Joined: 08 February 2009
"Honey, could you set the table for nine?" Rachel Claire River screamed at her husband, whom she assumed was still upstairs with the kids. Adam River, her husband, rushed downstairs with his two beautiful children, Annie and Margaret, both of them dressed in a pink frock and pretty little bow sandals.
Annie River was Adam and Rachel's first daughter. It had been a tough pregnancy for both Rachel and Adam. Adam had been fired from his office, where he had been working as a trainee, because of an accidental fire. That was the time when Adam had actually considered getting the child aborted. It had been such a tempting offer, considering how he had no money to feed himself or his wife, how was he going to support a little child? But then his brother, Rachel's sister's husband, Steve Jotis, had helped him get a job at the firm he worked. It had not been as smooth as he had expected, there were long working hours, abysmal working conditions and no proper facilities. But he had made it through. He had come up in the firm, through his hard work and patience, and now stood at a reasonably well paid position in the firm.
"Oh my god, just look at my two little princesses" Rachel cooed, as she held Annie and Margaret in her arms.
Margaret was hardly six while Annie was now a gangly looking eight year old.
Annie hated it when her parents treated her like she was still a little toddler. She had never objected when they had made her share her room with Margaret, who was a considerably good company, but today it was all going over the head for her. Annie stared, with anger unexplainable, at the pink frock her parents were making her wear, even worse an identical pink frock was devoured on Maggie, who simply adored pink.
"Darling, they'll be here any moment. Why don't you set the table?"
"I'll take care of it honey, why don't you go lay down on the sofa till they come?" Adam said, looking protectively at Rachel's bulging stomach, indicating the third pregnancy of Rachel in the ninth year of their marriage.
Rachel took his advise and walked up to the stairs as she held her hand on her tummy, trying not to wince as she walked up.
Once she left, Adam helped Margaret onto the little chair that had been bought specially for her. Meanwhile, Annie started picking out plates for her father to arrange on the table, that Adam picked up to arrange after patting Annie on the head.
It took the pair of them half an hour to set the table, which involved Annie setting the spoons and forks wrong and Adam putting it right when Annie had left to bring the water jug. Right on cue, Rachel came downstairs holding her bulging stomach to exclaim in wonder.
"Oh Annie! The man you marry will be the luckiest man on earth. Just look at how beautifully you've set the table!" Rachel screamed as she hugged a protesting Annie tightly to her chest, making Annie blush with embarrassment.
"It-its alright mo-mother. I think I just heard the doorbell, let me see who it is" said Annie. Anything for an excuse, she thought.
It was her Aunt Lucy and her twins, Trish and Nancy Jotis. They were draped in a pink sweater ("more pink!") and were wildly screeching as they saw the door open. Annie closed her ears in irritation as she greeted her Aunt Lucy into the room.
If nothing else, at least her Aunt could make her friends scream with jealousy at Annie for having such a famous Aunt.
Her Aunt Lucy was a model. She had come in so many fashion shows now, that Annie had lost count.
"Rach! How are You?"
"Im fine Lucy. You're looking stunning. Let me guess, Steve?"
"Oh you bet!"
The two sisters giggled at their own lame joke, as Adam juggled the twins in his arms, trying to look for a good enough place to put them down where they couldn't get their hands on anything important. Annie stared at the commotion for a minute and then turned back to the door.
Where was, after all, Aunt Sarah?
Aunt Sarah had since forever been Annie's all time favourite aunt. Are you in a problem with friends? Aunt Sarah, I need help, was all that there was there to say, and Aunt Sarah would be home in a jiffy to hold Annie, console her, and help her out.
But surprisingly this evening, on thanks giving, Aunt Sarah wasn't any where to be seen. Annie tried to poke her head out of the door, somehow unnoticed by her parents, but-
"ANNIE! What are you doing there? Come inside!" Rachel screamed. Owing to Rachel's pregnancy, tempers ran very high in the house. Knowing that only too well, Annie closed the door and rushed in, not wanting to increase her mother's irritation.
