1

Theme: Highway of Endless Dreams by M83

It was one of those nights. It was one of those nights, and I couldn't believe I was here. Of all places. Even though I swore to myself I'd never step foot back in this car. Here I am, being driven back to the one place I put so much effort into escaping. I was so sure it would work this time. I had planned it out so carefully, so intricately, I thought "They'll never catch me this time. By the time they realize it, I'll be long gone." Of course, since I have no privacy in my own house I should have predicted Mother would have checked my credit card and see the ticket purchases. I should have known she would look at the history on my laptop and see the mapquest urls. I should have guessed she would have told Father, who would have immediately called the airlines and the police department who would then secure the area and cancel my flight, effectively stopping me from going anywhere. I should have seen this ride home with Esteban coming. And I guess a part of me did.

But there was another part of me, the part of me that's screaming right now as I look outside this rain-streaked window, that thought maybe, just maybe, I would have made it. If I had crossed my fingers hard enough, or left early enough, or walked carefully enough, then maybe I'd have made it. I guess it can be called hope, or optimism. Well that part, although it's not dead yet, is dwindling quickly. If tonight had shown me anything it was that being a Carmichael wasn't something you just escaped. It's kind of like being in the Mafia—once you're in, you're in. No matter how torturous your mother is, or how sick your father is. No matter how many nights you spend praying to Deus. I was almost convinced death was the only way to escape this hell that had made itself my reality.

Almost.

"Miss Amber?"

I really didn't want to hear Esteban's excuses right now. Frowning, I cranked up the volume on my mp3 player, letting angry guitars drown out his voice. The car was cold, even though he turned the heat up. I guessed it was the rain outside. Fall weather definitely wasn't my favorite, if only for the cold air and rainy weather.

"Miss Amber?"

Grr, why could I still hear him? Angry, I cranked the volume up all the way only to recoil from a particularly loud cymbal crash. I quickly turned it back down.

"Please stop ignoring me!"

There was an awkward silence. My volume was low again, so I could hear the anxiety in his voice when he said those words. Reluctantly I looked up into the rear view mirror to see my chauffeur's face. The expression he wore wasn't one of animation. I could tell Esteban was uncomfortable being in this position. He and I were usually on good—no, great terms. Esteban was the only one out of the help that truly understood me and my predicament. Because he was my personal driver he and I had developed a bond. He knew how much I hated being controlled by Mother and Father, so sometimes he would take me out to places when they weren't paying attention. Never anywhere big, usually just The Sugar Bowl after school. I would get a Peppermint Swirl cookie because that's what I always got and Esteban would get a Buttercream with Chocolate Syrup. When everything in my life seemed unstable, when I had no where to run, no one to count on...I could count on Esteban.

Mostly.

My parents also paid him, so he often or not had to come and retrieve me from my numerous attempts to run away from the house. Usually he would make a joke out of it, and take me out afterwards to help me feel less upset. But this time...well this time was different. This time I'd tried to leave the country.

"Miss Amber." He said softly.

"Esteban...are you upset with me?" My voice wavered a little, as if afraid to hear the answer to my question. For a good minute my Indian driver did not respond, only kept looking ahead and obeying the stop signs. The storm was torrential—I didn't even know how he could see where was going. Eventually he spoke.

"I am not angry, Miss Amber. I know you do not like it when Master and Madam Carmichael get angry." He spoke calmly, as he made a turn onto Elm Street.

"Yeah..." I mumbled, unsure of what to say to that. It felt like he had more to say.

"I am simply hurt."

Oh. That was it. Just hurt. I swallowed harshly, my eyes stinging suddenly in the thick silence.

"Yeah?" I croaked, shifting uncomfortably.

"Yes. You don't like your parents. I understand. I make a point of understanding. I think we've become very good friends too. I take you out all the time, even when Master Carmichael insists you go to school and come straight home. I know how it is for you."

Why was he doing this? I felt like I wanted to melt into the leather and never evaporate.

"So when you run away like this, it's almost like an insult to me. As if you are saying, 'No Esteban. I don't care about all those evenings we spent together eating ice cream and joking about Perry the Gardner's limp.'"

Please Esteban, stop talking. I think I'd prefer the yelling that Mother and Father are so fond of, anything but this calm and serious upbraiding.

"It's like you're saying 'I'm too selfish to actually think about how my running away affects other people.' At least, that's what it feels like to me."

The words resonated within me, punching me in the chest and winding me. I couldn't...me? Selfish? Why was who had to be my closest friend in the world rebuking me like this?

"Esteban-"

But before I could even begin to answer, a great big shadow came across the windshield of the car, blocking out some of the headlights. There was a screech and the squealing of tires and Esteban's voice as the car spun out of control. All I could see was Esteban's dark-skinned hands flying around the wheel, and the rain droplets sliding sideways on the car window as we suddenly shifted direction. All I could hear was the sound of gravel being crunched beneath rubber.

And then, it stopped. Or more specifically, there was a big thud and the car jerked to a stop. We rocked to the side a bit before settling down, everything completely in tact. My hair, the rain, Esteban's hands all fell back into place, almost as if they'd never moved in the first place.

"...Esteban?" My voice peaked out, slightly fearful, mostly shocked.

"...Yes, Miss Amber?" He replied with equally mixed emotions.

I gulped strongly.

