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Volume I Summary

Faith Nolan was celebrating her Sweet 16, which was anything but. After a series of unfortunate tragedies strike her family, this social outcast finds herself captive in the house of the successful James family, the ironic foil to her family’s dysfunctions. Despite the apparently perfect image of the James’, she finds that nothing is as it appears on the surface.

High school dramas, youth gang scuffles and a string of murders pollute Faith’s life as she works with her brother Declan to survive. Through an unconventional belief in what it means to be family, the siblings endure the near endless turmoil of their lives. With a cast of eclectic characters weaving the story into a coming of age tale of loss, hardship, and strength.

Introduction: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Welcome to a story about life. This book, story, whatever you’d like to call it is about reality in general. The tale told is not true, yet it is based on many important factors from my own life. In other words, some of these things may be my own experiences to a certain extent. Things are stretched of course because after all, this is a story. It’s supposed to have morals, a main idea; be able to teach the reader something. What the reader gets out of this depends, of course, on the reader; because we all interpret things differently. Yet, there is an overall theme/message, which should be obvious as the story progresses. The story has a lot to it, so I tell the reader now to pay attention, things happen fast, try to remember as much as possible.

This story is dedicated to those who influenced it – society. There are no specific names to be mentioned, merely the fact that it is about real life, influenced by real people. It is written for the specific group in question. They are the true heroes, the true victors over society and they deserve the recognition. I don’t know the names of all of them that I’ve encountered but I do hope that one day they may read this. Why? Because this story is for them, about them, written by someone who can understand them. In my own way, I’ve been there, done that and would like to see if others may learn from my experience. It is they that this story is based on and we must honor that.

Some of them may be able to learn much from this, to see that they are not alone and get over their troubles. This story was written to the knowledge of only a few of my closest friends. I didn’t want my family to know because they couldn’t and wouldn’t understand. So, this story is for all those who’re “unique” in their own ways, ways that society as a whole cannot understand. They are the main characters, the beginning and the end. It is their lives that are the basis of this story. Society sees reality through a different view then that of everyone as individuals. I would like to hope that this story provides us with a basis to see the unfair prejudice in society and helps us make our own judgments.

Again, I stress that the reader not forget where this story originated. It came from how people appear and are perceived by others. These are my thoughts, my words. I would like the reader to attempt to understand where I’m coming from and to see my point. You can’t judge a book by its’ cover. When you picked this up to read, what did you think? Did this introduction pull you in right away or did you plan to give up after reading it? I would hope not, whether it pulled you in right away or you were considering giving it up. I’d like people to at least read through Chapter 1. If you don’t like it after that, then give it up. I would like people to see my point, that there are multiple morals to be found here. The reader has the job of finding and understanding them.

I hereby dedicate this story to all those people who didn’t even realize that they were so important in my life. I may have only spoken to them once but still, they’ve had an impact on my life. This story is dedicated to all the outcasts, the black-clad loners and all the rest. Everyone judges them as those who don’t fit in, yet, in my life and my story, they fit in perfectly. I shall allow the reader to consider now whether or not to go further with my tale. I leave you to your thoughts, but consider wisely. Be wary of your words for once the point is passed there is no return.

2. A New Perspective

The dictionary defines an outcast as the following: a person who is excluded or a homeless person. Now think about that definition. Does it fit the word? Consider it. First part, a person who is excluded. True enough, right? Isn’t that a basic characteristic of an outcast? Usually an outcast is also someone who chooses not to fit in. Second, a homeless person.  An outcast, true, is cast out from society, turned against humanity, no contest there. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are homeless. All because someone decides to be excluded doesn’t mean that they decide as well to give up their homes. The majority of the time they live with their families, act normal, “fit in” at home. Yet, our family lives differ from our social lives. They can be so different that one would be unable to see one similarity at all. So again, what is an outcast? Someone who chooses not to fit in, not to be included, to be the odd man out all the time because they feel more secure.

Now I bet you’re thinking this: If they feel more secure alone, then why should we bother them? Good question. There’s a very good answer to it as well. Yes, alone these people feel more secure, yes, they don’t have to deal with as many social pressures. Yet, when we get rid of one set of circumstances, we only exchange them for another set. These people may feel more secure for awhile, but sooner or later, they are going to feel a little too secure. They become paranoid. Instead of wanting to be counted out, they don’t even want to be talked to or noticed at all, nothing. They adapt a “fear” of their surrounding society, the very people they live and grow with. Alone is the only way that they can function properly. Sound scary? Sound like make-believe? Wake up, it’s true. Look around; search deep in your community, through your lifetime. Everybody has seen a few, but nobody really remembers. Those people that never volunteered, that were picked last, that didn’t fit the “mold” society created for them. For these reasons we felt we shouldn’t give them a chance. Maybe we were right.

Or were we? Should we exclude people because of how they look, how they talk, how they act? Should we ignore them just for making a mistake? Isn’t character and personality the key to knowing someone? We commonly use such harsh names as freaks, idiots, losers, and of course, outcasts. Yet, do we have a right to create this prejudice against them? Some of them could be geniuses and we wouldn’t know it. Why? They aren’t allowed to grow in our world, they become afraid to as they get older. Whether we see it or not, these people are unique. They go out and pave their own way, walk their own road, a style of their own. They are leaders in their own way, because instead of leading others, they lead themselves. They place themselves in a dark hole to get away from the “demons” of society. Of course by now you must be saying, “What demons?” What demons you say? Look around you. To an outcast, everybody is a demon, whether or not they act like it. Think about that. Being against everybody, everything. Scary thought isn’t it?

Now try and put yourself in their shoes. What do you think you’d do if you grew up alone, and loving it? If you came to only feel safe alone, what would you do? Would you want to stay that way? Or would you rather take your chances and attempt to change? You can’t make a truthful decision though, can you? Not unless you’re really an outcast, if you are really living that kind of life, you can’t decide, can you? Life is full of irony, or so they say. Times change, as do people. Or do they? Can a tiger change its’ stripes? He can’t, can he? Of course not, you can change the way someone looks or how one acts, but not how they think and feel. You can’t “change” one’s emotions, or their outlook on issues, on life in general. You can take a freakish looking outcast, dress them in nice clothes, and you’d still have an outcast, just dressed nicer. You really can’t completely change someone, can you? It doesn’t hurt to try, right? Maybe, it all depends, but on what? Who you’re trying to change, how, and WHY?

Why is a common question, yet it rarely has an answer, why change an outcast? A better question is why not? Constantly we ask why, but how often do we ask why not? “Why?” and “What if?” are the two most asked questions in the world, the most common of dilemmas. Too bad that we can rarely answer either of them to the full extent. Life is full of its’ misfortunes, which is a fact we cannot change or explain. So we come to accept that the world is full of unanswerable questions. There are answers and reactions that we are not certain about, and cannot pre-determine. These things are about as inconclusive as the weather. And so we learn to live and coexist with the inevitable, the impossible and the improbable.

Our story resumes just as it left off, nowhere. We are at a dead end for our character Faith. Faith, an ironic name for someone who has none at all, isn’t it? So once again our tale’s narration is turned over to the true storyteller. Living in the current circumstances, I feel she has a right to tell her life story any way that she pleases. Our focus won’t immediately return to Faith though. I think a common question now is this: What happened to Declan? So instead of turning our story to its’ regular narrator, we’re going to look through a different perspective. We shall see the world through Declan’s eyes, but not from the beginning. Shortly after is where we resume, Faith has left for school at the normal time like any normal day, except this day is far from normal. From here on in, we hear the tale through Declan’s eyes.

It had been a long night; there would be a long day to follow. Like the theory goes, for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Is that true? Maybe, it’s a matter worth some consideration. The death of Grandma was a shock to the family, but perhaps it was her time to go. People get old; they die, that’s the way things work. So it goes. You learn to get up, get over it and move on. Faith seems to understand that all right, which takes a burden from me. Having to explain it would take an eternity, if not longer – should an explanation be possible. It affected everyone differently, the death I mean. Grandpa was hit the hardest of course. During the course of the day, I don’t recall seeing anyone crying. It was a rare occasion for anyone in our family, though I would assume Mother did. She was that kind of person, and it was her mother after all. Dad didn’t even care when his parents died, he just said kind of matter-of-factly, “What are you going to do about it? People die, get over it.”

That’s the same attitude I’m showing to this. You can’t beat the inevitable, so why hang onto that moment forever? Get through it and try to forget. Though usually those two ideas didn’t go hand in hand. The morning dragged on, waiting for the family to rise. I’ve been up since…God knows what hour. Time drags on incessantly. Mom’s been doing laps around the house since she got up. She must be thinking, on account of she always walks in circles when she’s thinking. Dad won’t get up for a long time. He never gets up before 10 for anything. Grandpa is up and pacing with Mom. They’ve been talking for a while about a lot of stuff. The lawyer is coming to read the will at noon. Uncle Tom would be arriving by then as well. He seems to have this idea that he’s getting a fortune. Grandpa had a good laugh over that one. He told us all that he “ain’t gettin’ nuthin’!” He had a few other choice words in there, but I see no reason to repeat them. The morning is a time of peace and serenity, why shatter it with profanity?

I always lose track of time; Faith usually has to remind me if I have something to do or somewhere to go. Of course she’s at school, trying to make it through, but struggling in the process. Times change, people change. That’s the way it goes. You learn to get used to it, to carry on, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Grandpa decided to go for a walk, at 10 a.m.? He’s determined to go, and Dad comes groggily out of bed just in time to see the door close. Grandpa is always one to go to the beat of his own drummer, and being with so much on his mind, we all agree it’s best to leave him alone. I figure I might as well get dressed and ready for a fresh new day. Mom and Dad are talking amongst themselves, and I know better than to intervene.

By about noon there is a knock on the door. It’s the lawyer with the will. He asks to enter, which we gladly allow. He clears a place for himself in the kitchen and starts spreading out papers.

“Is Mister…Martin present?” he asked.

“No, he’s out. He’s due back any moment, if you would mind waiting a little bit. He needed time to think.” Mother responded quickly.

“Oh, I see. I understand completely Ma’am. These things do take time,” was his carefully worded reply. We all knew that, to him, our family meant money in his pocket and a waste of time. His acting wasn’t too hard to see through. His name was Mr. Smith, like a thousand others, and he looked just as plain. If you placed him in a crowd, you’d lose him.

We had no longer to think about the blank expression on the man’s face, as the silence was shattered with the loud banging of the door. I ran to open it and watched as my uncle and a policeman nearly fell in. For once, Uncle Tom was sober, and still tripped over his own two feet. Standing straight and tall, he brushed off dirt. The officer spoke first in a cold, unfeeling tone.

“Is this the Nolan residence?”

“Of course it is, what business is it of yours?” was Dad’s quick reply.

The officer looked a little shocked, hearing the man respond so nastily. “There is a situation. It’s a bit hard to explain…“ his voice trailed off into contemplation over his next few words.

Words that never came as Uncle Tom finally realized where he was and burst out, “Father’s dead! A car, it, it, it, it…a car! Out, on the street, it, it… ”

I had lost my patience with the drunkard. “Are you going to get that sentence out anytime soon?” I demanded. I knew I was wrong as I watched his face grow rigid and the fist swing up.

“Ignorant child! You don’t care at all that your grandfather was hit by a car and killed, do you? Course you don’t! You never cared about anyone but yourself!” his remarks hit like stones, and I struck back after each one. What surprised me was that they all stood and watched, including the policeman. It was when my uncle fell that he took me aside.

“I know you’re going through a lot boy, but so is he. Give your old uncle a break okay? Let him be miserable if he wishes. Go for a walk, I’m letting you off for this one because of the circumstances. But you don’t come back here tonight, until maybe noon tomorrow, you hear? I’ll cart you away if you do. You understand me?” his voice was calmer than before, but he still retained the stern look in his eyes.

“Sure, I’m good as gone.”

He nodded in agreement, and went back to my family. I turned and walked out, without looking back at all. I heard them help Uncle Tom up, sit him down and tell him to be calm before I left. I wouldn’t return to that house for some time. At that time, I didn’t even have the slightest clue of the future. Out on the street I figured that I should look for Faith, chances are she’d be doing the same thing. She had nowhere to go, same as me. Not all that wander are lost, perhaps that is true. Contemplation over the logic of the remark is what is necessary to prove and/or disprove it.

I have no idea what’s going on with my family and knowing it’s useless to try and find out, I figure the best bet is to walk the streets. Faith’s got to be around somewhere, but I think I better ask the school. The walk is short and quick to the high I once attended. Feels like only yesterday. I walk briskly into the office and announce that I require the location of one Faith Nolan. They look at me blankly before asking, “Who might you be?” Forgetting myself, I explain that I am her brother, that there is a family emergency and I need to find her as soon as possible. They again stare at me blankly.

“It’s been taken care of and if you don’t mind, we have things to be done. This is a school. You are no longer welcome, “ was their stern reply. I returned their cold stare, turned, and walked out. Twice I was kicked out of a once welcome place in one day. I refused for that to occur ever again. Being the conditions I am currently living in, I wasn’t prepared to fight back. I stood outside the office, noticing a girl in considerably bad shape. Looks as if she went out a window, or at least down a flight of steps. You don’t need a ruler to figure out Faith’s been here. I jogged up to her to ask her if she might know where I could locate my sister. I would have been better off leaving in the first place. I’ve never heard such words out of such a small being. That’s my confirmation that Faith’s around, until she said that she’s gone.

“What do you mean she’s gone?”

“She left, her, my boyfriend, and a policeman. They just got up and left,” was her sharp answer.

“Where does your boyfriend live?” I asked eagerly.

She reluctantly gave me the address after I followed her through a few more hallways. I ran out of the building and down the streets until I found the proper house. Night had fallen, and having no place else to go, I figured I’d look the place over. It was a huge house, very nicely built, for a richer family. Scaling a fence, I walked the grounds quietly, trying to figure why Faith would be here. I heard something move in the dark so I dropped to the ground and lay still. Even in the pitch black I saw the familiar outline of a person dart across the grounds. Who would be out at this hour? They were heading right for me, and I saw what appeared to be guard dogs right after. They were coming closer; I crouched up a little bit, got ready, waited. They were in place, I jumped up, tripped them, they grabbed me, and we went flying down a deep hill. It stopped when he hit a large fence. The dogs had quit a while back.

The other person was getting up quickly, but they were confused from the fall. While trying to rise they failed, fell, and tried again. I rose quickly, pulled them up and demanded to know their identity. They fought considerably and with one quick hit to the face had me down. The pain was intense, my eyes felt like they were on fire. I knocked them down and wearily asked once more for their name, even though I could no longer see them. It was the scariest moment of my life. They had stopped fighting, helping me up. Again I repeated my question. The person didn’t move, but instead replied calmly, “Be still Declan, as you look into the eyes of your enemy. Look deep for they are the very eyes of your sister.”

I felt ridiculous for not realizing that it was Faith. My own sister, how could I? I think I started to cry, I couldn’t tell. I put my hands over my eyes, and was shocked to see my right hand covered in red blood. I blinked time and again and still could not regain sight. The left eye cleared a bit and Faith was helping clean them off. I couldn’t remember what happened. I knew I was standing, as was she. If she was healthy or dying I couldn’t tell. She helped me through the gate and on the other side she used what appeared as an old rag to sop up the blood. The pain was unimaginable and unforgettable. I had no idea what had happened to it. She was being as careful as possible. I kept asking her why she was here, what was going on, was I going to be all right. Her reply was always the same.

“Don’t worry about that now.”

