerked to the side. "I'm driving here! Come on!" "Sorry baby . . ." I gave him puppy-dog eyes. "Can you ever forgive me?" "Apology accepted babe" "So, where to Austin?" He grinned cheesily. "The amazing world of-WALMART!" he looked over at me "Alright, my turn to be the negotiator now." I couldn't help but smile at him. "I love you babe." "I love you too, Austin." He leaned over, letting go completely of the steering wheel, and kissed me passionately on the lips. A car in front of us blared its horn and I squealed, almost peeing my pants. "Oh! Sorry, I forgot we were driving." I playfully smacked him on the arm "Get your head out of the bedroom and pay attention!" He burst out laughing and it got so bad we almost had to pull over. "So what's on the shopping list? Ay sexy?" "Ummm . . . lemme see . . ." I thought about it for a minute and realized, why buy what I already have at home? Right at the turn to go to town I shouted "My house, take a right!" "What?" I said slower "my house, take a right." "Hurry, before we miss it!" He jerked to the right and looked at me as if I was out of my mind. I waved my hand at him. "I know, I'm insane. We've already been through this." "But, we were going to Wal-Mart . . ." I put my hand on his shoulder, looking him in the eyes. "Maybe next time baby." "So, why your house?" "Well, I realized that I already have everything we need at my home." my heart sunk past my feet as if it had a cinderblock attached to it after I realized I'd just said "home". That place stopped being "home" after Dad left, and Mom and Sissy died. it was nothing but a broken memory to me now. Constantly haunting me. I gulped; it hurt too much to think about it. But the word had been said, there was damage to be done. He would make sure of that. the colors of the truck, trees, and passing cars all swirled into a blur. Instead of looking out the front window or at my boyfriend, I was looking at my father's smiling face. I tried to jerk away from him, his face only inches away from mine. but I couldn't, I wasn't in control here. I could only stand there and watch through the eyes of my six year old innocence as the world I thought I knew came crashing down. I couldn't do anything to stop it or change it. I could only stand there and watch.

I was six years old. He handed me a rainbow bat, it was my birthday and we were starting with the piñata. Before he put the blindfold on me, he looked at me and said "Alright, I'm gonna go to the store, and I'll be right back. I have to get a very special surprise for my very special girl." I remember watching his truck go down the driveway. there was something in his eyes that day but at the age of six, I had no idea what it was. it was the last time ever saw him.

I started clawing at the space where his face had been, as if that could make the Demon that was my father, disappear from my memories forever. "Liz! . . ." "Eliz . . ." "Elizabeth!" Austin had my wrists in his hands; complete fear had filled his eyes. I looked in his eyes, and at the moment, my walls came crashing down. I felt my eyes tearing up and my vision blurring. I reached for him desperately needing to know that as least one person loved me. "Hey. hey. Baby, it's okay. Shhh . . . it's okay" "everything will be okay" I curled up in his lap, sobbing on his chest. he just sat there, gently stroking my hair, telling me the things I needed to hear, being the man I needed him to be. It hit me again, right then and there. Just how much he loved me. Despite everything I had put him through, despite how much I had hurt him, he was still here, still caring, and still loving me. "I love you Elizabeth Douglas" "I love you Austin Erickson" he wiped his finger underneath my eyes, drying the rest of my tears completely. I looked up at him, putting my arms around his neck. His bright blue-gray eyes settled on me, and I recognized the look in them all too well. The look of love, of desire and longing, the look that told me he knew what I wanted; and that he wanted the exact same thing. "I know" I whispered in his ear. "I know" his loving eyes met mine once again and I could resist the pull of temptation no longer. the Beast Within must be satisfied. "Later." Austin's voice dragged me out of my daydream, pulling me by my hair. "Huh?" "Later. I said. There's business that needs to be dealt with right now." I sighed and looked out the window. the grass hadn't been mowed for ages. That was always Dads job, which, of course, I took up after I was old enough. The house could use a new layer of paint, the current one was faded and peeling, aging from the relentless sun that seemed to always be shining since summer started. Austin was right. There was an unbelievable amount of work to be done, and not a whole lot of time to get it done. "I know." "You're right." he looked over at me, concern in his eyes. "You ready?" I took a deep breath, bracing myself for what was to come. "As ready as I'll ever be."

like a deer in the headlights, my eyes widened and my heart beat faster with every step

that brought me closer to my beginning and what I was sure would be my end. I knew it would

be hard and painful. But I also knew that no matter how many deep breaths I took or how many

times I braced myself; nothing could lock out the memories completely, ever. I saw the front

walkway and my breath caught I my throat, my vision swimming before my eyes; my feet losing

their place on the ground and gravity losing its effect on me. I could see me and Kambrea

sitting in the grass in front of the house, playing with our Barbie dolls. The sun shining on our

short hair, making it looks like liquid gold. The grass and earth supporting our small, chubby

bodies. Dad was sitting on the porch in the old rocking chair and mom was sitting in his lap.