"I think we hit something."


"Oh my God."

It was the first time I'd referenced He, Himself by his proper name in a long time. I usually used words like "Judas Priest" or "Heck" or "Golly" ever since I swore off any sort of expletive expressions. But this was an occasion for a swear word, it seemed. After all, how many times in your life do you get to stand in the middle of the street in the soaking rain looking down at the blonde-haired hottie you just ran over with your limo?

"Master Carmichael is going to kill me." Esteban barely murmured, his voice sounding faint.

I barely glanced up at him, before returning my gaze to the body sprawled out in front of me. Kneeling down, the gravel on the ground digging into my stocking-clothed knees, I brushed some hair out of his face. What I revealed nearly knocked me out. The face looking up at me was bruised and bleeding. I couldn't tell if the contusions were from the accident, or from before, but the dude was definitely in need of some first aid. But that's not what was so mind-jarring. It was the features. High cheekbones, straight, sloping nose. Thickly delicious cherry red lips, just begging to be devoured. Long eyelashes that barely dusted his cheek, since they were closed. The fairest blonde hair that framed the perfect face, that definitely came down to his shoulder at least. Barely breathing, I licked my already dry lips.

"Esteban, we have to take him home."

"What? Oh yes, of course. Let's check his wallet to see if there's an identification card with an address."

"No, I mean we have to take him home. To the manor. We can't just leave him here."

There was a moment where Esteban did not speak. Expectantly, I looked up, brushing some soaked strands of hair that had fallen into my eyes. Esteban's expression was incredulous—like he couldn't even comprehend the words coming out of my mouth.

"Excuse me Miss, but are you crazy?" Esteban practically shouted, his chocolate colored eyes bulging out of his face, that one vein on his neck popping out dangerously. He didn't have to keep talking, the rest of his sentence hung silently in the air. Your parents will kill you! Biting my lip, I looked back down at the blonde angel by my knees. What was I going to do?

"Let me see him." Esteban finally said, his voice a lot closer than before. Surprised, I looked up and noticed that he was kneeling down too. His expression was reserved and somewhat like a grimace. I knew he wanted to be doing anything but this—it was his love for me that kept him here.

Shaking my head slowly, I turned the blonde victim over to show him a good look. Doing so only showed that the man was in critical condition. There were all sorts of cuts on his face and neck; his white t-shirt was ripped and torn all across the chest. For each hole in the shirt there was a long wound or scratch, still fresh and bleeding.

"Did we do all that?" I whispered, my voice barely coming out.

"No Miss Amber. But we did do this." Esteban muttered, lifting up the victim's hands and showing me his palms. They were bruised and cut up, gravel sticking into the open wounds. He had obviously tried to stop the car with his hands, like a smart boy.

"He's lucky they aren't broken. Check his pulse." Esteban scoffed, adjusting the victim's position so he was now sitting up against the car.

With the headlights shining directly against his face I got a chance to see just how beautiful he really was. The sight was unnerving, and I felt my hands quivering as they reached up to check if he was still alive. Suddenly the thought occurred to me that he could not be. This angel lying against my limo could be a fallen one. I didn't want to even think about it. The thought got stuck in my throat, choking me, forcing tears into my eyes. Swallowing it back down, I shook my head and brushed his hair out of his face. My other hand went to his neck, barely brushing against his jawbone before settling against the skin there. His head lolled to the side upon contact, revealing more of his neck and all of his right side to me. Deftly I skimmed my fingers across his skin until I found his pulse. I gently pressed my middle and forefinger down against it, until I could feel a steady but faint beat.

"He's alive." I sighed, exhaling the breath I hadn't known I was holding.

"Good. Let's get him in the car so we can keep him that way." Esteban approved, standing up suddenly and brushing some of the water off of his pants. Not that they weren't already soaked. My own floral dress was sticking to my body, the light cashmere sweater I wore over it feeling nasty against my skin. I stood up and together Esteban and I lifted up the blonde boy—or well, attempted to. We ended up half-carrying, half-dragging him across the front of the car and down the side to the still open doors of the back cavern. If anyone had been watching us it would've probably looked like we were trying to dispose of the evidence.

"Unhg! There you go." Esteban grunted, dusting off his hands as he looked down at the blonde sprawled all across the back row. He frowned momentarily.

"I am definitely not appreciating the leather treatment." He muttered before shaking his head and heading to the driver's seat. I had to hold back my laughter as I climbed in next to the blonde angel.

"All set back there?" Esteban asked a few minutes later, after securing the whole car. I had situated myself in the seat close to the blonde's head. He was lying on his chest, his face turned towards the seat, so I couldn't really see his expression. But then again, perhaps that was for the better.

"Yeah." I said after a moment of staring longingly at the boy.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had scooted myself closer to him, lifted up his head, and placed it on my lap. Not like I had to worry about getting wet or anything. Slowly, I began to run my fingers through his damp hair—colored a strange auburn due to the rain. With my other hand I found my iPod in the door compartment, and turned it on. The device was on shuffle, and surprisingly enough, the song that came on was a ballad fitting for the scene. It was an instrumental of a favorite song of mine. The sound was brooding and deep, striking chords hidden within me. Exhaling deeply, I leaned my head back and allowed my eyes to close, all the while continuing to caress my newfound angel.


"All right, heave-"

"Miss Amber, I can't do this! I need a break."

