"Damn it, son! It's nearly 1:30. Just because you're sick doesn't mean you can sleep all day," Oscar shouted as he stepped into his son's room, kicking a pillow and a pair of tennis shoes out of his path.

Lucas had his eyes closed tight, blocking out the harsh sun that was pelting in through his window. "I'm tired, Dad. And I'm just trying to enjoy my own bed. I haven't had a good night's sleep in forever." Lucas's voice was slow and thick from sleep, but Oscar still heard him clearly.

"Son," Oscar sighed as he sat on the edge of the Lucas's bed. "I know it must be nice. Come on downstairs. We'll find you something to eat."

Lucas sat up in bed and looked at Oscar. "Okay." Oscar rose from his sitting position, and Lucas hesitated with his next sentence. "Dad, can I. . .have a hug?"

Oscar was nearly out the door, and he rested his hands on the door frame. A silence passed over both of them. "Come on downstairs, son," Oscar finally said, walking away, leaving Lucas sitting in his bed with the covers twisted up around him.

Lucas came down the stairs after a few minutes. He hadn't bothered to dress, so he was only wearing his wrinkled blue boxers. His mother was in the kitchen, and Lucas noticed the bottle of opened wine sitting on the counter top. Oscar was seated at the table, reading the newspaper.

"Where's Embry?" Lucas said. His voice broke the air and startled Lydia.

"He's not here right now. He and Olivia are at the supermarket," Oscar answered. Lydia didn't turn around to face her son.

"Hi, Mom," Lucas said as he settled his tired body into the chair next to Oscar. Lydia still remained silent, her back turned to Lucas as she fiddled with some dishes in the sink. Lucas noticed that her hair wasn't fixed perfectly like it usually was. It was piled in a curly heap on top of her head, and she was still wearing her silk nightgown.

"What do you want to eat, son?" Oscar asked, throwing the paper down on the table.

"I want. . .I want my mom to talk to me," Lucas stammered, his voice trying to escape past the lump in his throat. "It's still me, Mom. I'm no different. I'm still your. . .Mom, I'm still your son."

"I know," Lydia's voice was small and soft.

Lucas stood up, pushing his chair loudly away from the table. "Mom, I just want you to talk to me. Is that so bad?" He walked over to her. Oscar was motionless, watching the scene around him, studying the pained expression on his son's face. "Mom," Lucas squeaked. He put one hand on her back. "Mom?"

"Stop it, Lucas!" Lydia screamed, her body pulling away from Lucas's touch. "Stop it! Sit down!"

"Why, Mom?!" Lucas raised his voice as well. "Mom, there's nothing wrong with me. I don't have some disease that you're going to catch!" He stepped forward quickly and wrapped both of his arms around Lydia, resting his head between her shoulder blades. "Just tell me that everything will be okay, Mom. Just tell me that."

Lydia was crying now. She struggled at first to push Lucas's arms away from her, but his grip was too firm. "Lucas, just sit down. Stop all this," she whispered feebly.

"I just want you to love me, Mom. That's all I want. I'm not asking you to take back all the things that went wrong in the past. There's nothing any of us can do about that. But, I'll never get better if you don't help me, Mom. I just need your help. I need you to love me." Lucas closed his eyes tightly and took a deep breath, his mother's perfume swimming in his nostrils.

"I. . .I can't do that, Lucas," was all Lydia said. "I can't. It's not. . .no."

Lucas's body reacted before his mind could. His arms dropped to his sides, and he took a step backward. Several seconds lapsed before he spoke. "Why not, Mom? I know it's scary, believe me. I, of all people, know that. But, you can't just pretend that I don't exist."

"Go to your room," Lydia whispered as she lifted her hands to her face.

"Dad, talk to her," Lucas turned to Oscar for help. "Tell her that it'll all turn out okay. Dad?"

Oscar couldn't bring himself to look his son in the eyes. "Don't upset your mother, Lucas." Oscar stood up and placed a hand on his son's forearm. "Come on. You want a hamburger? Let's go get some fast food."

Lucas's eyebrows were pushed together in confusion. "No, Dad. No thanks." Lucas stepped away from Oscar, turned, and went back toward the staircase. Neither of his parents followed him, and Lucas didn't expect them to.

Olivia and Embry returned about an hour later, and both of them tried to talk to Lucas, but he didn't say much. He mainly just closed his eyes and nodded at what they were talking about. He had returned to his bed, ignoring the rumbling in his stomach and the tightness in his bladder.

After several hours of watching the ceiling fan swirl around, the sun finally disappeared from the window, but Lucas still didn't move. He could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, signaling that rain was on its way. Lucas thought that rain was just as well. Then, the weather would match his mood.

The nagging pain in his bladder finally got the better of him, and Lucas crawled out of his bed and walked into the bathroom. After he took care of the bladder situation, he stood in front of the sink for a long time, studying his own face in the mirror. His hair was a little too long, he decided. The ends of his brown hair reached to the bottom of his ears and curled outward a bit. His eyes were wide and red, the rims puffy and painful to the touch.

He realized at that moment that he hadn't taken his medicine that day. Maladroy and Trask had put him back on Serentil after his stay at the hospital, and he was glad. He liked it much better than the Lidone he had been on at the hospital.

