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Ben unlocked the door to the Shalka's home. "Well we're home now." He was relieved to put Jennifer back into her house. He let her nap on the sofa.

"Mom?" Austinae called loudly. "Huh. Mom's sure out late too. It's not like her."

"Call her on her cell phone." Ryan suggested.

"Can't. She thinks cell phones are of the devil, or something like that."

Ryan laughed.

"You'll be visiting tomorrow, I take it." Ben had a way of making statements that were really questions, and sometimes even the occasional question that was really a statement.

"Er…no." Austinae said.

"What?" Ben and Ryan exclaimed together.

Jennifer suddenly snapped up, wide awake. She stood on the couch, frowning at the other three in the room. "What do you mean no?"

"I mean I'm gonna hit the road. My truck's fixed. I have barely enough time to get into the city by tomorrow."

"I just want you to stay!" Jennifer ran over there. She picked up her sister's cold little hand. "Please, Austinae, move out of your rusty little city apartment! Move in here! Into this very house! Stay at Ryan's place! It doesn't really matter, as long as you're not several hours away, sitting on a couch deep into the city…" Jennifer begged.

"But that's just it." Austinae grabbed her stuff again. Decisions, decisions. Austinae never liked being forced to make them. "My job's there. My career as a secretary. I like my job. Not many people can say that! I should be grateful for what I have." She went for the door. "Bye, Jennifer. Bye, Ben."

"Bye." Ben waved solemnly.

Jennifer was too upset to even wave.

Ryan followed Austinae out the door. When they were far enough away, he pulled her around. "Austinae, I thought we had plans to live in my house together now? I thought you were going to give up that job as a secretary and start working for Jennifer's Drama Department."

"I was, but my boss just called me in for me tomorrow. He's gonna give me an extra two hundred and fifty dollars! Just for one day! On top of what I already earn! I'm lucky to make sixty dollars per day."

"Hmm." Ryan mused. "You seem pretty happy about this."

She smiled as the two of them got into the truck. "Well I am actually."

"Austinae…" He started the engine. "There's something I've been meaning to ask you…"

From inside the house, Jennifer had grabbed a pair of binoculars from the Everything Closet across the living room. She moved the tan drapes away from the big bay window. The glass hadn't been cleaned in forever so it was a little musty, but Jennifer could still see what she wanted to. She located her sister and Ryan in the truck. They were only talking so far.

"What are we looking at here?" Ben pulled out another pair of binoculars and stood beside her.

"The target seems normal so far, Ben."

"Roger that. Keep watching. Perhaps they'll do something…unscrupulous."

Jennifer put the binoculars down and gave Ben a funny look. "You know, it almost sounds like you want that to happen."

"I just want an excuse to burst out there and chase that guy off your property."

"Ryan's such a nice guy. Don't let your obsession with my sister lead you to harm good people."

"…Fine." He said reluctantly.

Back in the truck, Ryan and Austinae were locked eye to eye. "Austinae, you seem like a very passionate girl."

She beamed, her pearly whites visible. "I am." She twirled her hair around her finger.

"You seem passionate about acting, singing, and your job."

"That's so true!"

"But are you passionate about me, Austinae?"

"Whut?"

"I'm a very passionate guy, and I'm looking for a passionate, committed relationship. I've been watching extra closely and you've proven to me just how passionate you can be. And I began to realize that I'm not the height of your passion."

She gasped.

"And that's okay." He assured her.

"But I am passionate about you, Ryan! I love you for goodness sake!"

Ryan nodded. "You've also loved Tyler, Alex, Tony, Kyle, Mickey, Daniel, Cole, Mitch, Parker, Leon, Ozzy, Jake, and Zack."

She looked down, red as blood and vibrating from all the adrenaline that'd been hewn into her system. "You forgot Tony and Parker."

Ryan rolled his eyes. "I'm pretty sure I said them already." He placed his hands on her warm cheeks and made her look at him. "Can you honestly say that what I've said isn't true?" When she had no response, he quietly let her go and focused on driving himself back to his house. "I'll leave it to you to—"

"We're over." She cut him off.

He didn't seem real upset. Just a little tired, and disappointed too. "I'll see ya." He got out and went into his house.

Austinae drove herself the rest of the way home. The highway seemed lonely and cold. The ground was frozen and hard. Country music was playing softly from the speakers. Austinae had even cried a little, but what's left of the tears had dried up leaving her face feeling all pasty and salty.

Perhaps this could work out for the better? She was asking for a miracle here and she knew it. And a miracle she will get.


It was one in the afternoon when Luann Shalka got home. Ben was watching the television and Jennifer had been sleeping for a while now in her bed.

"Hello, Ms. Luann. I wish you'd have told me you were going to be gone so late." Ben said.

Luann wiped her tired eyelids. "I didn't know traffic would be so bad in some parts. Don't tell Jennifer yet, but I was out on a date with Koph Jangle. Isn't that great?"

Ben forced a smile. Honestly, who likes to see middle-aged women act like schoolgirls when it comes to dating. "Yeah…fantastic!" He said halfheartedly.


Happy Black Friday! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and bought alot of new things :) Please review, thanks.