I let go of Blondie's arms, allowing his whole body to crumple haphazardly against the stairs, effectively staining the carpet with his wet clothing. Not that we hadn't already been leaving a nice trail behind us with all the dripping water.

"Esteban, if we keep stopping like this we'll never get him up the stairs and into a bedroom. Now come on, be a man!" I snapped, pushing his shoulder gently. Esteban looked down at Blondie (as I had taken to calling him) and up at me, his expression a comical one of weariness and exasperation. It nearly broke my heart to see him sigh exhaustedly, and then shake his arms and shoulders to prepare for another lift.

"All right! Heave-"

"-Ho!"

"Heave-"

"-Ho!"

"Heave-"

All the way up the stairs, through the secret revolving door in the wall, down the relatively short hallway to Guest Room number 2. Esteban had his legs, I had his arms/armpits, and together we managed to lug the guy all the way into the room and onto the easy chair. Out of breath, we both stood there wheezing and staring down at our capture.

"He can't...he can't weigh more than 180. Look at him." Esteban barely gasped.

"Yeah, but for some reason I feel exhausted." I agreed. And it was true. My whole body felt like falling apart bit by bit, recuperating, and then rejoining.

"What do you suggest we do now, Miss Amber?" Esteban asked wearily, looking over at me.

I could tell he was as clueless in this situation as I was. I hadn't really thought about what would happen after we rescued the blonde in the middle of the street. I don't know what I was thinking actually, if I was thinking at all. I just saw him lying there on the ground and it was if my mind had been sent into some alternate state, some place where rules didn't exist. Where it was just me and him and a field of barley. And the rest of forever to spend laying there.

"I think we-" I began only to get interrupted by the ringing of Esteban's cellphone. The beginning tune of "Jai Ho" started playing, a number chosen by yours truly. I thought it would remind Esteban of home every time his phone rang. The Father hadn't heard it yet, but I was willing to say he wouldn't be too pleased when he did.

"Hello? Oh—Master Carmichael! Good night to you too, Sir." Esteban began, tugging at his collar and casting me a look that said It's your father. As if I didn't already know that. My throat had already tightened into an impossible knot upon hearing the words "Master Carmichael".

"Yes Sir, Miss Amber is right next to me, safe and sound. Where—where are we? Oh, uh, we're in the guest wing! What—what are we doing there? That is a good question." Esteban stuttered. He looked at me for help, but I was too busy making x's with my hands and shaking my head fervently to being of any assistance.

"The reason we're in here is...is because although Amber came home willingly, she is still a little bit angry. She knows she was in the wrong however, and does not want to vent her anger on anyone unfairly. So she decided to uh—spend the night in the guest wing. As a punishment."

I felt my whole body sag with relief. Who knew Esteban could be such a good liar?

"No, no, it's best you leave her alone for tonight. She's definitely not in the mood for company. In fact, I was just about to leave myself. Yes. Yes, I will tell her. Yes. Okay, Goodnight Master Carmichael." Esteban clicked the phone off, finally turning to face me again.

"You are so lucky we're best friends." He stated flatly, before smiling genuinely. I knew what he said was true, so I jumped forward and wrapped my arms around his thin little frame.

"I know Esteban! And I love you so much!" I squealed, swaying from side to side in his grip.

"Yeah, yeah. Just don't put me through this again. I don't think I can handle a second round." He said, his voice suddenly serious. I released my hold on him to give him an embarrassed look. Even though he was frowning, I could still see amusement dancing behind his chocolate colored eyes.

"I won't." I whispered, looking down.

"Promise?"

There was a moment of silence before I responded.

"I promise."

With Esteban gone, exhaustion fast caught up with me. He left shortly after our hug, but not before helping me with Blondie. He dragged the unconscious boy into the bathroom and de-robed him of his soaked clothing. Common decency kept me in the bedroom, although I'd be lying if I didn't say a part of me (residing somewhere in my nether regions) yearned to peek in and see what was going on. When the two came back out, Blondie was draped over Esteban's shoulder and wearing nothing but boxers and one of the white, fluffy guest robes. My heart skipped a beat seeing him shirtless and without pants, even if his body was still covered in wounds. With my help, Esteban hauled him to the bed and together we gently placed him down. I couldn't believe that all this time the boy had yet to stir.

"Would you like me to go and ask Estelle to come and dress his wounds?" He had asked, looking weary and worn. I had fervently shook my head, my eyes never once leaving the sleeping angel.

"No, it's almost 3 AM. I don't want to wake her. Besides, there's a first aid kit in the bathroom, I can do it." I had mumbled, my fingers barely grazing the edge of the largest wound on his chest.

"Hm. Okay." Esteban had said after a while, not seeming convinced but clearly too tired to argue. "It's best if we keep him a secret, anyway." He added as an afterthought.

"Yes. He'll be our little secret."

Now, as I stood looking down at my little secret, I couldn't help but feel extremely uncomfortable. Maybe it would have been best if I had woken Estelle the house nurse up to come and help me. When Esteban was here things seemed strange but somewhat okay. Almost as if this were just another adventure the two of us were going on, nothing out of the ordinary. Now that I was alone and I could feel the silence surrounding me, I began to realize just how abnormal this situation really was. After trying to leave Shallow Cove, Florida to fly to Auckland, New Zealand (the place that popped up when I typed "far way from here" into my iPod's Map App) but failing, I managed to hit a Greek God with my limo, effectively rendering him unconscious. Now this is the part where most people would call the police but no—what do I do? I take him to my house! With the aid of my driver and closest friend, I manage to sneak this blonde angel up the secret staircase to the guest wing in my mansion and into a bedroom. Then I proceed to undress him and lay him to sleep on the bed.