3. Faith is for the Faithful

There is a theory that states that our destinies are pre-determined, that our lives have already been planned, we just have to live them through. There has never been proof to agree or disagree with this idea. Some people accept that their lives are planned out for them, while others refuse to grasp the idea that someone else is in charge of their lives. Kind of scary logic isn’t it? The fact that no matter what you do, you can’t change how/where you’ll end up. The idea that some people are meant to kill themselves, some are meant to kill others, some are meant to be killed. The theory that our lives are pre-planned for us is a somewhat scary sensation. But, is it reality or imagination? What do you think?

Some people refuse to accept the fact that their decisions have no effect on their own lives, that a much higher being is controlling them. The idea would tend to cause some controversy. Fate is a topic that many people wonder about, yet nobody can prove or disprove either theory. The only destiny I’ve foreseen is that we are all destined to die one way or another. That fact is something you cannot get around. Yet, how about things like luck and chance. When you’re born, was it written that you would go into a certain career, go to a pre-determined school, meet pre-determined friends? Nobody knows. It is more common for people to not accept this idea for lack of evidence and lack of control. People don’t like to know that someone else is in control of their futures.

Every day we all make simple decisions that have a minimal effect on our lives. Also, we make decisions that may determine our future. We all like to think that we are in control of our lives, that we can be influenced but not controlled. Everyone has his or her own separate view on the issue of fate. I myself do not believe in such a thing, that someone has already written out our lives and then decided to allow us to live it. The decisions we make day to day can affect our lives as well as the lives of others. At each chapter I again remind the reader of the main idea of this story, adding a new lesson with each chapter. Chapter 1 was a sort of introduction, Chapter 2 the continuation with the constant questioning. This chapter deals with fate, the way things are pre-determined to be. Were Faith and Declan’s lives determined when they were born, or is it just the traditional case of hard luck? I’m going to let you decide, being we all have our own varying opinions on common issues.

The story left off at a sort of cliffhanger. We started our tale through Faith’s eyes, then moved on to Declan’s view. For this chapter and much of the remainder of the story, we will remain in Faith’s mind, with the possible occasional jump to other characters. The story will continue exactly where it left off, at the end of chapter 2. The story with the adults of the Nolan family is currently unknown and shall remain that way for some time. We pick up again outside of the James family property. If one looked into the darkness close enough, they might see two figures standing by the gate in silence. The time is approximately 11:00 p.m. and the night is cold, calm, and quiet as the two figures stand staring into the darkness. Though the two silhouettes look a bit peculiar as one is doubled over, grasping at his face, the other is attempting to console the older Declan, who cannot understand why his vision has left him. We start again through Faith’s point of view at that very moment.

“Be calm Declan, you’ll be alright.”

He was confused from the fall, completely disorientated. He kept trying to sop up the blood but to no avail. I couldn’t remember too much either from falling, only that my arm and forehead were killing me. Declan was doubled over so as to prevent the blood from getting into the eye itself. He was a bit too late. I heard a noise in the shadows and I saw Declan freeze. I helped him to the fence and the two of us started to climb. Declan was halfway up when the footsteps got louder, and faster, I was on the verge of jumping up the fence myself when I felt an arm roughly drag me down. Declan heard and started down, and I quickly got to my feet. No sooner was I standing up that I saw Mike’s eyes. He was panting hard and had a German shepherd at his heels. I waited for him to stop sputtering and start speaking.

“Where did you think you were going to?” he demanded.

“I’m getting the hell out of here, and you aren’t going to stop me.”

I heard Declan touch down. He wasn’t too happy with the way things were working out. I held his shoulder to prevent him from rushing Mike, which would have put him out of commission.

“You can’t leave and you know it. School and police orders. They said if you set foot off of the grounds, you can stay with them.”

I glared at him before giving my response. “I’d rather stay with the police than here with you. I don’t belong here, it’s a waste of time, I have to check on my family.”

He was breathing normally at last. “I told you not to try anything, now look what happened. The two of you are cut up pretty bad. Come on, we’ll get back to the house and fix you both up.”

Declan would have hit him just because of the frustration, but when I moved to follow, he figured it would be wiser. We walked all the way back to the house, entering through the front door. Nobody was in sight, so we followed him through a few rooms until he stopped. He called for his mother who came promptly with a first aid kit. She looked at Declan’s eye and shook her head. I was watching her clean the cut when Mike came over.

“Your hand, if you don’t mind. Looks like the dog’s work. I warned you but no, you had to go see for yourself. Where did you think you were going?” he mumbled.

I gave him the hand he asked for as I thought about my response. He repeated the question and I simply answered, “Anywhere but here.”

The night wore on. Declan would have to go to the hospital, such was the severity of the wound. While waiting we both explained what had happened to the James family. When prompted with the question of how his eye had been gashed, I stopped to consider it. I looked down at the ring my mother had given me, a family heirloom. Long before my mother, the stone was cracked, leaving a sort of jagged edge. I had been warned thoroughly beforehand of the danger of the ring’s edge, and my mother suggested I just put it away for safekeeping. Of course I wouldn’t listen. I had thrown the strike at an awkward angle, which caused the blow to be sort of diagonally propelled instead of straight. It cut across his eye and the blood had prevented him from seeing. I wouldn’t say anything, but I doubted that he’d ever see out of that eye again.

The whole of the James family was present, Mike, his parents, and his younger sister. Declan had a makeshift bandage over his eye as he waited for the ambulance. We both concluded our explanations at the same spot and now sat in silence. The family hadn’t asked any more questions or made any comments. About ten minutes of pure silence passed without even the slightest gesture. A ring of the doorbell shattered the lack of sound like a rock thrown through a window. Mrs. James rose quickly and rushed to the door. Three men came rushing in, two in the usual paramedics uniforms, the third a policeman. The paramedics took the liberty of ushering Declan out. The policeman took a quick glance at the house, found himself a chair and promptly asked what happened.

The true story could have got me arrested and the James’ knew it. I thought about where to start when Mr. James’ voice cut in.

“The young man came to visit at perhaps 10 to see his sister. Of course we allowed him to. The two were walking the grounds when one tripped, dragged the other down as well. He must have cut his eye on a rock.”

The policeman looked up from his notes, glanced at all of us and asked me, “What happened to your hand?”

“The dog.”

He looked at Mr. James. “You own the animal?”

“Yes.”

The policeman stared down at his notes as he spoke, “And this animal is registered, has all its’ shots?”

“Yes sir, the dog wasn’t used to our visitors and got a bit hostile. He has calmed down now and taken a liking to them,” was Mr. James’ final statement.

The policeman got up and looked around a bit, taking a casual glance here and there. Legally, he couldn’t conduct a thorough search without a warrant, but he didn’t seem to want to. He spoke next while heading to the door.

“Alright, the young man will be brought to the hospital to be properly treated, would anyone like to come before the ambulance leaves?”

The family fell silent once more, and the attention was generated towards me. I started to speak when Mr. James cut in once more.

“I’ll go, you kids get to bed, it’s late,” he replied. With that, he turned and followed the policeman out.

Mrs. James was still in a state of contemplation. She looked so tired; I was actually feeling a little bad for her. She must have finally found the right words because she spoke up.

“Catherine, Mike, get to sleep, it’s been a long day.”

The three split, each going a separate way. I, in turn, went mine. It was roughly 1 a.m. when everything finally settled down in the James house. It was a Friday anyway so I wasn’t particularly worried about getting up for school in the morn. I went into the room I was appointed to and considered the days’ events. It all went by so quickly didn’t it? I wonder how Declan is, when they’ll release him. Sleep was out of the question of course; I still had a migraine anyway from the fall. Hours dragged on in the darkness, and no word came from Mr. James about Declan. It was odd to think that someone actually risked something on my behalf. I was prepared to take the rap for leaving, for fighting back, everything. But they shielded me from harm, more than I had ever done for anyone.

Were things meant to be this way, life to be this hard? Was my family chosen to have all these problems? If so, why? I don’t think anyone can answer my questions. Everyone keeps saying that things happen for a reason. Well if there’s a reason for all this, I’d sure like to know what it is, I haven’t been able to find it. Time marches on of course, and eventually it strikes 2 with still no word on Declan. I’m sure they had to do some sort of surgery of something. I really have to get out of this house. Everything’s too…“perfect”. This family is the image of perfection, not a mistake to be found. You could take a fine toothed comb over them and their lives and still come up with nothing. Perhaps they were always meant to be this way, without a flaw. I’ve never seen this much kindness in my life, and probably won’t ever see it again for that matter. Still, the only things keeping me within the confines of this house are walls alone.

I rose and started to walk through the darkness. My steps echoed quietly through the house, slow and cautious, not knowing if they could be heard elsewhere. From my room there’s a few little corners to the front door, and from there I’m home free. Creeping along the walls, I made my way, I was so very close until I tripped over something in the dark. The hall light turned on in an instant and I found myself staring at the youngest James’ sibling. I never did come to learn her name.

“You okay?” she asked innocently.

I got up, brushed myself off and stared at her. “Sure, I’m fine. What’re you doing up anyway?”

“I heard a noise,” she said. She did look a little shaken up.

“Well it’s alright, get back to bed, I’m going to go too.”

She stared straight back at me for a minute, turned off the light and walked away. I leaned against the wall to take a quick breath. The kid was going back to bed, nobody heard the fall, so from here on in nobody was the wiser. The door was only a few feet away. I stand straight once more, turn the corner, and find myself face to face with Mike.

“And where do you think you were going? Going to try and tell me you’re an insomniac, don’t even bother,” he stated briskly.

“I’m leaving this house even if I have to go through you, understand me? I can’t stay here a moment longer. I am telling you now, get out of my way before I make you.”

He stared back blankly, thought about his next words, which I really didn’t expect. “You want to go back out there, you go ahead. Be aware there’s no turning back once you shut that door. It means you’ve made your decision, I can’t stop you. Should you want to return, you better have a damn good speech prepared. It’s about time you learn that there are people you can trust. My family is putting out a lot to help you and you brother, and I don’t think it’s right you just walk out on them. Again, do whatever you wish; there is no way I can stop you, this is your decision. Consider it wisely.”

With that, he turned and walked off as quietly as he had come, disappearing into the darkness from whence I came. I stood there for what felt like an eternity, considered my few options. There was only one thing I could do, and that was to find my family. I opened the door quietly, stepped through, and closed it behind myself. The walk from the door to the street wasn’t too bad, and when I got there I climbed up and over the fence. I glanced back for a moment at what I had left and thought about where I was heading. Was it worth it? These people had risked something for me, and I walked out? I had to; I didn’t belong there. I couldn’t complicate their lives with mine. It wasn’t their business anyway; they had no right to know my life.

I walked the streets aimlessly for awhile, thinking about where to go first. I decided on the hospital. It was only a few blocks, though it had started to rain. By the time I reached the door it was a downpour. I asked the weary nurse at the desk in what room I could find Declan Nolan, and she told me 351, but visiting hours were over, if I could come back later. I tried to explain that I was family, but she told me to either find a place in the lobby to sleep because I looked tired, or get out. I stared back at her and if looks could kill she would have been fried. I turned and walked back out into the downpour toward home. It was near 4 a.m. when I got there. I walked in slowly trailing rain the entire way.

I stopped in my tracks when I heard footsteps. Nobody wakes up this early in the Nolan house, no matter the occasion. I pressed up against a wall, into the shadows, and peered out. I saw my mother pacing incessantly, speaking to…my uncle. What was he doing here at this hour? Normally he’d have a hangover. He looked somewhat drunk anyway. It seemed they hadn’t heard me come in, as my mother was a wreck over the will it seemed. I continued to watch, in time to see my mother look out the window as if in deep contemplation. She seemed different, not quite herself. I heard the clumsy steps of my uncle, the scraping of the chair as he rose.

Mother had heard him too, subconsciously. She didn’t turn to watch him or even have the notion to. It was then I wished she had. She moved out of view, somewhat oddly. She went backwards. There was a sort of brief muffled scuffle; I wouldn’t dare move from where I stood. It lasted seconds but felt like years. It all ended with a sickening sound that couldn’t be described with words. The shuffling stopped, and I heard once again my uncle’s clumsy footsteps. The suspense was too much; I stepped out quietly so he wouldn’t notice right away. The sight that met my eyes was more than I could stand.

I should have moved when I could’ve, because before me lay my mother. The coward couldn’t stare her in the face, so he’d stabbed her in the back. The blood glistened in the light of the early morning and he was covered with it. He had a bewildered look on his face as he stared down. It wasn’t until he looked up that it contorted into anger. We both stared at each other, daring the other to move first. It was Uncle Tom. He came flying forward, and I caught his wrists. He fought without much progress either way for some time. We were both fighting for the same thing, our lives. But he was fighting for innocence, I for vengeance, which was a much stronger adversary. He still had the knife in his hand; he refused to let it go. I pushed him away and the fight raged on.

Normally I would never think about killing a family member, but this was the exception. I screamed at him about his crime, we continued to fight, he kept swiping, missing. Either he would live with the guilt or die.

“You killed her, how could you, and I’ll bet you took out Grandpa as well!”

He laughed; he actually dared to laugh. I lunged at him, but I should have known better. Anger ruins concentration. He added momentum to the action, which landed me against the wall. I got up as quick as I could, but he was already standing there waiting for me. He pulled me up, still being wary of looking into my eyes. It’s like some sort of a belief of his; you can’t kill your enemy if you stare into their eyes first. He was still laughing.

“Now the house will be mine, you’re the only thing standing in the way of it. I can’t allow that to happen. I need it more than you do anyway.”

I stood and stared at him coldly. “You won’t get away with it, they’ll track you.”

Again he thought fit to laugh, “No they won’t, because there will be no proof I was ever here. It all works out in the end. I will make it work, but of course you won’t be here to see it.”

He took another step and I took the opportunity. He was being too pompous; he wasn’t ready for it. I put everything I had into the hit, the hit that sent him over the couch and out the window. He had nothing to grab onto, so he took me with him. We were about two stories up, but I landed on him. I heard the loud distinct sound of a crack and knew something had broken. I got up slowly, watching him. He was groaning a bit, but no movement. I tried to stand, but everything hurt. From here it would be a few blocks back to the hospital in the torrential rain, but I had to get there.

I walked slowly onward to the hospital. It was going on 7 or so I think, the watch dial had been cracked earlier I suppose in the fall. The rain wouldn’t quit, but I continued anyway. I walked in the hospital drenched. The nurses had switched as the shift changed, and this one immediately looked up when I entered. I asked her softly what time it was. She told me it was 6:30 a.m. I asked her when visiting hours started, and she replied 8. I said, “Thank you,” and took a seat for awhile. She eyed me curiously for some time before actually coming over.

“Are you looking for family?” she asked politely.

“Yes, my brother Declan. He’s in room 351, I haven’t seen him at all yet, they wouldn’t let me in.”

She looked a bit shocked. “They wouldn’t let you in? Why didn’t you just say you’re family? They should have let you up. You can go up now if you want to, no reason why you should wait.”

“Thank you.”

I stood and walked to the nearest elevator, pushed the call button and waited. It took a few seconds, and I waited inside to reach the right floor. I got out, looked around, and followed the room numbers. At the end of the hallway I found 351 with the door ajar. I peered in to be sure and saw Declan lying in bed, asleep. Mr. James was sitting in a chair right next to the bed, still awake. I opened the door a bit and stepped inside.

The man had such a weary look on his face; he desperately needed sleep. He rose from his chair immediately. He moved rather sluggishly to where I stood, still soaked.

“Faith, I told you I’d call. You’re not supposed to leave the house anyway. You get back there right away.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll stay with him, you go home. I want to stay, you look tired anyway, your family needs you.”