Aunt Lucy, Annie noticed, was setting the dishes on the table alongside Margaret, who had somehow gotten out of her crib. Probably she got overexcited as she saw the pink looking twins, thought Annie.
Margaret had always been an open and easy going kid. She had never bothered hiding anything from anyone, and had a weird thing about always saying the truth. She liked to meditate right in the morning, a habit she had picked up from her best friend in school, Kelly Margo, who apart from meditation had another common interest with Margaret, Drawing.
Margaret had a mad addiction to drawing, though she had never shown any of her parents anything that she had ever made. She had always been too scared.
"Maggie, these drawings are so real! Show them to mom and dad!"
"They will obviously think I'm clumsy Ann. What is the point!"
And the discussion had ended there, but not for Margaret. She dreamed in the nights of scenes, where she would show her parents her paintings, and them exclaiming in wonder.
"My dear god! My Daughter beats Da Vinci"
Today, however, Margaret seemed awfully scared about something, she kept glancing at the phone in impatience. Annie wondered why.
"Annie, Maggie? Would you kids please come up here and help Nancy and Trish to play with these absolutely adorable dolls?" said Adam, trying to sound impossibly enthusiastic, though his cheeks were blazing red.
Annie, frowning at her father, tried to lamely demonstrate to Trish how exactly to move the dolls around. She was in the middle of a stupid swirl she was making her doll do, when Trish picked up the doll and threw it down on the floor with a frown. Both Margaret and Nancy looked scandalised. Margaret actually picked up the doll like it was some drawing of hers that Trish had stepped on. Annie stepped in before a fight could start.
"Maggie, the phone is ringing. Why don't you go and get it?"
At the sound of the phone, Margaret instantly turned and rushed down the hallway to get it.
Something was definitely up.
A few seconds later, an angry voice from the living room said "Aunt Lucy, Its Uncle Steve for you."
Aunt Lucy instantly rushed towards the living room, Rachel and Adam right behind her. They were there for a good ten minutes.
Annie crossed and uncrossed her fingers, waiting for someone to come and say the usual "Oh he's a teensy bit late."
But instead she heard a loud howl. It was as though somebody out there was injured. Annie stood up in alarm, Margaret clutching Annie's shirt, and from the corner of her eye, Annie saw, Trish hold Nancy protectively. It was a few minutes before Adam rushed into the kitchen, looking like an angry wolf. He picked up Trish and Nancy and pointed Margaret and Annie to follow him. Margaret instantly took lead, but Annie stood there rooted on the point. Was that Aunt Lucy? What had happened? Had Uncle Steve been in some kind of an accident?
Annie only realised what was happening when she felt a strong tug on her shirt. Margaret stared pleadingly at Annie to move upstairs with them.
Eyes still on the living room door, Annie quietly followed the procession.
Back up in the room, Annie sat near the door, her ears pressed against the keyhole waiting to hear a little of what was going on. But all she could hear was a whispered conversation which suddenly turned into a loud wailing, a few plates falling to the floor, and then a door banging close.
Annie turned back around to the twins and her little sister, Margaret. They were all staring at her questioningly. Annie shrugged and sat down.
It was hours later, after Margaret, Nancy and Trish had all gone off to sleep, that Annie heard their door click open. It was Aunt Sarah. She had tears in her eyes, as she hugged Annie tightly. Annie let Aunt Sarah hold her for a minute and then withdrew slightly, making space for her Aunt to sit on the double bed, as she asked "Why was Aunt Lucy crying Aunt Sarah? Did something happen to Uncle Steve?"
Aunt Sarah's eyes turned to steel.
"They dint tell you? Steve wants a divorce."
Prologue Pg 1
Chapter One: Goodbyes Pg 1
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Joined: 08 February 2009
CHAPTER ONE: GOODBYES
Days turned into weeks, which turned into years without bringing any news of her father to Pearl. Her father, Tom Bylvis, was a renowned actor in Hollywood. He was one of the most compassionate people she had ever met in this painful journey of her life.