There was no fighting it.

I was officially crazy.

"Nnn..."

My eyes snapped over to the bed where my captive lay. Did he just speak? Holy Skittles, was he waking up?

"No…" He moaned again, suddenly tossing over in his sleep. Frightened by the tense expression on his face, I scrambled over to the bed. Dropping the first aid equipment by his feet, I sat down next to him.

"F-fuck..." He hissed out, his eyes squeezed shut tightly, his lips pressed together. He looked so distressed, like something was pinning him down to the bed and torturing him. I could feel my heart twisting with every futile attempt he made to fight whatever bad dream was attacking him. His arm brushed against my hand, the friction from the contact sending jolts up my spine and down to my core. My hazel eyes flickered down to see that his own hands were fisted, tightly bunching up bits of the sheet.

"Blondie...," I murmured, barely reaching forward to brush some hair away from his forehead. It was as if my touch burned him though, because he jerked his head to the side and bit his lip harshly.

"Fuck!" He bit out, his nose flaring, his whole face contorting from the pain. I inhaled deeply, my hand frozen in mid-air.

"H-hurts..." He sighed after a tense moment, as if to apologize. But his eyes were still closed, so he probably didn't even know I was there. Or that it was me who touched him. Whatever was tormenting him must have passed I realized, for his whole body soon relaxed. First his legs, then his arms. His shoulders calmed down, his hands released their death grip on the sheets. His face was the last to relax, but soon even his furrowed brow smoothed out. It looked like he'd never even moved. I felt myself exhale, my chest expanding gratefully.

"You must be having a nightmare." I murmured softly, allowing my hand to gently rest against the side of his face. His skin felt so soft to the touch, almost unbearably so. That is, in the places where it wasn't cut and bruised.

"I wonder who did this to you...?" I asked, even though I knew there would be no answer. I just couldn't understand who would want to hurt an angelic creature such as this. Slowly and carefully, I trailed my hand down the side of his face, across his neck, and onto his chest where I parted the robe to reveal the wounds. Clearly it was a knife fight, by the look of the lacerations. Gently I prodded the wound, which was now turning purple at the edges. He winced at the touch, and my eyes snapped back up to his face. A brief look of pain flickered across his features, but disappeared quickly. Reaching behind me, I decided to just go for it.

I grabbed the gauze pads in the kit and the hydrogen peroxide. I wasn't a nurse but I did know about cuts and how to take care of them. Holding the bottle carefully I pressed the gauze pads to the open mouth and tipped the whole thing upside down. My mind went back to a time when I was less controlled by the parental units. I used to be able to go outside and play back then. Once my friend Kimberley fell and cut herself playing a game she knew she shouldn't have been playing. I, being the goody two-shoes I am, had stayed out of the game and subsequently did not get hurt. When Kimberley came back to the mansion, limping up the sidewalk, I had rushed to her side. There was a huge cut on her knee and blood was dripping down her leg and onto the asphalt. I had wanted to get Estelle but she quickly said not to. She didn't want to get in trouble with her mother, who was one of the cooks in the kitchen and who had warned her not to play with those boys. I was her friend, so I did the next best thing. I dragged her into my bathroom, grabbed the first aid kit, and patched her right up. I had seen Estelle do it a ton of times and even though it was my first try Kimberley had said I did pretty well.

Carefully holding the open bottle in my other hand, I leaned forward toward him and moved the robe completely out of the way. His chest was defined, even if he was lanky. The cold air had hardened his pinkish red nipples, which in turn awakened my own. I was lucky the gash went diagonally across his chest, avoiding those two tender spots.

"Okay Mister. This is gonna hurt so get ready." I said ruefully, before pressing the antiseptic against his skin and swiping it across the wound.

"Augh!" His voice came barreling out of his throat, his hand instinctively gripping onto whatever was closest to him—which just happened to be my other hand. The sudden force jerked the bottle, which spilled more peroxide onto his chest and abdomen—all over the other cuts.

"FUCK!" He screamed, his eyes popping open from the shock and intense pain. The act revealed to me what had to be the deepest shade of the ocean. Cerulean blue, something told me in my mind. That was the color of his iris. Even though his eyes were open, I could tell he wasn't seeing anything. The bottomless blue only reflected the pain that was coursing through his body. His mouth was open too from the expletive he'd shouted. It was frozen and puckered in the perfect o shape, his back arching towards the ceiling as he hung on to bare life.

"I'm sorry, I'm so, so, sorry." I babbled, as I continued to dab the wounds and he continued to curse and twist in pain.

"S-stop..." He barely hissed, blindly reaching out to grab my hand. I put down the bottle of peroxide and pinned the offending limb back however.

"I'm sorry but I can't!" I quickly apologized, and I really meant it although he probably couldn't tell from where he was.