He was obviously thinking it over. I waited patiently, though I felt ready to fall. I must have been slouching because he helped me sit down. He looked me over with a critical eye, being a doctor, he was a bit of an expert.

“Are you alright? You don’t look so well,” he asked slowly. He started pacing around. I told him I was fine.

“Where have you been?”

I explained that I left the house and walked a few laps before they had let me up to see Declan.

“If all you did was walk the streets all these hours, what happened to your arm?”

I looked down and discovered a deep cut with a piece of glass stuck across it. I hadn’t even realized until now how much it hurt. Mr. James watched my clueless expression with a sense of wonder. How could I be so ignorant? I couldn’t find the right words to explain myself. I couldn’t bear the burden any longer, so I told him what happened straight from the start. I told him about leaving the house, about the hospital, about going home, about my mother and my uncle. He started to rise when I mentioned Uncle Tom lying on the ground, but I grabbed his wrist.

“No, let him lay there and think about all he’s done. His life’s not worth saving.” I didn’t even realize that in the time taken to tell my tale, he had removed the glass and bandaged my arm. He looked even more tired than before.

“Listen, we are discussing a human life, he must be held accountable. Whether he is pure or evil, we must offer him the same opportunity for life that we offer everyone else. He deserves a chance no matter what the crime, and when he is better he will pay his debts.”

I couldn’t believe he actually wanted to save the scumbag. The man that only moments earlier threatened my very life, he wanted to save him? I was disgusted with the man; I didn’t know how to respond. But in the long run I knew he was right. True, he had committed a wrong; he did deserve the chance to live through the eyes of justice. He would be properly punished upon return. I had already told him the location of the body, and he was getting up to go.

“Go back to the house, tell them what happened,” he said as he rushed out.

“I can’t, I won’t. I have to stay with Declan, he has a right to know what happened.”

He stopped at the door and looked back at me in contemplation. “Alright, but I’m sending Mike to come check on you.” He stepped back in, wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, and walked out again. I sat down in the chair he’d sat in all night alongside Declan. The clock on the wall read 8 a.m. meaning it was Saturday. Mr. James had just left, and I had settled myself down to wait for Declan to wake. I thought about yesterday, about today. Declan had been brought in hours ago, he should wake any minute, then again he needed sleep. The room was silent with the eerie chill of a hospital. There was nobody in the halls and the patients in their rooms were sleeping. Being so early, I decided to take a walk and get acquainted with the general area. The floor was empty of course, with the exception of the nurse at her station. I walked throughout the floor completely and around some of the building before returning to Declan’s room. It was roughly 9 a.m. and to my surprise I returned to see him standing up, staring out the window.

4. Judgment Day

Who is the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him? Much has happened in our tale and so now once again we shall take a moment to consider the events of the story. Such an event will take place before each chapter in case the reader hadn’t noticed. Can such a line of bad luck follow someone around forever, or is the misfortune of the Nolan family only temporary?  Who knows? Bad luck could last a lifetime; it may drive people to think it’ll never end or that it’s too much; that they can’t handle it. The open option to all is suicide. How many people a year do you think actually consider it, and how many times a year? Out of all those people, how many do you think actually go through with their crazy idea? Nobody knows; the statistics for how many people don’t aren’t as heavily advertised as the amount of how many people do. Something to consider, isn’t it?

Our story left off with our return to Declan at roughly 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The story will remain in Faith’s point of view at the local hospital. The rain hasn’t let up and Declan has risen out of bed. Mr. James left to summon a policeman to aid Tom Martin. The James family is just rising in their own home, Mrs. James finding a message from her husband detailing what happened and where he’d gone. So we are still on Saturday. Declan hasn’t yet heard the news of his mother’s death and Mr. James hasn’t called to confirm the discovery and/or arrest of Thomas Martin. Thomas Martin followed Satan on a path to Hell with his greed. Today we find out if there is justice in the world. Life isn’t fair, though at some times, isn’t it just a little bit?  Perhaps life will find the corrupt and bring him to justice, or will he get away with murder? These are some of the thoughts that passed through Faith’s mind as she wandered the hospital for an hour.

He was standing straight and tall staring out of the window at the morning sun. I stepped in silently so as not to disturb his thought. He wasn’t moving, just staring out into the sky.

“You stayed here all night?” he asked quietly.

“I got here as soon as they’d let me, they wouldn’t let me up to see you right away. Mr. James stayed until they would,” I replied to him in the same tone.

He bowed his head down as he thought, and turned around. What had been a mess of blood was covered with a thick white bandage. He was staring down at the floor when he reached up suddenly and tore the bandage from his eye, revealing the horrible scar that could never be fixed. He looked up straight into my eyes. What had been once been perfect was now shattered. Declan had once had two clear blue eyes, but now his right eye bore a terrible, somewhat vertical gash and the constant blood flow had discolored the pupil. The old clear crystal blue was turned a ghastly shade of gray. The bleeding had stopped, but the damage was done. The inability to get him to a hospital right away had caused the blood to dilate the pupil, making it red. When the doctors got to him, they cleaned it out, leaving what would forever be gray. Just looking at it told you the sight was gone as well as the life in it.

He looked so tired, not the old happy-go-lucky brother I grew up with. His dreams were in pieces, the academy would never accept him, and there was no way to replace the eye itself. The doctors had told him it was too far-gone, they might as well leave it in his head. He would either wear an eye patch forever, or just leave it as it was. He looked hard at me, focusing his only functioning eye.

“There is something amiss, tell me, what has happened in my absence?” he asked in the same calm, quiet voice.

I didn’t know if I should tell him right away about Mother, about Uncle Tom, about the window, everything. I didn’t think he needed that stress right away. I lost his gaze as he looked past me for a minute. I turned immediately to see what he was staring at.

“Hello doctor,” he said as he turned to walk back to his bed.

The doctor was a middle-aged man who also looked tired. Maybe it was too early for him to be up, maybe he had a long day ahead of him. I didn’t think I should stand in his way. I stepped back to allow him to pass. He gave a glance at me and continued to Declan.

“I see we’ve taken the bandage off already, I thought I told you to wait a while until it wasn’t as bad, it could get infected you know?” the doctor continued on and on until he ran out of words to lecture with. He checked both eyes, asked Declan a couple of questions on how he felt, then announced he would be alright, to be careful etc. He said that Declan’s release would be signed in an hour or so and he could leave anytime after then. We both thanked him for his services and watched as he walked out. By now it was roughly 10 a.m. and Declan’s expression hadn’t changed at all.

“You should just go back to bed and get some rest,” I told him calmly.

His back was facing me once again. “You’re not telling me something, and I refuse to close my eyes until I find out what has happened.” His voice had a certain tone in it that meant he wasn’t kidding. He would stay conscious three straight days if he had to. I just couldn’t tell him right off, but he would have to know. I was searching for the words to tell him, where to begin, when Mike walked into the room.

He looked lost, soaking wet. Obviously he didn’t realize it was raining when he ran headlong out of the house. The look on his face was that of a lost soul. He stopped at the door, looked inside, and stepped in.

“Well are you just gonna stand there? Say something!”

Declan didn’t say anything, just listened patiently.

Mike caught his breath and stammered a response, “Father called, said that…Thomas Martin, the police, went to find him, gone.”

“What do you mean gone?”

“They followed a blood trail, he ambushed them, he took down a cop, hurt the other one and Dad, they had to, had to…” he trailed off again.

“Well?” I demanded.

He took a deep breath before concluding, “They shot him, ‘bout four times.”

I stopped to think about it. The monster was destroyed. I felt no remorse for him, he got what he deserved, but I wished I had been there. I wanted to stare into his eyes when he faced death, took it on face to face, and perished. He was so confident he had Satan on his side, thought he would be saved, but the devil turned his back on his new disciple. And Satan felt no remorse either, for he would replace the fool easily. From the depths he would choose his next victim.

And so ended the life of Thomas J. Martin, age 34. Would anyone mourn him? Probably not, I knew I wouldn’t. He didn’t deserve it. I had turned my back to both Declan and Mike so they couldn’t see that I was smiling. They’d surely have me locked up. I heard Declan move to get up, so he was standing. I turned my face as stern as possible immediately. He placed a hand on my shoulder and asked calmly, “What happened today?”

He had a right to know; he needed to know. To know what the right thing is, and to actually do it are two completely different things though. My mind raced, my heart ached, and it had to be done. I breathed in courage and exhaled tension before starting. Mike knew it was a family problem and saw fit to stay outside. I started straight from the beginning and told him everything. Starting from when he left for the hospital to the moment Mike finished the tale minutes earlier. He made no comment, displayed no emotion at all. Trying to read his eyes was like trying to read a blank wall, nothing to understand or relate to. It took about an hour to explain everything to the fullest extent. The time was about 11:20 when the story was concluded and silence settled over the room. Mike was dozing slightly outside the door. Not even the slightest detail was neglected. I waited for a response, anything, yet there was none. He just stared blankly straight ahead.

The silence remained for about five minutes. Declan straightened up a bit, cleared his throat, and began speaking.

“So what happens from here?” he asked.

“I would imagine that perhaps the four funerals could be held together. This way everything is done in one day. As for the will, I would think that everything in it would go to Father, being he’s the only living family member left besides us.”

He thought for a minute. “Four?” he asked.

“Yes, Grandmother, Grandfather, Mother and Uncle Tom, though I’d gladly have Uncle Tom thrown into the river.”

He nodded in a half-sort of agreement. He checked the time and started moving about. I remembered then, he was allowed to leave anytime after 11. I helped him get himself together, and he went to the nurses’ station to report he was leaving. We woke Mike up on the way out and told him to go on home. He stood, nodded and walked off. Declan and I walked side by side to the elevator and took it down.  On the ground floor we walked straight out. The rain hadn’t let up at all, if anything it got worse. Declan wasn’t too eager to get home, neither was I, though we walked considerably quickly to get out of the rain. When we reached the building, we found it surrounded by cops’ cars with barriers set up around.

The officers themselves looked miserable, they were drenched from the downpour. Declan and I broke through the crowd to get to the front lines. The policeman there kept repeating that nobody was to enter the building. I approached him, looking him over and asked calmly, “What’s going on?”

He glanced at me for a moment before shouting, “Back everyone! Get back! There’s nothing to see here, make room, stay back!”

I repeated my question more loudly and this time he thought it appropriate to answer.

“There’s been a murder on the second story, policemen are inside now trying to bring out the murderer, alive.”

I considered what he had said. Was it pure coincidence? Impossible! The crowd’s attention seemed to be driven elsewhere, so I tried hard to look over the heads to see. I noticed Declan also looking, so I went off near the main entrance to see if I could catch the main event. A group of cops came busting through the door dragging a kicking human. Upon closer inspection I realized it was my father. He was swearing and screaming for justice that would never come. The cops shoved him roughly into a car and drove away as fast as they could. I ran back to where Declan stood and explained. He nodded solemnly.

“I know, I was able to see it,” he replied.

I approached the first policeman again and quickly told him my tale. I lived in the building, they had dragged off my father on false charges and I had four funerals to go to. The rain had an awful effect on the officers because he glared at me and snapped, “I’m sorry for your troubles but they’re not mine. I can’t solve your problems for you. Now get out of here before I take you in for disturbing the peace!”

I backed off and returned to Declan. The look on his face told me he was thinking. He stepped backwards and started walking away from the scene without a word. Now we had no family, no home. All we had was each other and for now that would have to do. I don’t know where Declan was planning on going, but time flew by fast, it was the afternoon and the rain had subsided for awhile. We had walked around for hours, it was about 3 p.m. when we caught the time. If there was a solution to what to do now, I couldn’t find it. Declan mustn’t have been able to either or else he would have mentioned it.

At about 6 the rain continued and the storm settled in. It was coming down heavy and we took shelter where we could find places, under alcoves, doorways etc. before moving on. Certain parts of the neighborhood aren’t too safe to be in after dark, so we kept moving to avoid gangs and such in the streets and alleys. Declan knew where to stay and where not to, so I followed him the entire way. We were walking onward through the rain when Declan stopped suddenly, looked around himself, and set a faster pace. I jumped a step to keep up, and matched his. He didn’t say anything so I figured it was wiser to follow his example.

Eventually he slowed a bit and stopped in an alley to rest a minute. He was breathing a bit harder than usual, but he was normal in an instant.

“We have to press onward through the darker areas. We have to go somewhere, anywhere. Even in death Uncle Tom has damned us. The only place we could go to is our grandparents’ house. It’s going to be a long walk, so let’s continue from…” his voice trailed off as footsteps sounded in the alley. We each turned and looked different ways to see a group of black-clad teenagers walking down each end. Declan and I looked at one another and moved closer together. Each one of them was walking with a sense of cat-footed evilness through the piercing rain, which was turning to hail slowly.

They were within arm’s reach by now, each wearing a similar facial expression. A tall, slender black-clad boy stepped forward, possibly the group leader. He circled around the both of us, standing there like a vulture. They had just come out because they weren’t soaked and most of them were wearing ponchos of some sort. He stopped in front of Declan, staring him straight in the eye. They were close enough to see the slightest facial movement, the tiniest furrow of a brow. The kid had to be roughly 18. He spoke in a deep tone with very little life to it.

“Where’d you two come from?” he asked.

Declan told him where we lived and where we were going. The boy considered the response, looking back on his little gang. When next he spoke one could detect a hint of sarcasm.            “You realize where you are? Course not. You’re on our turf. I am going to give you roughly two minutes to stammer a response before we “guide” you out.”

He was looking to intimidate us, and not finding the fear he was looking to inflict, he would quickly grow impatient. He mouth contorted into a pompous grin as if challenging our decisions. Declan returned the cold stare, smiled, and began speaking.

“The streets of New York belong to nobody but the people, and that means all people. My sister and I had to stop to take a breath before continuing. We’ve been walking all day, and our only hope of sleep is to finish the trip. Time is wearing thin, and tomorrow we must return to attend four funerals back to back. So, if you don’t mind, please stand aside and we will kindly be gone.”

He stated it so calmly and simply that it annoyed the boy. He smiled wide, turned to his companions, and punched Declan in the face right where he stood. Declan fell backwards just far enough for me to catch him and help him back upright. His eyes were burning with hatred towards the boy before him, but he stood straight up and smiled. He stared back, rubbing his jaw in the process. The kid wore a jaunty look and a self-confident air. He stood a few good steps out from the group, which had all taken to one side.

Declan considered the options, nodded, stepped back, and walked away. I fell into step behind him. We didn’t have to turn around to read the kid’s face, the raised brow and confused look. He had expected a fight and obviously he wasn’t too happy with not getting one. He bent down, picked up a stone, and tossed it. It hit Declan in the back of the head, causing him to stumble forward. He righted himself, and without looking back, continued. The group must have thought their leader was setting an example, so they followed. They threw whatever was available to them, and I kept walking until Declan stopped. He turned around quickly, and the calm in him was gone.

From where he stood he raced forward and tackled the laughing fool. The shock on the boy’s face was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Declan got up as soon as the kid hit the ground. The crowd stepped back in awe, awaiting a command. The kid got up in an instant; he was amazed; he didn’t know what hit him. He lunged at Declan and from there the battle raged on. We were immensely outnumbered, there wasn’t a chance of victory, but we were fighting for more than fun. To Declan and I, it was our lives at stake. Declan for the most part took on the leader as well as anyone else who stepped in his way. I stood there, awe-stricken, when a small crowd came over and started with me. I fought back with everything I could, using everything I could. It was an intense rush, the feeling of it. It was like a drug, it disorients your vision, turns the world upside-down. It’s insane.