But six years later, today, Pearl had finally digested the unbearable emptiness of her life. She had finally accepted that life wasn't fair, but that was how it all was. And as much as it surprised her, she knew there was nothing she could do, yet the unending urge inside her, thrived, bringing in a little colour into her otherwise colourless life.
"You've got mail."
The helper at the hostel Pearl was living in, placed a few letters on the table near her bed alongside a hot cup of tea as she winked at Pearl Bylvis, the fourteen year old who was now rubbing her eyes with a blue wet towel placed on the hanger beside her bed. Pearl waited for the over friendly girl to leave, and then she picked up the letters. There were in total four of them, one from her old best friend, Claudia, one was from her Uncle John, the third was from her little sister, Naissa, and the last was an old battered envelope, with heart symbols all over it. Pearl decided to start with her best friend's letter.
How are you? How is Naissa? How do you like the new place? I hope you've made some good new friends. But don't get too over friendly, I won't share you with anyone!
Since the time you left, nothing really feels in place. Life is all messed up. Bonnie took your place as the captain of the basket ball team, and believe me it is sickening. In the beginning, for awhile we were excited, but then slowly she started showing her true colours. Since she came on, we've hardly won a single match and by the looks of it, we probably aren't going to make it to the championships. And even if we do, we'd be out in a jiffy!
People at school keep asking me about you, they keep hoping that you'd somehow magically turn up in school again! Looks like i'm not alone. All through class, I keep staring at the seat beside me, where you used to sit, and it's really discomforting.
Get back to me soon Pearl.
Love & Luck,
Pearl smiled at the photo that Claudia had sent alongside the letter, it was from the Christmas party that had taken place at school two years ago, comprising of Claudia, Bonnie and Pearl. She placed the letter and the photograph aside and turned to the next letter, which was from Uncle John. The letter was mostly asking about her health, and how she was coping after the tragic death of her mom and her step father. It also had an invitation to Uncle John and Aunt Catherine's fifteenth anniversary. Pearl groaned inwardly at the prospect of meeting all of her relatives and friends again, it had been something she had been putting off since a lot of time now.
* * *
A few miles away, on the Eastern Bloc, stood a huge house surrounded by beautiful orchard trees, staring proudly up at the passer bys. The house, from outside, clearly gave an overwhelming effect of royalty. And so, not many people knew that the house was occupied by some of the humblest of the upper class possible.
"Lady Bylvis, would you like my help?" Timothy said, trying to distract the woman in front of him, who though equalled to his mother in the affection he felt for her, yet was an incredibly amazing actress in the Hollywood, Lucy Claire Bylvis.
Lucy smiled at the boy sitting in front of her on one of the kitchen chairs, and turned back to the coffee she was brewing.
"Really Sir Timmy, you seem extraordinarily gracious today. What, may I know is the reason behind the smirk?"
"Your ladyship, you're presence alone is enough to brighten up many faces"
Back to phase one, thought Timothy. It was always fun, hitting on Aunt Lucy especially when Uncle Tom wasn't home.
Timothy Hunter was a fourteen year old, who lived in the house beyond the trees. His mother was the sister of the greatest and the most renowned actor of Hollywood, Tom Bylvis, who had only a few years ago married Aunt Lucy, the greatest choice Uncle Dumb has made till today, thought Timothy. Aunt Lucy, according to what Timothy's mother had told him, was a divorcee. When she had been seventeen, she had rushed into marriage with her high school love, Steve Jotis, who had run off with another woman just a few years after their marriage, deserting the poor woman.
"Just imagine Timmy. That bitter man left the poor girl on thanks giving, of all the days. It broke her poor little heart."
But Timothy knew she had come out of it, and had exactly two years after the ordeal fallen head over heels in love with his Uncle Tom. The wedding had taken place in a quiet ceremony in the church with Aunt Lucy's two sisters, and brother and Uncle Tom's little sister.
At first Timothy had been doubtful whether he would like the woman, but once they had started spending time together, it was absolute magic. Timothy was stunned, as to how a woman could be so beautiful and loving at the same time.
Maybe Uncle Tom has actually found his perfect bride this time, thought Timothy.