"P-please...I'm b-begging you..." He gasped as he jerked and lurched from all the pain. I could tell he was feeling it, too, the cuts that had been cleaned were bubbling and foaming. That meant the hydrogen was working to kill the germs that had gotten into the cuts. It also meant the cuts were probably stinging the hell out of him.

"I know Blondie, I know. You're in so much pain, I know." I said, releasing his hand and brushing some hair out of his face so I could clean the cuts there too. He sucked in a large amount of air harshly before jerking his head away from my hands.

"Ff-fuck! Fucking hell!"He growled through clenched teeth, bucking wildly against me in an attempt to escape it all. His eyeballs were flickering every which way, until they started rolling up into the back of his head. I had to quickly drop the gauze pad and hold both his shoulders down, which did nothing to stop his twisting and jerking hips. His eyes were closed again, his forehead scrunched up and his teeth gritted. I had to summon all the power within me to pretend he wasn't grinding his pelvis against my side.

"It's going to be okay. It's just for a little bit, I promise this will end soon. See? I'm done. It's done, just let the peroxide do its work." I murmured over and over, leaning down close to his ear so he could hear me. He kept jerking for a few more seconds, before calming down. I could literally feel his muscles relaxing beneath my fingers, the air slowly coming out of him and caressing my cheek. I opened my eyes (when had I closed them?) and realized just how close we were. Startled, I let go of his shoulders and jumped back into a sitting position

Laying back like that, eyes barely open, hair mussed and mouth gasping for air—it almost looked like he had just finished having an orgasm or something. Not like I would know anything about that. It certainly carried an erotic tone though, the way his arms were sprawled out across the bed, his robe wide open revealing everything to my virgin hazel eyes. I couldn't tell if he was actually seeing me or not. It looked like he was, but his expression was one of sleep and delirium—not of recognition or fear. Even in this state of aftershock, I found myself wanting to take advantage of him. Well not myself—just my body parts. Lusting after the foreigner in bed. I knew it was loony, but the way his cherry lips were barely parted made them look so edible.

The next thing I knew, my hand was moving forward again. I don't know what I was thinking—I guess my mind had gone on vacation briefly giving the reigns to my core for the moment. My fingers deftly made their way to his lips and placed themselves there, gently tracing their outline. They felt incredibly soft and I found myself jealously wondering how many other people had done this very same thing. How many people got to touch those lips in a different kind of way? His upper lip twitched and I felt my breath catch. Suddenly I felt compelled to look up, so I did. And our eyes locked into what had to be the most riveting gaze I've ever held with anyone.

Shit. (I mean Crap!)

His lips parted, as if to speak, so I quickly removed my fingers. His eyebrows furrowed momentarily, and it looked as if he was trying to orient himself. Skittles, was he going to come to? Was he going to realize he wasn't in his house and flip out? My fears were quickly doused. The blonde angel just as quickly closed his eyes and relaxed his face. It looked like he was gone for good now too. Exhaling slowly, I leaned back and grabbed my knee, bringing it to my chest. I felt oddly unsatisfied, even though I had done my job. I felt like my body had been preparing for something—anything. Only to have it be taken away suddenly.

Reaching behind me I grabbed some healing plaster out of the kit and began to bandage up the wounds. I had to do quite a bit of hauling and pulling to get the ace bandages all the way around his chest, but in ten minutes it was all done. He officially looked like a car accident victim. Standing up, with my hands on my hips, I nodded appreciatively. Estelle would be nothing short of proud. Suddenly a wave of exhaustion washed over me, like my body had finally registered all of what had happened tonight. A quick glance at the analog clock let me know that it was 4:48. Looking outside I could see that the sun was rising too, meaning it really was dawn. How the heck I stayed awake for so long, I knew not. I felt like collapsing.

Not even bothering to change into a guest robe or anything, I walked backwards until the back of my legs hit the easy chair. Sighing exhaustedly, I collapsed back into the soft cushions and let the tiredness flow out of my body. Through half-lidded eyes I gave one last glance towards my blonde angel before letting my spirit succumb to the waves of sleep crashing against me.


"No!" My voice tore out of my throat, clawing it's way out of my mouth in a desperate attempt for air. I sat up straight, my hands gripping the arms of the easy chair. I was just escaping a rather gruesome nightmare where, instead of Esteban, Father had been my driver. And he kept running over this person with my limo, no matter how much I begged him to stop. It had been so long since I'd had a nightmare, my body wasn't used to it. My hair was wet and plastered against my face, as I breathed heavily and looked around the room.

"Oh. Oh thank God." I said breathlessly, upon noticing the familiar being lying haphazardly across the bed. Something in the back of my head noted this was the second time I'd addressed Deus by his actual name since last night.

"I guess this angel just brings out the Devil in me." I mumbled to myself, rubbing my eyes and stretching like a cat. I searched until I found the clock and read the time. 12:30 PM. Wait, what?!

I jolted up out of the chair, nearly knocking myself over. How could it be this late in the day? Had I really slept for that long?! I rubbed my legs distressed and worried that at any moment the Mother or someone worse could come waltzing in. Glancing over at Blondie however stilted me for a moment. The blinds on the window directly above the bed were open, allowing a flood of sunlight to come and bathe the blonde boy in yellowish gold. If I thought he looked like an angel before I was gravely mistaken. Now, with the sun caressing his ivory skin, was when he looked most holy.