I could barely see what I was doing, the rain was still coming down hard and the fight raged on just as hard. Declan was making progress, I saw a couple bodies on the ground rolling around. The group around me was backing off a bit too, noticing that Declan was doing a job on their leader. We heard a distinct snap and everyone turned to watch the two. The boy was grasping his arm, wincing as he backed away. He lunged once again at Declan aiming for his blind side. I should have turned back around immediately because one of the gang had found a bar or some sort. He struck hard at my left knee, and it gave out. Pain flooded through my body from the damage the fight was causing, and under these conditions it was getting worse. There was no way I could stand upright now, and lying on the ground was about as smart as lying down in the middle of a busy street.

Declan heard the snap and saw what had happened. He came over and helped me up. I leaned against a wall for support, and the leader signaled for a time out. He too was leaning against a wall, still clutching his arm. He looked exhausted, and a few of his group ran over to see if he was all right. He spoke a few careful words to his people as Declan returned to me. The leader stood straight up and approached us with his second and third in command. He came directly to Declan, stared coldly at him, and smiled. He extended his working arm for a handshake that Declan returned. We were all drenched, but from the battle of rights, we had succeeded and proven ourselves. Declan had roughly beaten the spirit right out of the boy, he no longer had the same jaunty grin. He decided he’d better say a few words.

“You’ve proven yourselves, get to where you need to. Pass through anytime, tell anyone that asks that you have the Black Leader’s permission. If you need it, I’ll have someone help you get to where you need to go. The weather is worsening, so I urge you to hurry. I’m glad things didn’t reach certain extremes. Sorry for causing you two so much trouble.” At this he realized I was there. “If you’d like, I could send someone to help you get along?” he asked respectfully.

I looked back at him, still grasping onto his arm. The joint was swollen and terribly discolored. What I thought odd was that he was smiling still, not a hint of pain in even the corners of his eyes. I considered his proposal carefully, remembering the distance we had left to travel and the current time. I guessed it was maybe 7:30. I straightened up a bit and looked at his face while talking.

“No thanks, I’ll make it on my own.”

He nodded and signaled to a few of his group members. All but the two with him turned and left going, one of the two ways. He and his two remaining gang members stayed where they stood.

“By the way, we’re the Dark Angels. I’m “Black Leader,” also known as Gavin. This is my second in command, Black Falcon and my third in command, Red Wolf. Coincidentally they are siblings, given why they work so well together. Should you ever need aid, ask around for any one of us. Another open option to you is you stay with us until daybreak. It saves you the trip all the way there and back. It’s your decision.”

Declan stopped to think about it, then turned to me for conference.

“We should go see if Mr. James is all right.”

I hadn’t even thought about them until this very moment. They put up a lot for Declan and I; we should at least find time to make sure they’re all right. I guess we should go back and check in, though it will be a bit of a trip. I nodded in agreement, and Declan found the words to explain to Gavin.

“We’re going back for a while to check up on somebody, it’s a bit out of the way. We’ll catch you another time,” he told the waiting faces.

Gavin nodded for a moment; said a quiet word to the two waiting members, and the two walked off. He looked over the two of us quickly, then up into the sky. The storm had settled in about now.

“It’s…8 o’ clock right now and that storm’s going to be rough. Just lead the way, and I’ll help you get to where you got to go, maybe even a bit faster. I know a lot of people that owe me favors. And waltzing down the street looking like that is bound to attract attention; I can show you what back streets to take. So you take point, and we’ll be off.”

Declan looked up and down the alley to get his bearings. He did some calculations in his head to figure out which way to go. I stood up straight, but the knee refused to bend, so I leaned all weight on one side. Declan realized his negligence and helped support me. Gavin too was looking around to figure which way Declan would go. We started off to the right, and Gavin fell in with us. We made our way slowly through a couple of streets, through the storm. People were rushing home; traffic was heavy, streets becoming slowly deserted. Gavin’s appearance caused a few people to steer clear. He was dressed in clothes as black as the night; perhaps it was the dark colors. Maybe it was his towering height. Perhaps it was the threatening look he wore on his face. Whatever it was, the crowds parted as we made our way through, stopping here and there to get our bearings.

By close to 9 we reached the house. Declan and I agreed that we’d simply ask about Mr. James’ condition and be off. When he got there I could barely stand any longer, so Declan said he’d go up alone, it’d be quicker anyway. I sat down on the ground with my back against the gate. Gavin stood at the gate looking up and down the street. Declan walked at a calm pace up to the house. I heard the steps echo in the darkness, I couldn’t get up to turn around. Gavin started pacing as we waited, the storm hadn’t let up.

“Perhaps you’d better start back?” I asked him.

He bent down to my level, “I’m going to wait for your brother to get back. If you need to come stay with us, I’m going to have to show you the way.”

I nodded to him and returned to my thoughts. Declan was speaking, even though I couldn’t hear the words. The wind was doing a job of carrying them away. I was waiting for him to return; the faster we got settled the better. My knee throbbed and was probably swollen as well. Gavin clutched his arm as he had done the entire trip.

“Perhaps you’d better get to a hospital to have that taken care of.”

It was as if he didn’t even know it was still broken, it had slipped his mind. “It doesn’t hurt that bad, I’ll hold out for a while.”

I heard steps approaching, but they weren’t the calm even steps that Declan made. They were quick, random, and childish. Gavin stopped pacing and watched the darkness, looking for something to take shape. I couldn’t stand the suspense of it, and held onto the gate for support. I stood upright and leaned on it, peering through. It was, yes, Mike’s sister, Catherine. She was walking fast, almost a run. She got to the gate in half the time it had taken Declan to get to the house. She caught her breath before she began to talk.

“Mom and Dad want to see you,” she replied quickly.

I looked at her questioningly, “Why?”

“I don’t know, they just want to. They said Declan can’t leave until they can see that you’re okay as well,” she explained.

I nodded and started up, walking awkwardly. Gavin immediately helped me so that I could get up to the house. Catherine set her pace to match ours, which was much slower than her’s normally. She didn’t seem to mind too much though. Gavin kept asking if I was all right, if it wasn’t hurting too much. I told him I was fine. It felt like forever, getting up to the door. Catherine walked by my side, looking up into my face from time to time. She looked a bit shocked that I wasn’t complaining about the pain. She was perhaps 10, give or take; and with any luck she’d never know such pain, both physical and/or emotional.

In time we reached the door. Gavin looked uncomfortable and suggested he just wait outside. I told him not to worry about it; they wouldn’t shoot him. If anything they would be more afraid of him then he would be of them. Catherine opened the door and entered first. We followed her to what seemed like a large living room – complete with fireplace. Declan was standing by a wall while the rest of the James family stood together talking. Everyone looked up when we entered, silence settled in. Declan came over and took Gavin’s place. Gavin stepped back, staying by the door, clutching his arm once again. Mr. and Mrs. James came up to us immediately. We were both drenched from the rain. Lightening struck before anyone could say a word; the lights flickered, and went out. The fire danced in the darkness, and Mr. James pulled out a lighter to find his way. He walked out briskly, returned, and handed everyone a flashlight. He and his wife both situated themselves in large armchairs. Mike stood by the mantle, Catherine right next to him. Declan and I were “motioned” by the adults to be seated on a couch. Gavin too was asked to seat himself, which he gladly did.

“So, are you two okay? You look terrible,” Mr. James said.

“Are you all right?” I asked him.

He considered it. “Yes, I’m fine, a few broken ribs but no big deal. And what’s happened to you?”

I explained to him about the Dark Angels and Gavin. As I did so, he looked Gavin over. I finished as quickly as I could. When I concluded, he rose and inspected Gavin’s arm.

“Well, I have some good news. It’s not broken,” he was feeling the joint and flexing the arm. Gavin’s face went from calm, to confused, to painful. The doctor kept examining it for a while, then looked into Gavin’s eyes.

“I can snap this right back into its socket, but it’s going to hurt. I am forewarning you now so you don’t yell at me later for not telling you beforehand. Two options. I can fix it now for you and it aches for awhile or you can wait and go to a hospital. There, they will give you a painkiller and basically do the same thing. It’s up to you,” he concluded.

Gavin thought about it for a minute, and told Mr. James to snap it back in. Mr. James nodded and continued to inspect the arm. He held the arm in two different places, counted slowly backwards from 5, and pushed it back together. Gavin let out a loud yell, and the doctor let go immediately. He jumped up, clutching the joint, bending it to be sure it worked, and swearing under his breath. He walked around a bit to get the pain off his mind, and sat back down where he got used to it. Mr. James looked at me and asked if it hurt, and I told him. He inspected the knee like he had with Gavin’s arm. It hurt more then he would have ever known, but I refused to let it show. I bit down on my tongue, let out bated breath, and got through it. He asked me the same question.

I considered it for half a second, and told him to proceed. Declan took a hold of my hand while Mr. James prepared to snap the knee back into place. He kept asking what hurt more, what didn’t and if I was ready for it. I told him to go right ahead. He began counting down like the first time. He reached zero, and shoved the knee right back into place. I could have screamed it hurt so badly, the pain was like being on fire. It was insane; I nearly bit my tongue in two. I was squeezing Declan’s hand so hard the blood circulation was cut off. I let go when I realized, and tested my knee. The pain was like something I’d never known, and would just as soon forget. After a minute or so, I sat with both knees bent the same, in an attempt to show I was getting over the pain.

“You alright?” Mr. James asked.

I returned my face to its’ normal calm, trying to rid it of all hints of pain. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it. I think we’d better be going, Declan?”

Declan, Gavin and I rose together, and started out. It was roughly 9:15; the lights had returned only minutes ago. We all started to walk out when Mrs. James stepped in front of us.

“Please stay, all of you. It’s terrible weather out there; you could be hit by lightning. You’re all still soaked, please stay, dry off and get some sleep. It would make us all feel better to know you’re okay. Please?” she had a certain sense of disparity in her voice. I looked at both Declan and Gavin; we turned to discuss the available options. We came to an agreement at last, and Declan told Mrs. James that we would stay the night. She told us that they didn’t have three guestrooms, but someone could sleep with Catherine and Mike. I was immediately paired with Catherine and Declan with Mike. Gavin was shown into the guestroom as Declan and I returned to the main room. Mr. James had something to say.

“By the way, the police called, they’d like to talk to both of you around noon tomorrow about what’s been going on.”

We both nodded, and he started past us.

“Well, it’s been a long day, I better be off to bed. Mike, Catherine, Declan and Faith will be staying with you in your rooms. Good night children, I suggest sleeping early, it’s been a long day for all of us. I hope to see you all tomorrow.”

He glanced at Declan and I when he said this, probably referring to the last little “visit” to his home. He walked out and went up a flight of stairs. Mike approached Declan and the two walked off up the stairs as well. Catherine came up to me, and I followed her up the stairs. I was careful to walk straight, though my knee burned. It was ten when we got up to her room and ready for bed. I slept on the floor, staring at the ceiling. I was given a blanket to sleep on and a blanket to sleep with, as well as a pillow. It was silent in the house, not so much as a cough.

Catherine seemed restless, and I can’t say I blamed her with three strangers in the house, one in her very room. She was young, innocent. She could never understand what was going on in the life of the Nolan clan. She had an entire life ahead of her. I was 16 years old, today was Saturday, September 23rd, and me in 11th grade. It would be a stroke of luck if I made it through high school. The bad luck I was going through, why? I couldn’t understand why this was all happening this way, all together. My thoughts in the silence were shattered by Catherine’s voice.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“I’m fine, go on to sleep.”

“I’m not tired. Is your knee all right? I would imagine that hurt, and that it still does,” she said.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I’ll survive.”

“So, you go to school with Mike right? You have a name, age, you know, basic information?”

“Yes, my name is Faith Nolan, Declan Nolan is my brother. I turned 16 two days ago, your brother is a grade above me.”

She thought about it, “Cool, you remind me of my sister.”

“Sister?”

“Yes,” she replied, “She’s in prison, matter of fact, she’s released tomorrow. She’s about…21 by now. Been in there since she was 13 for murder. Don’t tell anyone I told you though.”

Amazing! The “perfect” family had it’s own dark little secret, a big black smudge they refused to discuss. I couldn’t believe this! “So what’s her name?”

“Hope.”

We talked on and on for hours, about all of those little unimportant things in life. I wouldn’t tell a young child my personal problems. We went to sleep around midnight. A new day would begin soon, though for me it would be a new beginning for a new life, or so we hoped. My family had fallen apart in two days and now we’d see what would result from the madness. When the dust cleared, we would see who was still standing. I fell asleep with my mind racing with possibility. There weren’t many things that could happen. This all had to end, the bad luck, the death, the hate. There had to be positive points to life, and I was determined to hold onto sanity long enough to see it. I want to see the day when my life finally makes sense, when I can say that I’ve learned from my mistakes, from my grief. Tomorrow the police will sort out our problems for us, whether we like it or not. A good night’s sleep is often the best bridge between hope and despair, right? Tomorrow is the day that determines my destiny, my future; all I can do is watch and wait.

5. Rules of Society

We live in a complex world, a sort of equilibrium of circumstance. The United States is ruled by a number of people. Such examples are the President, Congress, Supreme Court, House of Representatives and so forth. Our lives are controlled by only one person, that person is you. Yet, whether we realize it or not, we are judged everyday based on various elements, personality, appearance, the list goes on. If we’re being judged at least once every day, don’t you think we’d know it? No, because we’re being judged by society. If someone has a negative opinion of you, do you think they’re going to step up and tell you? Why should they, after all, they have the right to their own opinions.

Society creates a mold for all people, which varies from place to place. Here, our society has certain characteristics, a sort of rubric that we use to determine where people “belong”. Yet, is such a prejudice fair? After all, who makes these rules? Society does, but who agrees to them? Who votes on them? Think about it; consider the “freaks” in school. What characterizes them as different, unusual, scary? Did anyone actually take the time to get to know any? No, because we judged them as different based on their appearance. They were excluded from society merely because society saw fit to exclude them. They appear more vulnerable then those in large groups. A basic rule of society is to attack the small groups of outcasts, or more importantly the lone ones.

Society is a very powerful enemy because there is no one enemy. The world is society, and you cannot turn your back on the world. Some people think they can, that they don’t need it, they can make it on their own. That is impossible. One human’s existence is always dependent on another’s. Children need their parents and their families to live, learn, and grow. Is the idea of society’s morals being overridden by outcasts so ludicrous? Outcasts are the ones who dare to survive without society; they attempt to escape the mold pre-destined for them, and in some cases they succeed. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Yet, have you ever seen an outcast give up on that lifestyle and actually want to return to society? I know I never have, chances are I never will either.

So, it is by these rules that society is created. Those who don’t fit the “mold” are known as unworthy of our time. Why? Outcasts are people too; some of them better people then we’ll ever be. Some are the most intelligent and talented people you could ever know, that is, if you take the time to get to know them. The odds of the most popular person in school even asking an outcast for something as simple as the time is about ninety to one. Look around in school, even outside in what is known as basic society. You wouldn’t see it there either. Outcasts go to their own kind because it’s all they have. Society has blocked them out, left their cries to fall on deaf ears. Their response was to turn their backs to society and not care. To just survive as best as they can.

This story is and continues to be about the outcasts. It’s dedicated to them because it is due to them that this story even exists. They are the characters, the plot, the theme; theirs is the very issue at hand. This story is for all those that don’t fit in or that don’t want to. Those that would rather go through life alone then walk with someone who thought poorly of them. If we could just stop, look, listen, we could learn endless things from these people. They stretch all the way from the small quiet girl in the back row that never talks to the tall black clad boy who spreads terror as he walks. There are endless varieties and society just has to learn to accept them instead of reject them.