"He deserves it little Timmy, especially after the wretch he'd said I do to on the first attempt. Ruined his life, that woman did. And he actually plucked a little baby girl with her, just imagine. Poor bloke, never got to hold the child after she was through with him"
The funny bit about that was, his mother dint know that Uncle Tom was planning to take custody of Pearl, his daughter after the deaths of her mother, Uncle Tom's ex-wife, Maria Russell and Pearl's stepfather, the man Maria had left his Uncle Tom for.
Uncle Tom had shown Timothy and William, Aunt Lucy and Uncle Tom's foster child, whom they had adopted an year after getting married, a photo of his daughter Pearl right before her fourteenth birthday.
That was all that had been needed to trigger action in the two boys' otherwise boring life.
Timothy and William had carefully planned and gone to the girl's hostel and played a little trick on her and sent her a prank letter, which William had insisted they send it to her in a envelope William had made, with hearts all over it. Timothy had been curious as to why William was making such a fuss, he was even a little suspicious.
But then he had let it go with a shrug. Who cared about the envelope as long as they did as planned?
Timothy and William dint dare tell Aunt Lucy or Uncle Tom about their little joke, lest they wanted to remain in one piece for at least till they were twenty.
"What they dint know, wouldn't hurt them Will." Timothy had said.
William was still unsure, as he came downstairs after the shower. He had been hesitant to say anything, especially since he had seen the girl, the real girl, not the photo. There had been something so vulnerable about her, that all he wanted to do was, hold her in his arms.
Oh no, William smacked himself in his head. He would have to stop thinking about that girl. If Timothy got to know what he was thinking, he wouldn't let William have another moment of peace.
Still worried sick, he took a seat on the kitchen table where, to no surprise of his, Timothy was already seated. He picked up the coffee and the fried eggs and started munching it down. He noticed from the corner of his eyes, Timothy staring at him from the nearby chair.
William stopped eating the fried eggs and looked up.
"Spit it out buddy."
"Dint you hear me? I said Nothing."
William stared at him, and then turned back to his eggs. He's probably keeping quiet because mother was there, he assumed. Lucy brought in a plate of baked potatoes, serving it to the two boys graciously before she took some for herself, and seated herself on a chair beside William.
Timothy again started off a staring competition, irritated, Will turned to glare back at him. Except this time, however, Will did not say a word. He merely looked at Timothy in irritation. This seemed to have worked. Timothy made a head gesture, pointing to the outside, as though saying "C'mon Will! We should get going."
William shook his head. His mother had promised him she would drop him and Timothy to school that day, since she was on her way to her sister, Aunt Sarah's place, where her real children lived. Apparently at the time of the divorce, her ex-husband had made up some story about Lucy not being able to care for the children with outrageous little things from here and there, all of them untrue. And with that, he had gotten the custody of their twin children, Trish and Nancy, who were now about six years old.
As time had passed, the woman Steve had married wanted him to get rid of the little nuisances. Left with no other option, Steve had met with Lucy for one last time, and with mutual consent, Sarah had been made the guardian for the children, since obviously Lucy's older sister, Rachel could not care for them, as she had four children of her own, Annie, Margaret, Richard and Catherine. Annie was a fourteen year old, Margaret a twelve year old, Richard a six year old and Catherine (Kate) a five year old.
The last William had seen of his cousins was when they had turned up on their doorstep, the eldest missing, wanting to see William, as to who and what he was. Since then they had had no reasons to come, visit them, or so he assumed. And he wasn't exactly lonely without them either; Timmy was always there for him, so he hadn't bothered going there and behaving all gay and happy. This was just one of those things about William that nobody understood. He couldn't be himself and act open with people easily. Not many people understood him, but surprisingly his foster parents, Lucy and Tom, and his best friend, Timothy understood him perfectly. And so he loved it with them.
"Alright Boys. Time to leave." Announced Lucy as she placed the dirty dishes in the sink, and picked up her purse. On the cue, the two boys put their dishes away and rushed upstairs to get their bags.
Fifteen minutes later they were on their way.