Rubbing the back of my head and mussing up my raven-colored hair, I swallowed sleepily and went to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. Halfway through my stomach growled deeply, the empty organ contorting itself in the most painful of ways.

"Ugh..." I grumbled, spitting out a mouthful of toothpaste. I was starving—I hadn't eaten since yesterday morning. Washing out my mouth and wiping it with the guest towel, I went back into the room. No doubt Blondie was starving too, although he probably couldn't feel it in his sleep. I now had a dilemma. I didn't have my cellphone—I had left it in my room yesterday before running away. I knew for a fact the Father installed a chip into my phone, a tracker of sorts. It was the reason why they kept finding me every time in the past. They would simply pull up my whereabouts via the phone tracker and send Esteban to go fetch. This time I wizened up and left the darn thing behind, although now I was kind of regretting it. If I'd had the mobile device I could've called Esteban to come and bring me food. Now I'd have to find some other way to get it.

"You hungry Blondie?" I asked without actually looking at the boy lying on my bed. Of course there was no answer. Stretching again, this time all the way to my tippy-toes, I slipped on the fuzzy pair of slippers placed at the foot of the bed and decided to head outside. I would make sure to lock the door behind me and bring the key, so no one would come in to clean and accidentally find my captive. And if he woke up somehow, before I returned—well I'm not sure what would happen. He'd be really confused, that's for sure.

"I'll be right back." I promised the sleeping angel in my bed, before leaning back out of the room and closing the door gently. Spinning around quickly, I nearly bumped into the last person I wanted to see.

"Who are you talking to, young lady?"

My breath got stuck in my throat again for what must have been the hundredth time since last night. Standing in front of me was my mother, Miranda Carmichael in all of her 5'4 glory. Her expression was thin and cross, even though she had no reason to be upset with me. Unless she was still mad about yesterday.

"I see you finally decided to come home."

Yep, definitely still mad about yesterday. Slowly I nodded, then remembered that she hated it when I didn't answer he back with a full sentence. Quickly I fixed my mistake.

"Yes Mother, I came home last night. I was just spending the night in the guest room as punishment." I lied through my teeth, keeping my voice neutral, my eyes focused on some distant spot behind her head.

"Is that so? You and who, exactly?" She asked quietly, looking down at her nails. They were painted a vicious red color.

"I don't know what you're talking a-"

The sound of her fingers making contact with the side of my face resonated down the hallway.

"Don't! Ever address me in that tone of voice again. Young lady." She snapped through clenched teeth, her hand still hanging there—the threat of another slap across the face looming in the air. Lips pressed together, I nodded firmly. Then remembering, I spoke.

"Yes Mother. I meant no offense." I mumbled, keeping my voice flat and atonal. I refused to make eye contact with her. She would never see the pain she inflicted upon me reflecting in my hazel hues.

"Hm. Now do you want to tell me why you really spent the night in the guest room, young lady?" She asked again, beginning to pace back and forth in front of me. I swallowed harshly, subconsciously gripping the handle of the doorknob to the guest room.

"I told you already-"

Clap! Another slap, this time the other cheek. I let my head hang for a moment before swallowing again, and repositioning myself.

"Dearest mother, I spent the night in the guest room because I was feeling angry and wanted to be alone. Hateful thoughts were coursing through me, so I wanted to isolate myself as punishment like I mentioned before. That is the truth." The confession sounded like it was coming from a robot. I could feel the anger rising within the woman in front of me. She wanted to get a rise out of me—she wanted to make me angry. To make me shout like I used to.

"So if I open that door right now I won't find the latest whore you've been fucking?" She bit out nastily, a malicious grin curling across her face. Something inside my chest clenched hard, then died. I wanted to rip her face off. How dare she call Blondie a whore? He wasn't a whore, whores were dirty and satanic—angels were…well they were holy and angelic! I wanted to show her that, but I forced my face to remain neutral.

"No mother, you would not. I do not believe in sex before marriage, you know that." I said calmly, flexing my fingers against the doorknob.

"That's what they all say. And then they come home pregnant!" She snapped again, pausing to gauge my reaction. When there was none she looked like she was ready to bust. And then all of a sudden, she looked calm again. "All right. I'll buy it, for now. Besides I have a luncheon to attend. Don't forget to attend dinner tonight; we have a special guest."

I wanted to sigh out of relief but I managed to hold it in. Her emerald green eyes appraised me slowly, her nose wrinkling in disgust as she took in my crinkled and soiled clothing.

"Ugh, do something with yourself first though. You look positively wretched." She gagged, looking like all she wanted to do was barf all over me. I nodded fervently, before remembering for the third time to give her a spoken response.

"Yes Mother Dearest, I was going to do just that. Thank you." I supplied smoothly, even throwing in a demure smile for good measure. She pursed her lips slightly before rolling her eyes and stalking back up the hallway. I waited until she left to stop gripping the now sweaty doorknob.

Exhausted from the encounter, I exhaled slowly and steadily. As the breath left me, my whole body slumped down and against the door of the guest room. My entire being felt drained from that one simple argument. It was as if the encounter had completely knocked the wind out of me. But that was how things were. Every discussion with my mother ended like that—with her leaving triumphant yet somehow unsatisfied by my lack of response. And me, feeling winded from merely defending myself. It used to be a little different, back when I thought arguing was worth it. That's not to say she didn't always win the altercations back then like she does now—she did. It was just a sweeter victory for her. Once she got a rise out of me, once I fought back—that was what made her win. Realizing that, I stopped going on the offensive and simply made a point of surviving. She'd never stop picking fights with me-her life revolved around it. There was no way I could escape that. But if I could manage to take away what made her actually enjoy the task—if I could make her torture seem pointless...