Consider your day, the people you’ve seen in that single day. A student sees various people in the hallways of their school, university etc. Consider high school, if you’re not there now, think ahead or behind your time. How many people do you think you’d find there that don’t “fit in”? Got a basic idea of how many? All right, now consider how many you’ve actually greeted or plan to. Not many, right? High school is an important part of everyone’s lives; it is a time of freedom, when we decide where our lives are headed. Now you know where you and your friends are going, but what about the outcasts? Do they go to college? Of course, they can succeed just as simply as we can if they want to, but society has created the popular fable that they are capable of nothing, given their reason to be outcasts. Not true.

With this in mind, we return to our story. All basic characters have been introduced, and the story was starting to just get set for a bit. I figure it’s about time to shake things up a tad. All families have their problems, some bigger than others do. Faith’s family is a perfect example of a family with many serious problems. Yet, Mike’s family appeared perfect on the surface didn’t it? Nobody would expect a James to do something wrong now would they? At the conclusion of the previous chapter, a bit of important information was revealed. Nobody is perfect, no matter how much they may appear to be so. Mike’s family also had a serious problem of its own, but then why wasn’t Mike and his family penalized for it? Because they managed to hide their little secret, their big ugly black spot on a clean, spotless, proud family history of success and tradition. So we continue the next day, Sunday, September 24th. There is much planned for this day, so Faith will take us further.

I was used to sleeping on the floor, so I was up and around about 6, no reason to rush anything. Roughly noon, Declan and I would have to be ready to go down to the precinct. About that time would be when Mr. James would have to go pick up his “other” daughter.  I got up and walked around for awhile while Catherine slept, I didn’t want to wake her. The house was large, so I stayed in this small vicinity near the main entrance. I walked around until light started to shine through the windows, I was guessing it was 6:30 – 7. I glanced down at my watch, frozen at the time yesterday when Hell has broken loose. The glass was cracked and shattered, the cracks stained with blood. If I had to form a hypothesis, I’d guess it shattered on impact and that the blood was from my arm, the cut I hadn’t known about.

I continued walking around until I heard footsteps in the early morning. I turned and saw Mr. and Mrs. James coming down the stairs, rubbing sleep from their eyes. They reached the foot of the stairway; Mrs. James turned and headed for the kitchen.

“Up awful early I see, eager to start the day I suppose?” Mr. James asked sleepily.

“Couldn’t sleep too much anyway, aren’t you two up kind of early for a Sunday as well?”

He thought about his response, “Well, I have a few things to do, I will drop you and Declan off at the precinct and be off, if you don’t mind. It’s 7:30 now, I’d like to be up and around by 9 at the latest, then get everybody else up if they’re not up by then.”

I knew he had remembered that he had a very important thing to do today, so I wasn’t going to push the issue. Mr. James walked around the house, opening shades as he went, then trudged back up the stairs to take a shower. I was thinking about what to do when Declan came down the stairs. He was looking less weary then yesterday; the night’s sleep had done him good. He came down, stretched, yawned a bit, and was awake.

“Good morning Faith, when did you get up?”

I thought about it, told him somewhere around 6, give or take a few minutes. He nodded, looked around for a clock of some sort, and being unable to find one, went searching. When he finally found one, it read 7:45, so we sat and talked for awhile about the events of the past two days and what was in store for today. By 8:30 we both agreed to straighten ourselves up as much as possible to try and pass as presentable. Catherine and Mike woke up about 8:45, both getting into separate showers and coming out ready for the day. We all sat down to a late sort of breakfast at roughly 9, when Mr. James came back downstairs. Time just flew by.

At about 9:30, everybody had gone a separate way, Mrs. James cleaning up, Mr. James doing paperwork, Mike and Catherine starting homework and Declan and I trying to figure out what to do to pass time. I told Declan about what Catherine had told me, about Hope, about her arrival today. He didn’t seem to find it the least bit surprising, every family has its problems. Time wore on as it had earlier, and it was 10:30 before we realized it. Mr. James came out once more with a small announcement.

“I called the precinct, they said to have you two there at 11, so I say we leave in about fifteen minutes, is that alright with you?” he asked.

Declan and I both nodded in agreement, and having nothing to bring with us, we were set to go for a long time. Mr. James had things to get together, probably important paperwork for his own errand. At 10:45 he came down and we followed him out. We all got into the car for the drive to the station. It wasn’t long, and when we got there, Mr. James said, “I’ll come right back as soon as I can, I have something important to do.”

We got out and he pulled back into traffic. Declan and I looked over the building we were about to enter, and after taking a deep breath, stepped in side by side. The room was buzzing with activity, which was to be expected in the city; when aren’t things running at the speed of light? We went to the nearest desk and gave our names; the officer there pointed us in the general direction of another desk piled high with papers. We were left to assume that somewhere back there was an actual person. The nameplate on top of the mountain of papers read, “Detective Max Johnson”.

Every inch of the desk was covered with paperwork. We saw a figure jump up and make an attempt to clear things off as quickly as possible, but he looked up and realized we were already there.

“Sorry for the mess, lost track of the time I suppose. I’m Detective Johnson, I have a few routine questions to ask, please, have a seat.” He seemed completely lost by the huge piles surrounding him. He ran through them again real quick, looking for the correct files. Declan and I sat and waited about ten minutes before he actually found them, at the bottom of the pile of course. He started with the same routine questions, name, age, date of birth, living quarters, family and so forth. The “detective” was obviously new at this, he kept repeating questions and asking unimportant ones. After another fifteen minutes, a superior officer came up to him, said a few quick words in his ear, and waved us into his office.

Now we’d be speaking to the sergeant in charge of the precinct. He settled himself down, glanced casually through a couple of files in front of him, cleared his throat, and began to speak.

“So, we have four deaths in a matter of roughly three days. Let’s see, Mary Martin, died of natural causes. Peter Martin; killed in a possibly deliberate car accident. Kate Nolan, it seems was supposedly murdered by Thomas Martin. Lastly, Thomas Martin was killed by New York State in self-defense. Now, the only remaining family you have, Frank Nolan, arrested for possible murder of Kate Nolan. First of all, where were you when the murder occurred?”

Declan answered first; “I was in the hospital for my eye.”

The man across the desk stared at the gray eye, nodded, and looked to me.

“I was at the apartment at the time.”

Again he nodded, “So what happened?”

I told him the entire story, about Uncle Tom, about fighting him, about how he confessed to having Grandfather killed. He listened silently the entire time, absorbing the details. I had to relive the day in all its entirety, all the pain returned with it. Crying was just a thought though; I’d never break down like that. It was a sign of weakness, no; I had more important things to worry about. It took about ten minutes to get through our explanations of Uncle Tom’s greed and the various events of the past few days. The officer just sat there without a word. By 12, he had asked all his questions and we had given all our answers in a somewhat satisfactory manner.

“Alright, here’s the case. The will leaves everything to your mother, then your father, then you two. Your father is going to be released today; charges are hereby dropped due to lack of evidence. The will shall be read once more tomorrow morning at your apartment and everything will be set. As for the funerals, the state will cover all four due to these “special” circumstances. They will be held on the same day, same time and same cemetery. The arrangements have been made and since we have much to get in order, they would like to be held as soon as possible. If you two wouldn’t mind a night service, it shall be done tonight, like I said, the arrangements as set.”

He was scribbling down some notes and handed the sheet of paper across to us, “Here’s all the information you’ll need to get there. I would suggest staying with the James until then, the police will take down all the lines at the apartment in a couple hours.”

Declan and I kindly thanked him for all his services, turned, and walked out. We stepped outside and saw Mr. James sitting by the door. There was a young girl in her early 20’s hovering around near him. We assumed that was his “long lost” daughter that we weren’t supposed to know about. We walked over side by side, neither really wanting to talk about the day. Mr. James completely understood; he probably didn’t want to talk much either, so we walked out with Hope taking up the rear.

We got in the car for the drive home in silence, and it stayed that way for some time. Mr. James noticed and felt he had to do something about it.

“So, how’d things go? I trust all the arrangements are set?”

Declan was lost in thought, so I decided to answer. “Yes, everything’s been worked out, the four funerals are set for this evening.”

He nodded, “So soon, and why altogether? One person can only take so much you know,” he let his voice trail off.

I considered what he was saying; we can only take so much. One can only tolerate so much of what? Pressure? Hardship, loss, possibly grief and if one can only take so much, I suppose I can take a shipload. Declan was still in his state of deep contemplation and I saw fit not to disturb him. The ride proceeded just as quietly; we were nearly back when Mr. James asked, “What time do the ceremonies begin?”

I looked down at the sheet of paper, “6.”

He nodded again, checked the time, and went back to his thoughts as I returned to mine. We returned home, walked in without a word, and went separate ways. Mr. James led his daughter to the rest of the family to get reunited. Declan and I stayed in the doorway, he was still thinking. He must have been taking the time to recollect on the past events. He stood around in silence for roughly ten minutes when the family approached. Mr. James stepped forward.

“Declan, Faith, I would like you to meet my eldest daughter, Hope.”

We all shook hands like we were expected to; the casual “hello” and were finished with it. The family once again went to talk, and they continued to until about 3 that afternoon. Declan and I had found two chairs to sit in to talk for awhile in a sort of study. We went over what the sergeant had said, what would happen tomorrow, seeing Father this evening, if they let him out in time. Cops are so slow, they seldom tell the honest truth and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still there. Around 3:30 we heard footsteps approaching, and thinking it was one of the family passing by, we continued our discussion.

“So the reading will be done tomorrow. There won’t be a long ceremony tonight, no priest likes to do a night session, especially with four coffins,” Declan said quietly.

“I assume I’m not going to be in school tomorrow then, I can’t be in two places at once. I missed the first reading anyway and I don’t plan to miss this one.”

“Right, things will work out alright, don’t worry about it. I’m getting used to seeing the world differently,” he said.

I looked back at the tired gray eye; it made me crazy to think of everything being Uncle Tom’s fault. From here to my grave I would forever blame him for his crimes, and should I see him in another time, I would spit on him. He wasn’t even worthy of going to Heaven. He’d sold his soul to Satan for greed, and he belonged there. He had a life, but he had given it up for just the opposite, the Devil.

My thoughts were interrupted when I realized the steps hadn’t gone past, they had stopped completely. I turned and looked to the doorway and saw Hope’s eyes meet mine. She looked as though she’d been in the military for years, hardened and tough, someone you didn’t cross lightly. Declan had noticed as well, as he examined the unknown member of the James family. She stood there, looking around, trying to get used to her surroundings once again. These things take time of course. She was in another world, one of thought and reason, yet upon realizing where she was, she came back to reality.

“Sorry to interrupt your little…chat, but I was just kind of wondering, who the hell are you and what are you doing here?”

I figured I’d let Declan answer that one.

“We came here because your family insisted upon it due to our own family problems, and the fact that Faith threw your brother’s girlfriend down a flight of stairs,” he concluded with a smile. I stared at him with an odd glare. What was wrong with him, telling his sister that? What had possessed my brother?

She looked me over carefully and let out a small grin. “Not much, you her put down a flight eh? I’m going to have to meet this one.”

“You will, she’ll be here in a couple of hours,” Mike told her as he rushed by.

I looked over to Declan and back to Hope. This would be a very interesting evening. Hope was still looking back and forth between my brother and I.

“What happened to your eye?” she asked curiously.

Declan considered his words as we both stood up to walk out. “A case of sibling rivalry,” he replied.

Hope laughed at that one, “You again? How was it that that happened by accident?”

Declan was on his way out with me behind him when she moved and stood in the doorway. He nodded and said, “It’s a long story. It was a dark night, we couldn’t see, and we each thought the other was a prowler, that’s all you really need to know anyway.”

“Really now? For future reference, if I ask you a question, I expect an answer. Understand?”

He was face to face to her now, staring back into her eyes. “Understood.” She still stood in his way, and he wasn’t standing for that. He pushed her out of the way, and kept going. I fell in step behind him as Hope looked on from the doorway.

He continued straight out the door and outside. His face was turning bright red and his temper was rising.

“I hate people like that! Without a doubt, her and I are going to get into a big fight before the dust clears.”

“Don’t let her bother you, we have enough to worry about. It’s about 4 now; we have two hours. I’m going to go in and call home to see if Father’s there.”

I went back into the house and dialed home, the phone rang without an answer. I figured that he wasn’t home yet and probably wouldn’t be for a while. Time dragged on slowly. Mr. James told me that they wouldn’t go with us to the funeral, it wasn’t their place. I told him it was no problem and that I agreed with him completely. He rushed off to straighten things up to make the house more presentable. I returned to Declan, being he’d cooled off a bit. We’d have to walk to the cemetery, so Declan and I decided to start out early. It was roughly 4:30 and we’d go slow and take our time. We walked along, talked half of the way and arrived at the cemetery at 5.

It was a nice cemetery, the sun was going down and its shadow was displayed on all the headstones. Declan was looking around also. We spotted a group of people hard at work. We walked over and watched them dig. Two freshly dug holes stood before us, with several men in the remaining two adding finishing touches. They were grumbling and swearing to have to work so late on a Sunday. Four of the bunch stood at the edge waiting to help the rest out. They were looking down into the hole, yet upon hearing the approaching footsteps, looked up. Declan and I stood at the edge on the side opposite the men by the fourth hole. The men had jumped out of the third as we made our way over.

“What are you doing here, who are you?” one of the men at the edge asked calmly. They were all covered in dirt, tired looking and gruff. A hand rose from the pit, and two men reached down and pulled him out. For the last, they lowered a ladder as he fixed up the hole. At last, he also came out and stood with the one man awaiting an answer. Declan moved forward and told him quietly that we were here for the ceremonies. The man nodded and went off to help prepare the graves.

By 5:30 all four holes were ready for the coffins. Of the original group, only six remained. They stood by quietly, waiting. Declan and I found a bench, so we sat. By quarter to 6, four hearses drove into the cemetery, stopping about two minutes’ walk away from the holes themselves. The six waiting men went to the cars and helped carry the coffins, one by one. While they were in the process of setting things up, the priest arrived. He looked around, checked his watch, and remained silent. We stepped forward to watch the placement. At 6 everything was set to go, and the priest began with the normal procedures.

The ceremony started promptly and dragged on for hours. It was useless; I couldn’t hear the man’s words anyway. It was just a voice droning on and on, if there were any real words, I couldn’t find them. Declan was standing at full attention absorbing everything. I wanted to burn the coffin with Uncle Tom inside; he wasn’t worth burying, not after what he’d done. I fixated my eyes on my mother’s coffin, hers was the most important to me. Why had fate chosen such an untimely and unfair fate for her? She didn’t deserve it. I would have done anything to bring her back, I was there, and I could have stopped him. It was my fault, I was to blame; it should have been me. Yet here I stood – looking onto a scene that wouldn’t focus, forming memories I wouldn’t remember.

There was a sound behind us, yet neither turned around. The priest continued his pointless babbling and we continued to pretend to listen. He had to perform a speech for each casket. The rustling sound ceased, and the silence of the night settled once again. The priest had completed the proceedings on coffin one, which contained Grandmother Martin. He moved down the line to Grandfather Martin, saying much the same words as the first time, at least that how it sounded to me. Declan continued to stare straight ahead into time and space without so much as a twitch. I tried to focus on some of his words, I heard such words/phrases as “resting eternally,” “Heaven,” “remembered,” and “escapes the wrath of Hell here on Earth”. He was in a better place; I knew that for certain. Time wore on, and the priest wearily moved to casket three, Mother. He was getting tired of this, and it was a lot of sorrow to handle at one time, for both him and us.