They were smiling and laughing at us, at themselves, at each other. Looking at them, how they

were playing and the glowing look I always saw in their eyes, I realized I'd never seen anyone as

happy or so full of love for one another as them. No! I had to stay in control! I can't continue

letting him get to me like this. Lizabeth! Snap out of it! if this keeps happening- you're never

gonna get anywhere. Too late. No! Never too late! I tried to find something to hold onto,

something that would keep me from falling. Austin, our future together, how he made me feel

last night. Find Austin, I had to find Austin. He could save me. I reached out blindly, searching

for the familiar warmth, comfort, and loving embrace that I know called home. Austin . . .

please. Don't let me fall . . . I need you! I reached out with my heart, soul, and mind. reaching

out past myself, past my thoughts, past my surroundings, gathering all the strength I had, my

eyes closed, trying to black out all the negative thoughts as best as I possibly could. Nothing.

Absolutely nothing. Opening my eyes, I was caught completely off guard. It was, as if, time itself

had frozen in place. Dad's truck was at the end of the driveway, unmoving, mom was still bent

over with a party hat in her hand, arms poised in mid-air over a child's head. What the . . . ? it

was as if time had come to a standstill. Everything was frozen, preserved, and silent as a

graveyard. The only sound I could hear was the hammering of my own heart against my

ribcage. The air was stiff and rigid, like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the atmosphere;

and my lungs were starting to burn, as a result. My feet were cemented to the ground. I tried

many different tactics to break the bond between myself and the ground: shifting my weight,

leaning to one side and then abruptly jerking to the other, even attempted jumping. Nope.

Nothing. DAMN! Just as fast as I came into this strange place, I was suddenly being jerked

right back out of it. My vision blurring, everything turning into a kaleidoscope.

I looked up to see Austin's worry-stricken face intently searching mine for a reason to

my sudden fainting episode. No words could escape my throat, nor could any thoughts come to

mind, for not even half a heartbeat later I turned to the side, rolling my head off his lap and

violently upchucking every single bit of anything that had taken up residence in my stomach.

my vision swam into a swirly blue and green haze with small shards of my surroundings: Austin,

kitchen floor covered in last week's breakfast, anxious eyes, hopelessness drowning us both.

"Alex! How could you do this to me?!" "I loved you! I trusted you; I gave you my

heart, goddamit!" "God-Fucking-Dammit!" each syllable came out pained, and full of betrayal.

He just stood there against the wall, arms crossed, with a cruel smirk pasted on his face. She

was sitting on the couch, bent over with her face in her hands. She was shaking uncontrollably,

unable to stop the man she loved; the man she thought she knew, from tearing her world

apart, brick by brick. The world she poured out her heart out to make, the world he had sworn

to protect. It was meant to be a safe place where no one could hurt any of us anymore. And it

was. For a while anyways. Until Alex had turned on us all, that is. None of us had seen it coming.

He was a perfect daddy: he played with us, made us laugh, and made our boo-boos go away. It

was a slow process, but after a while he started changing. Suddenly he was no longer the happy

dad we once knew, he was snappier, and much, much harder to please. Watching my mom cry

like this hurt me, oh how I wanted to run to her, to wipe away her tears, to ask what was

hurting her so. I knew it had something to do with dad. But as to what it was, I had no idea. I

had never seen him like this before in my life. And at the age of four, having not the slightest a

clue as to what was going on, listening to them from around the corner. I was completely

powerless.