Well that's plus one for me, right?

I had become so lost in my thoughts I didn't notice my legs had given way, becoming folded and jelly-like under the rest of my weight. I was now slouched on the carpeted floor, hunched over like a broken doll. I opened and closed my palms, simply feeling the air come in and out of me. My chest rose up, then down. Leaning my head back, closing my eyes, I could feel every sensation in my body. And then—nothing. My body felt weightless, like I was falling backward.

Wait a minute...

Suddenly the door pulled all the way back, making me lose whatever balance I had achieved and forcing me to fall backwards. I found myself sprawled out in the doorway to the guest room, on my back, staring up into those fathomless cerulean blue eyes. The ones I hadn't seen since the night before. His expression was priceless. It took me about a minute to recover from the initial shock to realize just how dangerous the situation we were in was. He opened his cherry red lips to speak, and my brain clicked into motion.

"Shh! Don't say anything!" I hissed, scrambling up off the floor and wrapping one hand around his mouth. The other went to his chest, firmly gripping the skin there as I pushed him back into the room and against the nearest wall. Being so close to a boy so mindblowingly beautiful—it felt like my whole body was on fire. The hair on my neck stood up so much it was almost painful, the blood in my veins rushed wildly and pooled to a place I'd rather not talk about. Again I felt winded—but this time the breathlessness was from a different cause. I must have been staring at him strangely, because he tried to speak again.

"Mnnf Ffmmm Mmm." He said, his voice coming out muffled as his lips tried to move against my tightly pressed palm. For a moment all I could do was stare at his wildly blue eyes, breathless and paralyzed. Suddenly something wet touched the center of my palm. Quickly I removed it, casting him an outraged look. Saliva made the skin glisten.

"Yuck! You l-licked me!" I gasped.

"I had to get you off somehow. You were hurting my chest." He said, this time clearly. His expression was an annoyed one, but amusement sparkled behind his perfect eyes.

"Oh. Oh! Oh Judas Priest, I didn't even—oh my I'm so sorry!" I apologized profusely as I realized I had been pressing into the wound on his chest. The very same one I had bandaged the night before. How could I forget? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

"It's okay." He said once I had jumped off of him, running his long and spindly fingers through his luxurious blonde hair.

"No, it is definitely not okay. I was hurting you. Please, take a seat by all means." I muttered to myself, casting a nervous glance up at the hot man before tottering over to the nearest thing I could busy my hands with. It turned out to be the unmade bed.

"Really, it's fine. I was about to leave anyways." He shrugged noncommittally.

"What?!" I snapped before I could stop myself. He paused before giving me a strange, questioning look.

"You know. Leave. As in 'move from this place and go somewhere else'." He explained hesitantly, as if he was unsure I could even understand him. Judas Priest, what was wrong with me? Of course, he was going to leave.

"Oh. Oh of course, I understand. Why wouldn't you want to leave? You wake up in some random bed, in some random house, to some random girl, and you're practically naked and covered in bandages. Why wouldn't you want to leave? Shoot, I'd want to leave. I'd have probably left already. It's totally fine if you go." I rambled. My hands were fidgeting with the sheet now, and I was laughing even more nervously than ever. If this guy didn't think I was a freak before there would be no avoiding it now.

"It's just that you were unconscious last night. When we found you, you wouldn't wake up for anything. It was pretty scary actually. So that's why we brought you here, because we didn't want you to wake up in an even stranger place. Like, oh say, the middle of the street. But that was then, and you're here now, and you're free to leave if you want. I mean-,"

"Hey."

"There's no reason you would even want to-"

"Hey, breathe for a sec-"

"Stay here with a weirdo like me-,"

"Breathe kid, you're turning blue!" He shouted, finally catching my attention. He had suddenly stepped forward and his hands were gripping mine, which were gripping the sheet for dear life. Looking down, I noticed that his hands were infinitely larger than my own, and a paler skin tone as well. My hands looked caramel next his ivory ones.

"Hey. Look at me." His voice was much softer now.

"I don't wanna." I mumbled, keeping my eyes trained against our clasped hands. My hair had fallen into my eyes, effectively hiding the tears that had welled there. I was beginning to think this couldn't get any more embarrassing, when I heard the soft sound of laughter above me. Never mind the fact that his deep chuckle sounded sexy as hell—this jerk was laughing at me! Swallowing harshly, I tore my gaze away from our hands and looked up angrily into his deep blue eyes. I couldn't tell where they began or where they ended, but I knew I wanted to dive into them and keep falling forever.

"Do you always ramble like that?" He asked breathlessly.

I wanted to be mad at him. I really did. But his expression caused me to smile a little, and I took my hands out of his and used one to tuck a loose bang behind my ear.

"Only when I'm nervous. Sorry. You just...intimidate me." I admittedly truthfully.

"Intimidate? Christ, how old are you?" He scoffed incredulously, crossing his arms and tucking a strand of blonde away. The motion caught my eye, dragging my gaze back down to his chest. Shaking the dirty thoughts loose, I blanched up at him for a second before deciding to stick to the truth.