He continued his readings; I looked back at coffin one and two. The waiting men were in the process of lowering them to the ground. Their swears and complaints were noticeable throughout the priest’s speech. One of the caskets was going down incorrectly, and the workers had to bring it up and try again. It was a tiring job, it was late and they wanted to go home. Declan hadn’t taken his eyes off of the distant spot he was staring at. He seemed so lost, so distant, I couldn’t think of anything to say to him after the ceremony.

It felt like an eternity was passing at the speed of molasses. Declan’s eyes lowered to his watch for half a second, then returned to the imaginary spot. He mouthed that it was 7:30 and I nodded solemnly. The priest concluded the rite for Mother’s soul and moved on to Uncle Tom. He would be wasting his time of course, I was certain Uncle Tom was headed straight for Hell. If God forgave a demon like that, my thoughts of him just came down a notch. The man had never gone to confession in his life, if he had, he wasn’t truly sorry. He had made Communion, but skipped out on Confirmation. He never went to church, broke just about all the Commandments, and had just recently spit on God and the Bible by turning to Satan. His soul was as black as the night and all the sorrow in the world could not change that.

I didn’t even want to hear what he had to say about Uncle Tom; the priest was simply reading what he was told to, he couldn’t know just how unworthy the demon next to him really

was. I watched as the dirt was thrown down on my grandparents and my mother lowered down. Declan just shifted over as we moved down the line, still not a word, glance, there was no sign of life or emotion.

The ceremony ended at last, the priest left to go home. It was 8 at night. I turned and watched the dirt being heaved on my mother’s grave. I stepped up to where Uncle Tom’s casket was; it had been lowered down already. I hated him so much, I couldn’t believe he got to die and the police actually felt sorry for the scumbag. I spat on the demon’s grave, he deserved so much more, but it’s not my place to judge. Declan still hadn’t moved from where he stood. I watched as the grave diggers threw the dirt onto my mother’s polished casket, saw it slowly disappear under earth. Declan finally found the courage to step forward and examine the event. He walked back to the beginning, proceeded down the line, having separate prayers to say for each. We turned to leave, and saw Hope standing there. She looked lost and alone, like she was abandoned by all of society.

I didn’t feel up to talking to her and I don’t think that Declan did either. We both left the cemetery walking side by side. She stayed, staring at the four graves in a row, and in a state of wonder I would suppose. Uncle Tom was a drunk and a murderer, and so into the newly laid soil had been stuck a knife, dark and twisted, and it would stay where it was. It had belonged to…well that’s not important. I’d kept it to symbolize the evil that my uncle was. The purpose of my action was to show pure hatred. Hope had been confused and was probably considering removing it out of respect for the dead. I turned and looked at her staring down, and she turned to look at me with an odd stare. Words weren’t appropriate at the current time, so I turned on a heel and walked in step with Declan. She remained as she went over the names marked on the temporary markers. “Mary Martin, Peter Martin, Kate Nolan, Thomas Martin.”

Hope was indeed an odd name for someone who doesn’t have any. A statement once stated to me in reference to my own name. Today I have been put up against the trials of reality, sociality, mentality and overall insanity. Yet, as the saying goes, “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.” I don’t fear evil for the only evil I now know is inside me, and if I cannot know myself, I cannot know fear. My life has been corrupted with evil, but I shall not walk the path my uncle was so easily led to. I will press on and I will survive to tell the tale. Declan and I walked out as simply as we’d come, leaving Hope staring at the ground searching for the right words.

7. “Seeing is believing,” though your eyes can be deceiving

 

Irony: a literary device for conveying meaning by saying the direct opposite of what is really meant. In other words, it’s a fancy literary term for a contradiction, to expect the unexpected. Irony is a funny thing at most times, the way it works. It hits you like a surprise and sets your mind to work. If the previous event worked out differently then I expected, what about the other events in the story? Anything can happen in a world of fiction because it’s just that, fiction. Fiction: something that is created of imagination or a literary work that is based on the imagination and not based on fact. Consider that term and its definition. Based on imagination, not on fact. This story isn’t true is it? Of course not, yet the circumstances that exist in the characters’ world are real enough correct? This story is based on some true events, just somewhat exaggerated. New York City is a real place; September is a real month. So we’re telling a fictitious story based in a non-fictitious world. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Our story left off at another question, a question with about a million possible answers. Take this time to reflect, what do you think the case is with Mr. James? Some things may look pretty from far away, but upon closer inspection we find all the cracks and spots. Could this be the case with the James family? There is no such thing as a “perfect” family; it is improbable and impossible. Everybody has their flaws and groups of people have even larger ones at that. In the society we live in, we’re raised by our parent’s standards. A common moral that we accept even though it isn’t taught to us is judgment. Every day we mentally say something offensive about someone yet we don’t consider it a prejudice. Prejudice: a biased opinion based on emotion rather than reason or bias against a group, race, or creed. In other words, to pre-judge without proper reason or authority. That’s the way society works. Pretty messed up, isn’t it?

Hope faces a moment that she is unprepared for. Her family was always seen as the epitome of perfection, the perfect role models. Then again, they were until she broke the mold. Her mother disowned her, and why? Because of a petty mistake, an honest accident that could happen to anyone today, tomorrow, or a year from now. Yet, it happened to Hope. Damnation is a term loosely used. Hope’s act was her damnation to a life of solitude and contemplation. She wouldn’t admit it to herself, but she learned more in that prison that she’d ever come to realize, more than she’d admit anyway. She was just that kind of person, stubborn as a mule. The story picks up just as it left off with the addition of a few new thoughts for the reader to consider. Do not condemn those that don’t fit into your standards, you may be setting them a little too high. We all deserve an equal chance to hope, to dream, to try and to succeed.

Our story continues in that very office of that very day. The Warden stares on in wonder at the young girl transfixed on the picture on the wall. He had known, just as he always had, yet couldn’t find the right time to allow her to. Hope will continue to tell the story, as currently all concerns are about this great mystery. I would like to think that as of this chapter the reader has picked up quite a few useful morals and that they may pass them on. If not, at least apply some of them to their everyday lives to make society a better place. I think the darkest place in the world is society’s scorn. It is a powerful weapon and a dangerous enemy. We are all created equally and all deserve equal rights. Despite the race, we all bleed red, do we not? Hope has about a thousand questions in her mind right now, none that she can answer. The Warden knows most of them and awaits the quick stream of flowing questions with answers ready.

“How is this possible, I don’t understand.”

The Warden just stared back and smiled. The only sound in the silence was the ticking of the clock. He rose up and pulled the picture down.

“Ah yes, your father was in my class, we were old buddies way back when. Never told you about it did he? Had some bad times there, never wanted to discuss them.”

I looked at my father’s young face in the Warden’s hand. It was faithful and determined, ready to take on anything. I’d never seen him look so bright and cheerful. It was amazing, why had he hidden it? I thought he could tell us anything, especially me. Him and I had more secrets than anyone would understand. That was just the way it was between us, yet he hadn’t told me this. The Warden saw I was thinking and he handed the picture across to me. I stared deep into it at all the soldiers’ youthful faces as the Warden opened up a drawer in his cabinet. He pulled out a finely carved box with a military insignia on it. He placed it down in front of himself and laid out the contents. An old military issue bible, a dusty rosary, a few yellow pieces of paper and a few bright medals.

“These are a few of your father’s old possessions. He told me to bury them in the field but I couldn’t do that. I figured I’d hold onto them for a while, but when I found out about you being here I figured it was best for you to have them. They meant a lot to me and I’m sure that they meant a lot to him.” He looked deep into the box, then shut it and handed it over. I stared down into the box’s surface, at the design of an eagle caught in a flag. It looked as if its wings were on fire.

“What happened that he won’t talk about?” I asked him.

He considered it. “He saved me out in the field, and I told him that I’d always watch out for him and his family, I owe him my life. It was a field exercise, it was ordered to fire upon civilians that caused riots. He hated that part of the job, but it was part of the job. He came face to face with a few, one that he said particularly reminded him of you. You were young, the enemy was about as old as you are now. They stared each other down; they fought and scuffled for awhile. In the end he got a shot off. It hit her in the liver, fatally. It was the worst memory he’d ever known. He stayed with her until the last breath had left her body. She had stopped fighting and they say that they were both doing the same job, defending their rights. He had stared into her eyes, watched them stare coldly back. He couldn’t take the pressure of it. He was drenched with blood and dirt when he returned to the base, we guessed he’d buried the body. The resignation went through quickly and he walked out, rather, ran out.”

I stared down at the ground, the clock ticked onto 11 and I heard the distinct steps approaching. I laid the box and Bible on the desk and looked at the doorway as my father entered. He looked a bit brighter than usual; I ran up to kiss him, hugging him tight.

“It’s alright, it’s over and you’re going home, Hope, home, where you belong,” he told me. He turned and looked at the Warden. “I suppose I sign here?”

The Warden nodded and my father signed. I picked up the little I owned and shook the Warden’s hand after my father. He nodded to us both as he started out.

“Hope,” he said. I turned back for a moment to look back at him.

“Good luck, and keep your nose clean, you hear?” he said. There was a broad grin on his face as he stood straight and tall behind his desk. “Now get going you, and I best not see you around here again, you understand me?” He let out a soft chuckle and I replied, “Yes sir.” I turned my back to the grinning soldier and walked out beside my father who was waiting for me at the door. I wouldn’t return, and so my freedom began.

My father led the way to his car and opened the door for me. He noticed I was cradling the book and the box in my arm, trying not to make the bandage look too inconspicuous. He got in himself, and started the car. We drove through the gate, and I didn’t even look back. He kept going without a word for a while, then glanced over.

“You all right?”

I nodded back at him. “Feels good to be free again.”

He nodded in agreement, “I would guess it does. We have to make a quick stop at the police station. We’ve been helping out with two kids from the Nolan family. There have been constant problems and we told them they could stay with us until things got settled. So just try and get along with them, all right? Neither of them needs any more problems.”

I told him I wouldn’t start anything and I’d try to get along. Matter of fact, I wouldn’t say too much if I didn’t have to. We drove down to the precinct, arriving at 11:30. Father called home to tell them he’d picked me up. I didn’t stand close enough to hear what was said, so I waited until the conversation was ended. We sat and waited on benches at the front of the station.

“So, how was your last day?”
“Hell, the inmates were a bit jealous that I was getting out, wanted to start something.”

He looked me over. “You look a bit roughed up, what’s up with your arm?”

I realized then there was no fooling him. I explained the events with the gang in the courtyard and the Warden. I told him about waiting in his office. I caught myself when I told him about looking at the Air Force picture. He grew silent as he lost himself in thought. I had come dangerously close to the matter at hand and I knew it. I figured it was best to let sleeping dogs lie. I got up and walked around a bit, watched the activity. A door in the back of the office opened, and two kids walked out. The guy stepped out first, he stood out in a crowd. He looked as if he’d been up for days; his right eye was a ghastly shade of gray, bearing a horrid scar across it. The girl stepped through after him. She too looked as if she’d been up for days. They looked as if they’d come from the same fight; both didn’t look in the best of shape. They both wore the same downcast expressions. The ages were roughly between 16 and 19. They were heading in our general direction so I thought best to keep quiet.

“So, how’d things go? I trust all the arrangements are set?” my father asked.

The boy was lost in thought, so the girl next to him replied instead. “Yes, everything’s been worked out, the four funerals are set for this evening.”

Father nodded, “So soon, and why altogether? One person can only take so much you know,” he let his voice trail off. Four funerals at the same time, they really must have had it rough. I didn’t want to ask any questions right then so I decided to just follow along. I caught their curious looks and decided best to try and ignore them.

The ride back to the house was brief and silent. Father asked about the ceremony to which the answer was “6”. The ride continued in silence until we reached the house. We all went separate ways until Father lead me back to the two strangers. I was properly introduced. Faith and Declan…Nolan I believe their names were, my memory escapes me. I followed my father into the main room where my mother stood with her back to me. She turned when we entered.

“Hope, it’s been so long,” she ran at me and gave me a tight hug. I glanced around the room and spotted Catherine and Mike brooding in a corner. She let got and looked deep into my eyes.

“You’ve grown so much! I hope you’ve taken it well, understood why I acted how I did. Please, stay here with us for a while, we’ll help get you settled.”

Mike and Catherine edged a bit closer, and I looked on curiously. My mother took a step back for a moment to observe.

“What are you two doing hiding in the shadows? Get over here you two, on the double!” The two bodies moved forward and I grabbed them both in a tight hug. They were so young when I left! I hadn’t seen them since. Mike was about my height, perhaps a bit taller, I couldn’t tell. Catherine was even younger. She was…12 now, meaning she was 4 when I left. Mike had been 10. I hugged Mike tightly; I didn’t want to let go. MY family! His voice was low and calm, “It’s okay, it’ll be better now, you’re home, you’re home.” I stared into his eyes; they matched my own. Home! Eight years ago it was no more than an illusion, yet; here I stood. I knelt down and looked into Catherine’s eyes.

“Do you remember me?” I asked her softly. She was acting somewhat shy, but still nodded slowly. I hugged her tightly; I had missed her so. “I’m here now and I’ll always be here, you understand? You may not realize it, but I love you.” I rocked with her back and forth until she started to cry a bit. I let her go and she ran to Mike. I stood again and looked at my parents. They motioned that we all sit and talk for awhile. An hour flew by; we covered everything that had happened in the whole eight years that I’d been gone. My father announced that Mike had “modernized” my room a bit but hadn’t touched much of it. It was mainly as I’d left it.

I decided to get up and walk around a bit, stumbling across a conversation between Faith and Declan. I kindly asked them for their own self-explanations. Declan responded just as calmly, informing me that “Faith” had sent my brother’s girlfriend down a flight of stairs. That perked my interest as I looked up and down the girl before me. I could have easily taken her down, no questions asked. Mike ran by, announcing that I’d get to meet the unfortunate. I decided to make the inquiry about Declan’s eye. He answered still calmly; I had a good laugh over that one. I didn’t like the answer he gave me too much, and I made that clear to him. He shoved me out of the doorway, and if I could I would’ve swung at him. Being they were “guests”, I let it slide and walked off to my own room.

I remembered that at 6 were the multiple funeral services. Might as well see what all the commotion was about. I followed slowly in the shadows, making sure to keep hidden. They arrived early; I stayed on the opposite side until the procession began. I walked over and watched carefully. It was a long ceremony. To my understanding it was the two grandparents, the mother and an uncle. After the priest had departed and Declan became engulfed in thought, Faith took a blade and put it into the fourth grave. They walked away, and I walked up and down and read the names. I said a quiet prayer for each so that their souls would rest in peace eternally. I considered removing the blade, it was wrong to do that to a newly dug grave. Yet, I suppose the heart has reason, which reason does not know, and I decided against it. I finished my prayers and started back at 8:30. It was dark and the walk was long, but I made it back unharmed. I trudged up to my room tiredly and collapsed into my bed. My old bed I hadn’t slept in for eight years…I considered the days’ events and put my self to sleep in the process.

8. New Beginnings

So, everything’s over, is this the end? Or is this just the beginning of something more? Again the question of Fate and Destiny come into play. Hope returns to a family long forgotten; Declan and Faith are to return to a father that they wish they could forget. The world has smiled down cruelly on all three in a matter of a few days. Has our story reached its climax or is there more to it than that? What if I ended it here and now, concluded with it and that was it? Wouldn’t be right of me, would it? Course not, if there is such a thing as Fate, it always has another card to play. I think there are a few things from the previous chapters that need sorting out as well before continuing. It’s like watching a movie, halfway they explain a few things before going on.