* * *
"I have no idea who we should interview for our stupid project Dan! Don't you have any ideas?"
"I don't know Ann. I have a lot of ideas, except they all seem to me, a little close to impossible."
Annie River stared at her overly dorky best friend, Dennis Walker and grinned. Dennis had always been the guy with impossible ideas. And somehow through those impossible ideas, he most of the times ended up making beyond brilliant projects. But Annie kept quiet about that. Let Dennis do a little thinking, she told herself. He would come up with something or the other for sure, and if he dint, well they could always interview Aunt Lucy, she mused.
She could totally imagine Dennis' expression if she told him that.
"EDUCATIONAL Ann! That's the keyword. Don't forget!"
Dennis was still deep in thought when they walked into the school gates which were primarily occupied by the jocks who were deep in conversation. Annie smiled at one of them who sat beside her in English, the guy smiled back, equally graciously. Annie was sure she heard some wolf whistles after they had passed. But she was least bothered. Her eyes were sweeping the grounds for Andrew Bleak, the man of her dreams.
Andrew Bleak was a hotshot fourteen year old in their high school, who looked like he could give a lot of swimsuit models some competition. Every time Annie saw him, it was always with a different girl. But she was never one of them. He would never look at her, let even talk to her.
And she personally dint really expect him to talk or even pretend that she existed. This was because she had seen herself in a mirror. She was FAT. She knew she was, even if Dennis kept telling her that she wasn't fat, but rather cute. It was the same thing for her. People who dint want to make her feel like a freak show, but couldn't say she was pretty, would say she was CUTE. But she never told Dennis this little theory of hers, or he would start eating her head, with little weird things, about how Annie had no sense of self respect and had a beyond huge inferiority complex.
"Hey Walker, River."
It was one of those weird friends of Andrew, Lybbia Humely, whom Annie despised greatly.
"Hello" said Dennis timidly.
Annie merely nodded as she walked on. She was in no mood for flakiness.
Once the pair of them were inside the cafeteria of the school building, they sat down for some food. Dennis was done with a pack of Fries, meanwhile Annie took a doughnut for herself. She just couldn't satisfy her appetite with a pack of fries like Dennis.
As she munched in the Doughnut, she noticed Dennis making some notes on his notepad, looking extremely excited.
"I have an idea. Can we go meet your Aunt Sarah after school Ann?"
Annie nodded, she knew where this was leading to. Annie's Aunt Sarah was a teacher in one of the nearby schools, and she was extremely good. Dennis probably thought Aunt Sarah would help them a little on their project.
Well as long as they were doing something, she amused herself.
Ten minutes later, Annie and Dennis got up to leave for their respective classes.
"Wait for me outside Chemistry Dan."
"I'll do that. Try not to bother yourself too much with Lybbia. Okay?"
"I always try. You know me Dan."
Dennis smirked slightly, before he left for English.
Annie almost unwillingly stepped into Chemistry, and placed her books on the third seat, pushing aside somebody's bag to sit down. Once seated, she started doodling on the back of her notebook as she waited for Ms. Stint, their Chemistry teacher. Weird though Ms. Stint was, Annie's love for chemistry somehow helped her to overlook it to see the brilliance beyond.
Ms. Stint was a pale, thin and tall woman, who wore huge brown spectacles and a big brown scarf with whatever she wore. Most people thought the scarf was weird, but Annie, like Dennis, seemed to think the scarf brought out the colour of Ms. Stint's eyes.
Annie tried to close her ears as she heard Lybbia right behind her. She tried to keep a straight face and continued doodling on her notebook. But she couldn't concentrate.
"Yo River. Where's your Dorky babe?"
There was a ripple of laughter all around the classroom, Annie clenched her fists tight, trying to stop herself from doing anything rash.
"Did he desert you for some Dorky freak of his, you Fat ass?"
"SHUT UP." Annie screamed. That had been the last stroke.
Lybbia had quietened down after that, though she still had a superior smirk on her face, and the girl beside her, Annie noticed, was blushing slightly, as though embarrassed to just be sitting there.