Lucas tried to dump one pill into his hand, but four came spilling out. Instead of picking up just one, consuming it, and going back to his room, he studied the four pills in his hand. Were they really helping him? His family didn't seem to think so. They still treated him like a freak, and shunned him for the outsider that he was. So, what was the point? That's what he wanted to ask all the doctors with their fancy certificates and pseudo-knowledge of his life. He couldn't do it by himself, and if no one wanted to help him, then why should he want to help himself?

Lucas sighed, closed his eyes, and threw all four pills into his mouth.

* * *

Lucas's medicine usually made him sleepy, but since he had taken four doses, the lethargic nature of his arms and legs was nearly unbearable. He was in bed lying perfectly still, watching the ceiling fan through his blurred vision. He could hear the raindrops on the window becoming louder and louder as the rain fell more violently. Suddenly, he became uncomfortably hot. He had to open his window. The covers proved to be much heavier to his arms than they had been earlier, and it took him several tries before he could knock the blankets off of him.

While he was sitting on the edge of his bed, mentally preparing himself for the walk to the window, he thought he heard a banging noise against the window pane. At first, he dismissed it as the part of the buzzing that had been plaguing his eardrums. But, then a voice called out him. The voice of a girl calling his name.

His muscles got a surge of energy from his brain, telling Lucas to move, to go over to the window quickly. He obeyed and fumbled with the window latch, his blurred vision not allowing him to make out the face of the girl. His fingers finally managed to open the latch, and he threw open the window. He stepped back to allow the girl to climb in.

The small, drenched form of Penny Mostle slid through the window into Lucas's dark room. Her hair was in pigtails, just like it was the first time Lucas met her. She didn't speak. Instead, she pulled Lucas close to her and kissed him, her wet clothes sticking to his bare chest and stomach. Lucas was so surprised that he nearly pulled away from her, but he just closed his eyes and put his arms around her, letting the cold water from her clothes drip onto his warm arms.

Lucas pulled away from the kiss first, and Penny rested her head on Lucas's chest. "I'm sorry I didn't come over sooner. My parents wouldn't let me. They were watching me all the time. They've even hired a baby-sitter to come and watch me after school. I'm so sorry, Lucas."

"It's all right," Lucas said, rested his chin on the top of her head. He smiled as her damp hair tickled his neck. "I understand that you couldn't come over. I understand that you didn't come because you didn't like me or anything. Your parents are probably just ashamed that you're friends with a weirdo."

Penny pulled away slightly, so she could look up at Lucas's face. "You're not a weirdo. And why would anyone ever be ashamed of you?"

Lucas kissed her cheek. His vision blurred again, and his head lurched forward a bit. "I've got to lie down, Penny."

"Okay," she answered. Penny followed Lucas over to his bed and waited for him to get in and pull the covers up around him. She pulled one corner of the blanket back and slid slowly into the bed, resting her body close to his.

Lucas put his arm around her and pulled her toward him, and she rested her head on his shoulder and placed her hand on his stomach. "I'd almost given up everything, Penny."

"I'm sorry, Lucas. I came over as soon as I got a chance–"

Lucas let out a tiny laugh. "That's not what I meant. I mean, um, my family. . .they don't want me here anymore, Penny. I was beginning to think that no one wanted me here." Lucas's voice sounded slow and echoed to his own ears.

"I want you here," Penny said.

"But, we can't stay here."


"Want to come away with me?"

Penny laughed. "Sure. Where will we go?"

"I don't know. Where do you want to go? I hear Paris is pretty this time of year."

" Partons," Penny said quietly.

"What does that mean?"

"It's French. It means, 'let's go.'"

"We will, Penny Mostle. Someday soon. You and me and the Eiffel Tower." Lucas's head was starting to feel heavy. He breathed in the smell of rain and coconuts from Penny's hair and smiled down at her in the dark. The steadiness of deepness of Penny's breathing told Lucas that she had fallen asleep. Lucas took one more deep breath of rain and coconuts and closed his own eyes.

"Lucas, do you have all of your things packed into the car?" Embry asked.

"Yeah, but I don't know where I'm going to sit," Lucas answered him. The sun was shining brilliantly through the leaves on the tall trees in the front yard. Embry's car was parked on the curb, weighed down with boxes and suitcases.

"Have you even decided where you want to go yet?" Embry said. He had one hand on the handle of the car door and the other was bringing a cigarette to his lips.

"Does it matter?" Lucas said, staring up at the window of what used to be his room.

"Is she coming?" Embry asked.

"Yeah, she's coming. She forgot something. She'll be right back." Lucas opened the door to the back seat and climbed in. He picked up a suitcase and moved it to the front seat to give himself a little more leg room.

"Sorry about that. I'm back," Penny Mostle said, appearing at the car window, tugging on one of her blue-striped knee socks. She opened the door and slid in next to Lucas, smiling at him. She reached out and gave Lucas's arm a squeeze, then leaned over a kissed his cheek.

Lucas smiled and gave one of her pigtails a playful pull. "Yeah, I was going to leave without you, but Embry wouldn't let me. Said it wouldn't be very nice."

"Children, please. Am I going to have to separate you two?" Embry took one final drag of his cigarette, threw it down on the sidewalk, and jumped into the driver's seat. As soon as his door was shut, the car sped forward.

"So, where are we going, Lucas Holmes?" Penny asked taking Lucas's hand into her own.

Lucas smiled at her. "Somewhere, Penny Mostle. Somewhere."