There appear to be hostilities between Hope, Faith, and Declan, why? Because of society! It’s a perfect example. Hope has lived in a prison for eight years, she has come to a point where she doesn’t need the world to get by and she doesn’t care about its opinions. Faith and Declan are attempting to prove a similar point, but will they succeed? The James family appeared to be perfect on the surface, the role models for all. Yet, they’re not all that perfect now, are they? You can’t pre-judge people, it’s a very foolish thing to do.

Why should they listen to you when you’re walking the very same fine line right behind them? Hope became an outcast based on her prison experiences; she turned her back on the world when it turned on her. Faith and Declan are going through tough times as well. It’s obvious that Hope doesn’t need the world, but what if someone tried to help her fit back in? What if Faith or Declan was that “someone”? Do you think she’d listen to either of them, why should she anyway, they’re both in the same situation? Because they’ve been there, they can sympathize. This is an attitude many of us share. Why should I listen to you when you’re headed the same way I am? Although some haven’t been quite as far, does that have to mean that they don’t know and/or understand what’s to come?

And so it is for the reader to consider. Is this the end, or has the story just begun?

There are endless questions I’m sure. What happened to Mike’s girlfriend, Gavin, the Dark Angels, and Mr. Nolan? Have they all ceased to exist? Course not, all will reveal itself in due time. Our story kind of branched of into two separate directions, each telling different facts through a different set of eyes. It’s about time we reunite our tale. For this chapter we’ll be seeing our story through Faith’s eyes. In her story we left off after the funeral. The day was Sunday, roughly 8 at night. A mind is an amazing thing. A thing to also consider is the complexity of some of the character’s thoughts in this story. We seem to believe that if you’re older, you’re smarter. Not true. Age and wisdom do not go hand in hand. You can be 50, have wasted your life and learned nothing. If that were so, a teenager who has been thinking everyday about almost every topic imaginable would be much wiser than the fool who wasted his life, am I right? Enjoy your life, live it to the fullest; learn from your mistakes. They can only make you stronger.

As a personal note to the reader, I wish that he/she might learn all the morals expressed in this story. At times we feel that there’s no way out, we’re condemned to an existence that we cannot control. For those without hope and faith, I wish them to find it and that this may aid them in their quest. Such was the idea of giving my characters such names, using irony to better pass my point.  Take the time to learn the lessons, there is always a way out, some harder to reach then you think.

We walked back to the James house leaving Hope behind. It was time for us to return to our own home. It all had to come to an end; our return was inevitable. Neither of us had seen our father for some time. We walked in solemnly, deciding to get things done as quickly as possible. The family was all in separate places; we sought out Mr. James. He was in his study, or so the room appeared. The walls were lined with books; he seemed to be looking through many of them now. We walked in quietly as not to disturb him. He must have heard the steps anyway because he turned and stood.

“I see you’re back, I trust everything went…routinely?” he asked softly.

We both nodded; Declan spoke up first.

“We both kindly thank you and your family for housing us. I offer our humblest apologies for any trouble we may have caused. We both think it is time to return to our true home. We do not wish to put you out any longer and it appears your family has much catching up to do. We don’t want to get in the way,” Declan stated calmly and politely.

“First of all, it was no trouble. Second, you’re not putting us out at all. Third, you are very welcome and come back anytime. If you feel it’s best you return home, we can’t and won’t stop you, but you are welcome to stay if you so wish.”

We looked back at each other and considered it. Gavin had slipped out like a shadow.

“No, it’s best we go now,” Declan replied. Mr. James nodded and told us the door would always be open. We walked out as quietly as we’d come. Of course, we walked out just in time to see Mike’s girlfriend go storming by. She stopped immediately and stared at the two of us, back and forth.

“You! What are you doing here! And you! She’s your sister, so that’s why you wanted to know?” Her face had shifted to a red color and she had her fist reeled back for a hit. Mike came running up in time to pull her back. Her questions came in a long, confusing line as Mike tried to calm her. Declan and I quickly got to the door and ran out so as not to press things farther. Sure, I would’ve fought back if she tried anything, but now wasn’t the time or the place. We started for the long walk home. Night had settled in, as had the clouds. It looked about to rain again, so we hastened our step. The building looked old and tired, the crowds long gone. We both walked up the stairs as slowly as possible, reaching the door in time to hear our father’s voice. Opening it in a bit of a hurry, we saw him walking around in a daze holding an alcohol bottle. He would stop and weep for a minute or two, then continue. We closed the door behind us and stepped in. He glanced over.

“You two! She’s gone; they’re all gone and where have you two been all day? Gone! You could’ve joined the bunch! Your damned uncle, it’s all his fault! He did this and neither of you here to stop him! Police said you were at the scene. What’s wrong with you? You were there! Why didn’t you stop him, or even kill him?”

He was drunk, stuttering, and infuriated. Declan took a step back toward the door. I couldn’t even begin to stammer a response. He’d cracked; there was no avoiding that. He was our only parent. Our godparents had died a long time past as had our grandparents. We couldn’t lose him too, no, not now. He was crazy; he had to be stopped. I turned and signaled for Declan to get help or get to a phone. He moved closer to the door. I started talking to my father, saying anything I could. He focused on me, his eyes looked evil and weary. Declan edged into the kitchen, I heard him dial the phone. Who would he call? I tried to listen. The James family! How could he get them involved, again?

My first thought would have been the Dark Angels. Gavin would have come running, he gave us a number to call, I remember, Declan had it! He was still on the phone so he must have called them too. My father was a strong man; we needed a lot of people to help, whoever got here first would have to do. Declan crept back in unnoticed, coming up behind me.

“The James’ and the Angels are en route, we have to try and keep him busy without getting anybody hurt,” he whispered. Our father had taken to sitting at a table; he was weeping again. I took a chair opposite him and tried to look at him. He’d never cried, he’d stared into the face of death without a care. It was Mother that bothered him. It had been my fault and he saw vengeance as his only way out. His only comfort. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen, and I wasn’t going to let anybody get hurt. He had his head down and was weeping heavily in his arms.

“It’ll be all right, she’s in a better place.”

He continued to sob. “No, I can’t stay here alone. This was your fault; you know that? Your fault! I’m never going to be happy again until I’m with her.” His voice grew edgy and he was close to yelling. Declan tried to move behind him a bit, he stopped when Father began to laugh.

“She won’t be alone, I’m going to be with her again real soon, you can’t stop me, if you do, then you’ll come too.” He stared at me, “but you go straight to Hell!” At that point he revealed what appeared to be a revolver. He opened the chamber, spun it, and returned it. It had to be loaded from the satisfied look on his face. I fell out of the chair as he continued to laugh. He didn’t rise from where he was. I didn’t know where to go; Declan froze as well. The door flew open and we heard Hope’s voice.

“Anyone call for assistance?” She would walk right into it. Declan started moving. Father stood, he couldn’t see the door so he planned to fire when she turned the corner. I got up and got ready as Declan saw what was going to happen. Declan ran and knocked down Hope and I sent my father over. The gun went off and hit the ceiling. I got up immediately and ran to the door. Mr. James and Mike stood outside in awe.

“Anybody hurt?” Mr. James stammered.

I was lost; time was forgotten. We had seconds to get a game plan together. One shot had been fired; five more were left in the chamber. Declan and Hope stood up quickly and shut the door.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded from her.

“Hey, I was sleeping, they woke me up saying I had to come help because I was oldest and would know what to do. I sure as hell ain’t dying for you people.”

I looked around for something to use or a weapon to my advantage. I found a baseball bat against the wall. I walked up real close to her with it in hand and stared straight into her eyes.

“Then leave.”

I walked back out to the main room; my father had gotten to his feet.

“Time for you to go to Hell!” he screamed with tears streaming down his face. He’d been drinking; his arm was shaking. I had to devise a way to take him down without getting anybody hurt. I took a few steps closer. He raised the gun at me; I lowered the bat and tripped him. He fell once more, but the gun didn’t go off. Declan came running out upon hearing the noise. This time Father rose quickly, still aiming. There were two targets; time enough for one shot.

“I refuse to live in this hell, and if I have to die to be happy, I’m taking you with me. When I go to Heaven, I’ll be satisfied to know you’re burning in Hell!” He was crying again. Declan moved closer.

“And you! Where were you when this happened? You’re not my son; you’re a mistake! My son would’ve been here to stop this madness!”

Declan had taken bad hits to the heart before, but that topped them all. Hope stepped out quietly upon hearing that one. Declan’s eyes grew fierce, his jaw quivered. He went full force into Father; the gun went off again. I looked on horrified; chances were against Declan. Not him, no, not now. I ran over and pulled him off. His eyes were wide and he was at a loss for words. I looked him over to find if he’d been hit severely, finding the wound in his left arm. I could have cried I was so happy, he was alive! We took our distance once more, Hope stepped aside, and again the door flew open. The sounds of a large group were obvious. Gavin and a small few of the Dark Angels came into sight. Many of them held various sorts of weapons.

“Gavin, this isn’t to kill, just take him down,” Declan said quickly. Hope ran over asking if he was all right. I asked if she could help him out of here. They two quickly went out the door. My father had risen once more. The tears had stopped. He was pure hatred now. The gang had circled around him trying to find a place to cripple him. The weapon had to be removed.

“The count of three!” Gavin stated to his group. His countdown began and at three they leapt into battle. Black Falcon and Red Wolf were distinguishable. The gun went off time after time, we couldn’t see if anyone was badly hit. The sound of police caused the group to break up a bit. I moved in closer, one of them was having a hard time getting moving. I recognized Red Wolf and bent down to help her get going. Black Falcon rushed over to take his sister. Cops came rushing in with Gavin, a few gang members and myself standing around.

“Nobody move!” they screamed. I ushered Black Falcon out, he found his way downstairs. Hope, Mike, and Mr. James rushed in as well. My father was standing; he had only one shot left. He was laughing yet again. He moved his quaking arm from body to body, deciding. I stepped closer.

“What’s it going to be? You going to send me to Hell and go to jail for the rest of your life or you going to just give it up?”

He laughed ever louder. “You’re going to Hell and I’m going to Heaven, no way around it. You can’t cheat death, your time is now!” In a second he pulled a knife from nowhere and threw it straight as an arrow. I couldn’t tell where it hit, but I lost balance and fell. I looked up quickly enough to see him aim the last shot, and kill himself. My father had gone insane, no way around it. All I could remember was pain and what I thought were people; the world was a blur. Words disappeared, as did the world, things were going black slowly, then returning to color. Someone came running up the stairs and for a moment I recognized Declan.

“You’re not leaving me now, do you understand! You hold on, for me, for Mom!” He was crying and screaming, I couldn’t understand why. Hope was hovering over him, or so I thought. She dragged him off again, trying to calm him down. I couldn’t understand it. Police were everywhere but I was so tired of seeing death. I decided to just close my eyes and rest awhile, maybe everything would work out all right after all. I just needed a bit of sleep. Things would be better tomorrow, much better. School tomorrow, damn…

From there I blanked out. I woke in what appeared to be a hospital. The walls were white and a doctor was hovering over me. He was looking over charts and looked a bit surprised to see me up.

“So, look who’s finally up?”

I asked him what time it was, and what day. He checked the clock. “Bout noon, Monday.”

I looked around the room quickly. There was nobody else in sight, except the doctor. He was still smiling down, checking charts and numbers here and there.

“For a moment there we thought we lost you.”

I stared back at him. “What? What happened?”

“I think it’s better that you don’t remember. You’ll find out all you need to know in due course.”

I started to get up and the pain seared through my left side. I fell back as the doctor started what seemed to be a chuckle.

“Rest easy, don’t push it, you’ll be okay in a while.” I can’t stand people keeping secrets from me. Through all the pain I jumped up and grabbed onto his collar.

“What the hell happened?” I demanded from the stunned man.

He started stammering, “A stab wound, thin blade, almost fatal…”

I let go and dropped back; the pain was just too much. Dizziness returned as the doctor looked around to regain his bearings. I demanded to see my brother, the doctor replied that he was in another room.

“Can he walk?”

The doctor nodded as he straightened up.

“Are visiting hours over yet?”

“No,” he replied. I nodded back at him. “Is he conscious?”

“Yes, of course, he’s been asking if you’re okay, I have to go to his room next.”

I nodded back at him again. “Good.” I watched as he rushed out the door. The pain was insane and I could barely remember what happened. I cycled through my memory, what had happened? I decided not to push things until I could remember everything. There was a slight knock on the door as Gavin, Mike, and Hope stepped in. All of them looked as if they’d lost their best friend.

“You okay?” Mike asked.

“I’m fine, but can one of you tell me what the hell happened yesterday?”

Gavin stepped up for this one. “You’re really not in the best condition to accept, to handle, we’ll tell you when you get out of here okay? I promise.”

They stepped in completely; Gavin hovered by the window while Mike and Hope found seats. Hope was looking over the machinery, checking numbers and such. I repeated my initial question with no answer.

“Fine, ignore it. Is Declan breathing?”

“Course he is,” Hope answered blankly. She was a bit preoccupied it seemed. I would have gotten up and forced an answer out of someone if I could. The pain wouldn’t allow it. I hated this feeling, of vulnerability. The worst part was that there was no escape. I had to wait it out without knowing how I’d gotten here. It was worse then being in Hell; at least you knew why you were there. I was refused of an answer to my constant question. Life isn’t fair. Every time I’ve tried to get back up and into my life, it knocked me back down to a level of inner turmoil and complete emotional solitude.

I gave up asking why, it was useless, and they wouldn’t answer anyway. So, it was about noon the doctor had said. So much for the reading of the will and of course, school. I wasn’t all that worried about either anyway. The three were hiding something from me and I was determined to find out what it was. I tried and tried to remember what had happened. I knew Declan was hurt and I seemed to recall Red Wolf being injured in some way. I gave up thinking about it; it was tiring in itself. Hope gave up trying to understand the numbers around then anyway.

“I’m going to try and find Red Wolf and Black Falcon,” Gavin stated. “Catch you guys later.” He walked out briskly.

Mike and Hope remained. I assumed that Catherine was at school and Mrs. James at whatever job she may have.

“You should be in school,” I told Mike.

“They’ll have to understand, and if they don’t, I don’t care anyway,” he concluded. I guess he was starting to understand that rules are made to be broken. That’s just the way it goes. So he’d skipped out on school, and for what purpose, to keep information from me? This was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Well if the school didn’t understand, I’d just have to help make them understand, and that was how it would have to be. Mike got up and looked up and down the hallway for his father. Hope seemed a bit lost.

“You all right?” I asked her.

She zoned back in, “Sure, course, there’s nothing wrong with me.”

Her eyes stared straight ahead at nothing; I couldn’t understand what was wrong with her. I didn’t even know this person but I was still concerned.

“Maybe you’d better go on home.”

“Maybe, I’m supposed to find a doctor and find out, well, when they’re letting you out, I think.” Her words were separated and slowly stated. She got up and went out the door as well. She returned in roughly ten minutes looking a bit tired.

“Had to walk around a bit but the doc said your release and your brother’s would be signed within five-ten minutes.”

I asked her why so quickly.

“There may be a rush on rooms, if he didn’t sign it quick he’d be in one,” she replied with a smug grin. I smiled back, her attitude toward doctors and hospitals seemed similar to my own. Sure enough, the doctor returned within five minutes with a nervous air and said I was free to go. I got up and changed into the street clothes I’d been wearing for a few days now. I’d have to stop back at the house once I got out of here. By 12:30 I was standing outside the hospital. Clouds were gathering quickly, it was going to pour again. I stood and waited for Declan to appear. He looked tired and weary, like the life had been drained out of him. He ran over.

“You okay?” he asked eagerly.