All through the chemistry lecture, Lybbia's words kept playing in Annie's ears.
"You Fat ass."
She carefully made notes throughout the lecture, and practically ran out of the class when the bell rang, not wanting to face Lybbia, the freak or any of her other classmates who had laughed at her.
This had been the first time that someone had called her a Fat ass to her face. Yes she was fat, she knew that. But she wasn't like monstrously fat, she was just slightly flabby.
She remembered what Dennis had said "Cute."
Comforted by the thought, she left the washroom she had been hiding in for the last ten minutes for her next lecture, geometry.
The whole day she carefully avoided Dennis, knowing too well that if he saw her now, he would totally know something was wrong. And then there would be a definite fight, and then some more fights. And of course a hell load of embarrassment for Annie, when Dennis would confront Lybbia as to why she had called Annie a fat ass.
It was best that Dennis did not know anything, Annie reassured herself.
Once she was home, she closed her door, turned off the lights and put on a blanket, blinking away the tears. She dint have a lock on the door, since she shared her room with her little sister, Margaret. So she would have to be ready to look absolutely normal if anyone came in without knocking, which they usually did.
But she had nothing to worry about, since there was no one home. Rachel was with her two sisters Lucy and Sarah, and her youngest daughter, Kate at Sarah's place. Adam was at work. Richard was at school and Margaret was out with Kelly.
* * *
"Apologise Libby. That was really wrong of you."
Lybbia Humely frowned at her closest girl friend, Emma Parker.
"I'm so not apologising Em. You should have seen that freak in the morning. I was so polite to her, and she gave me such a rude nod. She deserves everything I said to her today."
"Em, I seriously cannot help it if that freak is fat. She has to face it sooner or later."
"Well at least she's pretty. Have you seen me Libby? Have you seen my hair? I look crap. But I would feel even worse about all that, if someone told me, in front of a huge group of people who've known me since I was nine or ten, how weird I look. You had no right. Everybody has some flaws. And people come to face them some or the other time, but that doesn't give you the right to force them into seeing those flaws. Do you get it Libby?"
Lybbia looked down at the floor. She knew Emma was right. She really did have no right, but sometimes she just couldn't stop herself. She wouldn't even bother with that "Anna Cabbana", if it wasn't for her Dorky best friend, Dennis Walker. Lybbia despised Dennis more than anyone else, the only reason being that Emma liked him like crazy, and he didn't give a camel's shit about her.
"Alright, if that makes you happy, Ill apologise tomorrow."
"Tomorrows sunday" Emma rudely pointed out. Lybbia stared exasperated at her best friend, and then continued.
"I'll apologise on Monday. Thats it, topic closed."
* * *
Dennis sat on the underside of the weak bridge that crossed the lake a few blocks away from his place. According to the elders of the town, it had been decided that nobody should use the bridge unless in a critical situation with no other options left. But the underside, since no one else knew about it, was used by Dennis and Annie, and sometimes Margaret too, as a meeting place. Annie, remembered Dennis, loved the amazing feel of the soft sand on her knees, she would always fold up her jeans in order to feel the sand pour down her knees.
In an impulse, Dennis folded up his jeans upto his knees and poured sand all over it, something that he had refused to do, no matter how much Annie had pleaded with him. And to his surprise, it didn't feel good, It hurt. It was soft and silky, and in a really silly way, it reminded Dennis of Annie's skin. And Annie's skin obviously reminded him of Annie, who at the moment was the reason for his agony.
He brushed all the sand off, and unfolded his jeans back to his ankle before he sat down on the sand again.
"Dennis?" A voice called out to him from the space above.
"Down here Ann." Dennis called back.
In a quick minute, Annie was down in the underside along with him. Her face looked swollen and colourless, as though she had just cried herself out. And as she sat down on the sand, he noticed her hands were trembling. She had a huge scarf over her head, as if she had been trying to hide from someone.
Dennis frowned at her. But Annie's attention seemed to have been caught by a little lady bird on the ground. She put her hand down and caught it, rather clumsily.
"You wanted to talk about something important Dan. Go on." Annie said, still looking determinedly at the lady bird.