"Seventeen."

The silence was almost unbearable. His expression didn't even change, except for the fact that his eyes narrowed a fraction of an inch. And then he broke out into what had to be the most genuine smirk I'd ever seen a human wear. It reached his cerulean blue eyes, the skin around them crinkling and wrinkling in the cutest way. His teeth were relatively straight, his smile looking like someone had carved it out of a watermelon for him. A perfect lop-sided grin.

"Seventeen! Jesus. Wouldn't have guessed that." He chuckled, stepping back a bit and stroking his invisible beard. Took me a second to realize he was eyeing me up—mainly my chest area. What the hell? Oh no. He must be poking fun at my chest size.

"Hey!" I excalimed, suddenly embarrassed. If I was paler, I'm sure he would've seen that my face was bright red from flushing so violently. Quickly covering up my non-existent chest area I looked around, helplessly searching for a way to change the subject.

"H-how old are you!" I spluttered, my tone accusatory and offensive.

"Twenty-three." He replied smoothly, his voice calm and natural.

Oh.

Oh, of course. Figures the boy we hit in the middle of the road and nearly killed was not a boy but in actuality a man. A man who I undressed and touched in inappropriate ways during his sleep.

Excuse me while I faint.


When I awoke for the second time that day the sun was gone outside, the dull blue light of eventide covering me in its dusky fingers. This time I was lying in the bed, which was gently made beneath and around me. I must have been sleeping for quite some time because my hair was a mess around my face, and there was sleep matter crusted around my eyes. Looking around blearily, it took me a few minutes to realize that I wasn't in my room. Like a shock coursed through me, I jolted up into a sitting position, throwing the sheets off of me. A quick glance around proved that I was indeed alone and in one of the guest rooms. Wait a second—the guest room?

Suddenly it all came back to me in a flurry of blurred images and strange sensations. Headlights, spinning wheels, a large thud...and then heavy, back-breaking labor carrying something (or someone) up the stairs. Sitting at the edge of this bed, looking down at a stranger. Then opening his clothes and administering first aid to his wounds. Wounds I had inflicted. Or had I?

"Ughhh." I groaned, falling backwards against the pillow. I rubbed the skin over my eyes, trying my hardest to remember. I had the gauze pads and the peroxide in my hands. The person in front of me, he was asleep but not really. And then suddenly, he was awake but not really. Pain. He was in pain—because of me. I hadn't inflicted the wounds, but I had inflicted the pain. There was so much of it he almost looked like he wanted to die. And then I had leaned forward and whispered into his ear...and suddenly the pain subsided. This victim who I had played heroine to...who was he? His features remained a strange blur in my memory.

"Ughh why can't I remember what you look like?" I grumbled angrily, my voice rising to a crescendo then falling short. Frustrated I flopped over onto my belly and turned my head to face the wall. I noticed that next to me, on the other pillow, was a slip of paper.

"What...?" I mumured, reaching over and grabbing it. I had to squint a bit because my eyes were still blurry. Clearly it was a note, written in what had to be the most beautiful handwriting I'd ever seen. Almost like typewritten cursive, the words looped and curved in the most delicate of ways. I licked my lips gently before reading the note aloud.

If you're reading this then I guess it means you're awake. You hit your head against the bedframe when you fainted, so you'll probably have a headache by now.

In actuality I didn't have a headache, but that explained why I couldn't remember what had happened. I continued to read.

I'm not sure what happened between us last night but I'm going to assume you're the one who patched me up. If so, you did a good job. Too bad I couldn't thank you properly. ;)

My body shuddered at the thought of what his "proper way" entailed. I was completely torn in two—part of me was repulsed, part of me yearned to find out.

Maybe we'll cross paths again in the future. Until then, stay cute.

Andy

I must have read the note over and over again a hundred times, lying in that bed there. Every time I started it the shivers overtook me. I kept trying to put a face to the name. Andy. Andy. Andy. What kind of a face went with Andy? What did Andy stand for anyways? Andrew? Anthony? Anwar? I couldn't tell, but I hoped to gosh it wasn't the last one.

And the last line. Until then, stay cute. Did he really think I was cute? Something sparked inside of me, upon reading that line. Like an image in my mind was trying to reveal itself, but couldn't. I didn't know why, but for some reason I really wanted Andy to think I was cute. Was it because he was cute? Not like it mattered or made a difference. Of all the things to remember, I didn't forget his age. Twenty-three. Twenty-cracking-three. I was bad a math but I wasn't horrendous. I knew that there was a six year difference between us. When he was six, I was born. When I was a baby, still pooping on myself and gurgling like an idiot, he was reading and talking and using the potty. When I looked at it in that light, something inside of me tried to curled up and die.

Maybe we'll cross paths again in the future.

Yeah. Hopefully when all the dirty thoughts in my head won't put us both in jail for life. I rolled over, tucked the note inside the crook of my arm, close to my chest. A quick glance at the clock showed me that it was 5:30. Dinner would be ready in half an hour. I was supposed to be there tonight, and dressed up formally too. Apparently we were going to have company. 5:30. That meant I had about twenty minutes to lay here and replay those words in my head.

Until then, stay cute. Until then, stay cute. Until then, stay cute. Until then, stay...