Coooolllll . . . . Yeah. I'm really liking this place. I dunno if I'm ever I gonna leave. The weather's nice here, too. Nothing like home, either. I mean, no clothing required, allowed to stay as long as I want- no one forcing me to pay rent or kick me out; and as much beer, wine, and doobies as want! and no one to tell me to stop or that I've had too much. I can come and go as I please. "Sir! Um, over here sir!" A tall, bright blue-eyed Pilipino with a tan that my ass look like the face of a ghost came prancing over to my side, eyes eager to please the only one to visit this place in months. (and a naked, sexy woman at that too) "How may I be of assistance today miss?" I slid my shades down with one finger so they were sitting on the bridge of my nose, the way those slutty rich chicks in the movies do. the one who are always wearing bikinis that squeeze their asses out like bean bags and showing off their boobs like oversized plastic beach balls DISGUISED as boobs. I looked down for a second. Huh! Oh wait, I'm naked! I beat those fake plastic bitches ANY day. Suck that ya slutty hoh bags! "How may I, ah, "quench" your desire ""Miss?" "Hm? Oh! Yes." "I'd like a, ah . . ." "What do you guys have that I haven't tried?" as the Pilipino thought about this question that might have had the slightest innuendo, his face started contorting into something else. Shifting bit by bit, until it was Austin's face I saw. the 98' degree weather was suddenly interrupted by a giant black cloud that surrounded the sun blocking the beautiful rays of heat quickly burning and then slowly tanning my naked, dead-white ass. "What the HELL?" The wind started to pick up and the palm trees were thrashing wildly around as if a giant were pole dancing on them, then changing their mind, and switching poles. The ocean waves were no longer calm and clear, lapping gently at the shore; they were big and black, violently attacking the shore and swallowing everything in their reach. Looking up, the clouds opened their arms and released a downpour or rain like no other, drowning everyone and everything underneath them within seconds.

"Elizabeth . . . Please. Don't leave me . . ." salty rain? "I love you soooo much!" Earth . . . quake . . . ? Wait. Where's the storm? The tan Pilipino? The booze? Where AM I? What. The. Fuck? "Elizabeth. Baby, come back to me. Please! Don't leave me . . ." "Austin! Where are you?" "Is that you Austin!" I could feel the rain still falling on my face and the waves rushing over me. Rain? No, tears. Austin's tears . . . I slowly opened my eyes, one by one until I could see Austin sitting hunched over next to my head. His face was bright and scrunched up in pain; tears were streaming down his face, landing repetitively on my cheeks and forehead. I wanted so badly to reach up and wipe his tears away, to kiss his eyelids, to steal away his pain and sorrow and replace it with peace and serenity; to make everything all right again. Austin was so deep in sadness, and completely stuck on the idea that I was gone, forever; that he hadn't even notice that I had woke up. I opened my mouth, tried to clear my lungs of the angry salt water that was stripping my throat raw; I tried drawing a deep breath but it was as if my lungs were completely blocked off. Panic began to sink in, fast. Air! No air! Can't breathe! Dizzy. Falling. I gasped for air, choking and still unable to breathe. Sinking. I reached out, searching desperately for Austin, trying to get his attention. A black foggy haze slowly creeped into my vision, covering my eyes, squashing completely my ability to see anything but darkness. No! Time. Running. Out. Drowning. I was falling through a hole. Tumbling down. Down. Down. Slimy cold hands reached out from the depths of the darkness and laced their bony fingers through my throat, slowly strangling me. I hit the bottom with such a force; I was surprised that my heart wasn't flying out through my mouth at the moment. I could feel my soul start to burn up. it was like fire and ice stripping my heart of everything ever to cause me happiness. A bright flash of light. Lightning? Voices. Oxygen! Sweet, sweet, oxygen rushing into my lungs and clearing the black foggy darkness completely. One voice.

"Elizabeth! Come on baby . . . Come back to me! Please . . . stop leaving me like this. You're killing me . . . ." light slowly crept back into my vision. It was like being born all over again. Austin's face was no longer bright red but his eyes were bloodshot from crying so much; and there were deep dark indents underneath his eyes. I was exhausted, confused, and angry. Exhausted from revisiting so many childhood memories in such short time, confused cuz I had no idea what in the HELL was going on; and angry because I wasn't able to be there for Austin when he needed me most. I blinked another time, the dizziness quickly fading away. "You're eyes are pretty, Austin." my voice croaked out at first from the stupid, angry salt water, and I wasn't sure if Austin had heard me. He looked down at me and once again tears poured from his eyes. "You're eyes are prettier." he started to sob recklessly and his whole body began to shake. I slowly sat up and pulled him close. "Shhhh . . . it's okay baby, everything's okay. I'm here now." I whispered softly in his ear. "I . . . I di – n't know i-i-i-f you we – we –were ok –k- k –kay.

I f y – y – y –ou were a – a –l –l –l –ive or n – n – n – n – n – ot." "I'm here now, I'm back. We'll be okay baby." "I di – d – d – idn't k – k – know what t – t – t – t – to do. I'm sooooooo sorry!" My heart broke at the sight of him. I mean, he was crying for something he didn't do and couldn't understand, let alone change.