"Is everything o-"
"DAN! You wanted to say something important."
Dennis stared at Annie. There was definitely something wrong.
"Annie. What's wrong?"
"It doesn't matter Dennis. Could you continue?"
"I am not continuing anything until or unless you explain why you're crying."
At that very instant, Dennis saw a tiny little tear-drop, sliding down Annie's cheeks. He caught it on her nose and frowned.
"Yea now you'll say, this is just the sun playing tricks on my eyes isn't it. Like a Mirage!"
"No Dan. I did not say that."
"Then say it Ann. What is bothering you?"
Annie sighed. She'd known he would get to know as soon as he saw her.
It was funny, thought Annie, how Dennis could always get to know there was something wrong with her, no matter how hard she tried to pretend that everything was okay. He just needed a millisecond to figure out there was something going on in the upper empty area of Annie's head.
Annie Laughed at the thought.
"So? What is it?" Dennis repeated. Annie shrugged.
"Nothing Dan. You know me right? How fussy I am about being such a fat ass? Well Lybbia called me a fat ass in front of our entire chemistry class. It hurt, so I was crying. There you go."
Dennis shook his head.
"Ann, just because a person as insensitive as Lybbia, who feels that vogue girls are the only real girls, told you, you're a fat ass, doesn't really make you one."
"I know that Dennis. And I also know that, I have a natural talent at being a fat ass, and it doesn't make a difference as to what Lybbia says. But-"
Dennis sighed. This was one of those things he had always tried to change about Annie. She just seemed to hate herself so much, even though there was nothing to hate. It was always something or the other new. And most of the time, it involved her thinking herself to be fat, which were only a lame assumption, until now. But now, Dennis cursed under his breath, that Ms. Lybbia, the great had confirmed Annie's suspicions, Annie would probably wear shirts to school that said "I am Fat. Don't stare."
Oh no, Dennis thought, she would go down in her own self esteem and would pretend like the world had broken into pieces or something.
Dennis had always been there to bring her back up, until now. But now, however, the winds were changing directions.
"Annie.." Dennis wondered how best he could break it to her.
"Dan, you know what, just talking to you has made me feel so much better. What would I do without you!" Annie hugged Dennis.
"What Indeed" murmured Dennis, in his breath.
"Annie, there's something important that you need to know" Dennis said, pulling Annie away from himself. Annie looked up at him expectantly, her eyes much clearer now.
"I'm moving" Dennis blurted.
"Ann, I'm moving"
Dennis stared at Annie. Had she had a nervous attack, he wondered.
Dennis started weighing his options, as to whether he should slap her, punch her, kick her or strangle her to bring her back to consciousness, when Annie relieved him off those possibilities.
"That won't make a difference Dan. We'll still be in the same school. Ill probably use some little tricks I recently learned from Kate about buttering people up, and get my Mum to drive me to your place every day or something like that, you know. It will just be a little more distance between us, and trust me, thats nothing."
"Uhh.. No Annie. I think you've got it all wrong. I'm going to be moving almost half way down the country. The place is almost two thousand miles from here, my dad told me."
* * *
"Is everything okay Ann?"
"Yeah. I guess so."
Margaret stared up at her big sister for a minute before she spoke again.
"I heard, Dennis is moving?"
It sounded more like a statement rather than a question to Annie.
"So, what are you going to do now?" Margaret continued bravely.
"I guess I'll just finish my homework and then go to sleep." Annie replied, avoiding the question.
Annie continued to gaze down at her chemistry notebook, pretending to revise for the test she had tomorrow.
"Listen, I have something I made for you long back, I thought you might like it." Margaret quietly placed a folded up white chart paper beside her sister's chemistry notebook, and left the room.
Annie waited till she heard the door bang shut and then opened up the chart paper her sister had left. It was an oil painting of her and Dennis, on Annie's last birthday throwing cake on Robert Road, a geeky musician, who by an odd coincidence was also an intimate friend of Lybbia.
* * *
Margaret rushed back into Richard's room, where Richard, her brother, Kelly, her best friend and Bob, Kelly's boyfriend were waiting.
"You gave it to her?"
"What did she say?"
"Did she like it?"
Margaret opened her mouth to answer them, but they came pouring out with more and more questions until Margaret lost her temper.
"GUYS! Yes, I gave it to her. but she dint open it when I was in the room. So I'll let you guys know about it when she lets ME know about it."
"Oh BOY!" Kelly sighed and closed her eyes.
"This must be really hard on Ann. Nay? I think I should go talk to her!" said Richard, Margarets quiet six year old brother.
"RICKY! I think she wants to spend some time alone. And anyways don't you have a test in history tomorrow? Study. Or Sleep."
In a quick minute, Richard was tucked safely under his Garfield bed sheet, pretending to be asleep.
* * *
Sarah was working on some assignments she was planning on setting her students for the holidays when she heard her doorbell ring. Tired and sick with tension, Sarah robed herself and opened the door an inch to check who it was. It was Annie. She quickly opened the door fully, letting her niece in.
"Annie whats wrong baby?" Sarah asked, as she sat down on the couch beside Annie, watching her niece's beautiful face stricken and scared.
"Aunt Sarah, Dan is moving." Annie said, avoiding eye contact.
"Oh baby!" Aunt Sarah hugged Annie close, kissing her forehead in the process.
Annie stayed in her Aunt's arms for full two minutes, savouring the warmth and love that radiated from her aunt, before she pulled away.
"Aunt Sarah.." Annie started "I'm really scared. Dan and I have been together since fifth grade. Its been five years now. And in these last five years I've not had any other friends in my life apart from him. He's way too important for me Aunt Sarah. Its so tough even thinking about starting out all new, without him. Its like killing myself and taking a rebirth, except everyone around is still the same. Its just my best friend that's leaving me alone here, to rot and go mad, with fake, rude people around me, waiting to make my life disgusting, sick and unworthy living in; now I know what you're thinking, like her life was worth living before now? But without him its going to be even worse. Its going to be like going through Hogwarts without any wand or teachers, and- Oh my god Aunt Sarah! What am I going to do without Dan?"
Aunt Sarah held Annie's hand in hers for a minute, staring at the zig zag shapes of the veins.
"Annie.." said Sarah "I know what you're feeling baby. Its something many people go through. And its okay to feel this way. So what if hes going away? Its not going to be like he's leaving this world is he? He'll still be just a few miles-"
"Two thousand miles." Annie was agitated.
"-Two thousand miles away. Its not that far. You know when your Grandma left us to a life beyond our world, we all thought this was it. There was nothing else left in our lives worth living for. Rach and Lucy still managed to move on. But I was the youngest of us all, and the most innocent one of the lot. It was a struggle for me, just to go through a few hours of my day, let alone go on with my life. I thought the best I could do was to kill myself, I really did!" said Sarah when Annie stared at her disbelievingly.
"But I came through kiddo. With time, those wounds healed, though of course, the scars will never go away. Even today, I spend the whole day crying on your grand parents' birthday. But then of course, I know its going to be alright. I had your mother and Lucy for support then Ann. But you, you have me, your mum, your Aunt Lucy, Adam, Mag, Rick, Kate and so many other people. You should be so proud, god's given us the most beautiful family and the best life ever. Look at Lucy and Steve, she was devastated when he told her he had no more place in his life for her. She spent almost two years crying over him. But now, she's happily married to Tom, she's brought about a new life for a boy who had never thought life was worth. And personally I've never seen her happier. Life changes kid, but for the better, not fot the worse. God's always got something good planned out for us. Trust me on this one. "
Annie had thought that by now she would be prepared for facing the grand day, the final goodbye, the end, but now when she stood here waving a goodbye at Dennis' quickly vanishing car, she knew life had, once more, caught her by surprise. She kept staring at the streets end, still waving, in a wave of panic that was flooding through her veins, a wave of panic that had nothing to do with going to school, a wave of panic that went much deeper.
The funny bit about that was, It took her days just to sink in the fact that she might never see him again.
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