“I’m fine! What happened that everybody acts like I’m going to drop dead?”

He looked down and thought for a minute. “So they were right, you don’t remember…“ his voice trailed off as he returned to thought.

“Declan, tell me the truth, what happened yesterday?”

“Come, I’ll explain,” he said. We started for home with Mike and Hope trailing behind. Upon reaching the house they stopped a while away and the crowd had gathered again. I repeated my question. He took a breath and said, “Dad killed himself.”

9. The Heart has reasons that Reason does not know

True of false: Everybody on earth has a goal, some more obvious than most? Something to consider, right? We are granted the freedom of will; to do as we please, within certain boundaries of course. Some of us set very high limits on life while others set their limits for the sky. We’re all the same when you get down to it; our basic mechanics are all similar. The difference comes up when we examine one’s personality. We are all unique, yet we’re not. Make sense? Probably not too much, but I guess you’ll get it in time. Now, we commonly believe that older people are always right. Wrong! Again, age and wisdom do not go hand in hand.

There is a funny thing about this story and that is something the reader should consider. All these thoughts, these words, came from the mind of a young teenager 14 or so years old. Surprised? Some will be, some won’t. It depends on your individual judgement of this story. If you hate this story, does that mean you’re a bad person and I’m going to hate you? No, it does not. I tell you now; you were warned when you started what to expect. If you’ve made it this far, either you’re bored to tears or eager to read on. Once again I leave it to the reader to make a choice. If you don’t like the story so far, then just walk away, but I advise you to give it a chance. If not, read on and form your own opinion. It’s all up to you, the reader. If you’re not enjoying the story, why waste your time reading the rest?

So, you’ve made your decision I trust? Then I shall continue with the story, just try and see what’s going on in your mind. Put yourself in the characters’ shoes, what would you do if you were Faith? How about Hope or Mike? Declan or Gavin? The answers will vary person to person. Hard choices to make, right? You really can’t truthfully answer that question unless you had gone through the same situations. Life is a sort of equilibrium in most cases, for every few negative points; there are a few positives as well. Can you really blame some of the characters for their actions/reactions?

Everybody has a different anger level measured kind of like a thermometer. The higher it gets, the higher strung you get. The closer to crashing, to snapping. Ever come so close that you were ready to burst out at the next person you saw? Ever actually snapped? It’s not a good feeling at all. In my frame of mind, I like to call it “the Edge”. Why? Because one can only be pushed so far before they fall off, and once they do, they’re in a pit of darkness. They can’t see what they’re doing, or the future consequences of such foolishness. “The Edge” is basically a simple term for “temporary insanity”.

Insanity: persistent mental disorder or derangement, unsoundness of mind, madness or lunacy. A commonly used phrase indeed. Yet, how many people use it seriously? Insanity is a very scary thing. From observing Uncle Tom and Mr. Nolan from previous chapters we can see exactly what it means to be “crazy”. Acting silly is just part of it. Sanity itself is a gift that we should all be deeply grateful for. Some people go off “the Edge” time after time, and still return to perfect sanity. Yet, what about those who don’t come back undamaged, who stay in the darkness and lurk in it? In most cases, the constant solitude drives them crazy. Life can be cruel and rewarding all at the same time, kind of ironic isn’t it?

Anger fuels the fire, ever hear that one before? You should retain a clear piece of mind, right? Kind of hard to do when the whole world has turned against you in a minute. Sometimes people just have to vent and let it all out and when there’s nobody around to listen they’re going to vent, one way or another. Some people see violence as their only answer, and so we have to understand and give them space. Sad really, but that’s how life is at times. Anger is a very powerful weapon that has few opponents. Bearing all this in mind, consider a day when your friend would snap at you for no reason. They have their reasons; they just can’t share right away. Their anger levels are rising, they’re heading for “the Edge”, and it’s your job to stop them. Talk to them, try and get an explanation and try to help. I think in my age group we’ve all been there, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been to “the Edge” and back, and survived to learn from it. And so I am here in a complete state of sanity to tell the tale.

Once again, welcome to my world where everything means something. Learn as much as possible. The story left off where Faith’s world had no longer made sense through her eyes. She’s become a bit disorientated with her life watching as it was turned upside down. Yet, even in the emotional state our narrator is in, she will continue to narrate. For this chapter though, we’re taking a different angle. Less dialogue and more thinking, I know it probably sounds a bit boring, but with all the major events that have happened, Faith does need time to contemplate. With that in mind, this chapter will be primarily a reflection of the past few days in her life as well as the past few years.

I haven’t really touched on family history because it wasn’t important. Here we’ll learn a thing or two more. Also the reader may see that I don’t properly describe my characters in terms of appearance and personality, and why not? Because I want the reader to be able to imagine their personality based on how they act, not on how they appear. Create the visual image yourself, what do you think they’d look like? Personality should be more important that physical appearance, judge based on that if you feel you have to judge at all.

And so our story will skip a few minutes and start again at the James’ house. Faith returned to the house to see what was going on. Due to massive blood loss, she collapsed upon hearing the news. Her memory of the events had been scattered after the hit. She was brought back to the James’ house while Declan hovers overhead. This chapter is going to be different for many different reasons, and here’s one of them. Being our character is going through so much, so will the reader. The character’s dreams, thoughts and so forth will be stated for purposes of understanding what’s going on in Faith’s head. By doing this the reader can get a better idea of future events as well as learn a thing or two about the complexity of one’s thoughts. The current time is 2 p.m. on Monday, September 25th; setting is the James’ house. The previous chapter told the fate of the last remaining Nolan family adult. The fate of this person will have quite an effect on how things work. Bear in mind that Faith is 16 and Declan is 18, so Faith’s guardianship may be questioned. This opens up many possibilities and leaves several loose ends to be fixed up. So I do hope that I could answer all possible questions you have up to this point in this chapter or the next. Now to allow the plot to thicken and the rest of the story to continue…

Everything had blanked out again, my thoughts hadn’t even continued. It was the worst moment of my life, I thought I was dead. The daylight got too bright, everything swirled and spun and blurred and I lost balance. It was insane, I wanted to just shake it off and couldn’t. My mind was racing now; my eyes were still closed. What had happened today? What was today, or yesterday? Where was my family? I went through my mind to attempt to find the answers. I searched all my thoughts, ventured through the very depths of my mind. Father, Declan said he’d killed himself. How was that possible?

I blinked my eyes open and saw Declan pacing around the room. I glanced around and recognized the James’ house. Back here? This couldn’t be, I had to get home if Declan was telling the truth. I started to get up and a pain went shooting through my side, as I seemed to recollect from earlier on. I fell back down onto the bed in what appeared to be the guestroom. Everything was so confusing, why couldn’t it just all make sense? The world has just done a flip flop over the course of mere days. How was all this possible, could one person’s luck really be this bad?

Declan had said on my birthday that things could get better, to look on the bright side. Now there was no bright side, it had been overrun with darkness. I wanted to disappear into that darkness, not to return, and to be happy alone. I couldn’t do that though, life wasn’t that simple, no; it was much more complex. Why did things have to be so damned complicated? Right now I hated my life, why was I condemned to such hardships? It wasn’t fair, but whoever said life was fair, or that it had to make sense?

Negative emotions are much easier to succumb to than positive. Why did God make Satan so much stronger than man? Nothing can ever work in my favor, can it? Declan is all I have left now, my sole remaining family member. Father committed suicide, Why? Sure, there was a lot of stress around, but he could have lived through it. We all go through tough times, why couldn’t he just hold on a little longer? Uncle Tom and Father had both given up, was I strong enough to outlast them both? We were all that was left, Declan and I, it was up to us to hang onto whatever hope we had left. First we had to make plans, get organized.

Declan was still pacing, time was dragging by slowly, by the second. I tried to get reacquainted with my surroundings. It was most definitely the James’ household. Declan stopped and stared absent-mindedly out a window. He looked as if he was searching for something, perhaps hope. Things would have to get better sooner or later. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and for all this negativity there must be a positive. The pains both physically and emotional were all still there, and yet I got up and stood. He turned slowly. The sight that met my eyes was enough to shed a tear. His eyes were dark and showed a heavy lack of sleep. His face was ridden with worry; he looked as if he’d just lost his best friend. It was a miserable sight to behold. I ran toward him and hugged him close. I was so afraid to let go; I was afraid I’d lose him. He’d handled so much without as much as a word, he must have been close to the edge. I had to pull him back before he too went off. I couldn’t survive alone; I needed him.

He needed to sleep, to forget and to vent. Some say silence is golden and if that is true, then money is the root of all evil. I wanted to go back and make it all right, go back and figure a way to stop the evil. We separated and I saw a small grin creep across his face. I looked past him, out the window, at the rain that had started to fall. I looked around the room and decided to go for a short walk. I stepped out, hearing my steps echo in the hallway. Declan stayed back and returned to his window. The first person I saw was Hope. She looked different, not her usual spirit. She looked drained, lonely, broken. I never would have expected her to crack. The doorbell rang and seeing she wasn’t getting up, I opened it. Gavin stood there with Black Falcon in tow. He was carrying what appeared to be Red Wolf.

“Hey, I hate to ask favors I really can’t pay back, but could you ask the owners of this place to come here?” he asked.

I nodded and stepped back inside to decide where to look. Mr. James came down the stairs while I was considering where to go.

“What’s wrong?” he asked quickly.

“Hey man, we don’t want to impose, but the hospital wants to take Red Wolf in once she gets a bit better. They’re throwing the blame for the death at anybody who was there, and being we were there, well hey…you think you could let us crash until they simmer down? They’re trying to bust the gang anyway, they’ll forget about us in bout a week, just my joint is being watched and I can’t bring them there. Sorry again man, but you’re the only place I got to go to,” he concluded.

Mr. James just listened solemnly. “What happened to her, is she all right?”

Black Falcon finally found the initiative to speak. “She took a round to the shoulder and a few bad hits to her back, she’ll be okay,” he smiled hopefully. Red Wolf was unconscious in his arms, probably from a high sedative for the pain from the hospital.

“How’d you guys get out?” Mr. James asked logically.

“We kind of had to pull a run and hide technique all the way, they quit following a few blocks ago,” Gavin explained.

Mr. James nodded once more. I thought he was going to slam the door, but he stepped back and allowed Black Falcon to pass first. He led them to the guestroom where Black Falcon took the post hovering over Red Wolf. Gavin watched for a moment, then returned to the main hallway.

“Hey, thanks a lot man, you’re really taking us out of a spot.”

“No problem.”

Mr. James went back upstairs, leaving Gavin, Declan and I standing around. Hope was still in a daze, muttering to herself. Declan started a simple conversation with Gavin, so I thought best to go make sure Hope was still sane. I stepped over to her and glanced down. She was slumped over in the chair with her head in her hands. I tapped on her shoulder.

“You okay?”

She glanced up at me, the one who dared interrupt her solitude. “Am I okay? Are you okay? You should be the one who’s traumatized and all, you were right there, you saw it happen,” her voice trailed off.

“I’m alright because I don’t remember what I saw happen. It seems you saw it as well, are you going to be okay?”

She still seemed a bit lost. “Sure, I’ll be fine, I don’t need you worrying about me. I’m just not used to seeing people die like that, or being that close to them…” she gave up and returned to silence. I was supposed to understand, if only I could. It was difficult to process information at all today and I figured it would be for days to come. Declan decided to try his luck. He knelt down and spoke a few soft words and I thought best to let it be. I returned to where Gavin was standing aimlessly. He too wore a face full of confusion.

“Hey, seems we’ll be here a while,” he said sheepishly.

“Hopefully, we won’t,” I replied, meaning Declan and myself. He was lost in his own thoughts, so I took a chair across the hall from Hope. My mind refused to cooperate, so I shut my eyes and tried to think back. Catherine and Mike marched down the stairs quickly and stopped immediately upon seeing the mood of the area. Declan’s voice was still in the air though the words were impossible to make out. Catherine was so young, I felt sorry for imposing on the family. They had problems of their own; we should go home. Yet, we can’t go home, they won’t let us. Thoughts flashed into my mind, quick pictures. The yellow police tape, the crowd outside. It was all a quick flashback; I needed to get out of this place. I was going to go mad otherwise. I figured I could make for my grandparents’ house but I’d have to ask Declan first. I waited quietly for a while.

After about ten minutes, Declan and Hope both rose, and he guided her upstairs. He looked weary and I hated to ask him to walk all that way in the rain. I decided that tomorrow was another day and everything could be sorted out then. I couldn’t believe Hope had snapped; it was an odd thing to behold. Declan returned right before Mrs. James appeared out of what seemed like nowhere.

“Gavin, if you don’t mind, could you and your friends all stay in the guestroom?”

He nodded approval.

“Declan, you’ll stay with Mike again tonight, I’m sorry but we’re tight on room. Faith, you can talk to the girls and take your pick. Hope is rather close to your age, maybe you’d rather side with her on this one? It’s up to you of course, she’s upstairs if you’d like to go talk to her.”

I nodded and started upward. The pain still existed, it returned going up the stairs. I looked down the hallway and formed a hypothesis as to which room to head toward. I decided to turn left and found the door open. Hope was sitting inside on a bed staring at the wall. I knocked politely and waited for her to motion for me to enter. I stepped in and took a glance around. In basic appearance, the room was plain, probably because it had been vacant for so long.

“Just checking sleeping arrangements with you, if you want to be left alone, I do understand…“ I let her zone back in first.

“Sleeping arrangements? Oh, yes, those gang members have the guestroom don’t they? If you don’t mind it too much you can have the floor, no problem.”

I didn’t know what to say next, the silence was uncomfortable and unusual. I just stood there and stared out into space. The distant ticking caused me to turn and look at the clock on the wall. It read 5, obviously at night. Hope was still staring straight ahead at a blank wall. I had been well informed of her reputation by Catherine, yet under one major stress the impenetrable force had cracked. It was like some undocumented natural phenomenon. I searched my vocabulary for a comforting word, one small consoling gesture. I could find none that were appropriate.

Her words came as a shock to me, and when she glanced over I turned my eyes to stare into hers to show I was listening. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it, I can take care of myself, you hear? I know what you’re thinking; poor girl can’t take the heat. I can take it, I can take anything because my name is Hope James and I’ve never needed nor taken help from nobody.” Her eyes took on a menacing glare, but it wore off the longer she stared into mine. She quickly turned her gaze out the window to watch the rainfall.

I stepped out and went down the stairs to collect my thoughts. Everything was moving so fast and yet, so slow. I situated myself in a chair out in the hallway unable to consider what to do next. The doorbell rang through the silence, and Mike rushed to answer. His girlfriend stepped in quietly and glanced around. Her gaze rested on me.

“So, you and your family are tending to hooligans? I heard about your father, killed himself, the world is now short one mistake. Too bad he didn’t succeed in taking you with him, the world would be a better place. Are you going to fight back or not, hooligan? C’mon, respond! Your brother’s an even bigger mistake than you are; it’s too bad…“ She never finished her sentence. I sprung on her like a kangaroo, and I sent her flying with a strong hit to her face.

I didn’t expect much fight from her, but boy was I wrong. Even after going down the stairs, she fought with tooth and claw. I heard running and the family appeared. It was a one on one brawl that was about to become more complicated. Mike was afraid to take sides, so he stood against the wall. Black Falcon and Gavin came running to the scene, Declan and Hope from separate directions. Catherine and her parents also came running from the stairwell. Everybody backed off to avoid getting pulled into the fray. The hits were hard and fast, the pain raged on throughout my side but I kept going. I refused to lose. I didn’t see it when Hope, Mike and Declan jumped into the fray. Mike pulled his still screaming girlfriend back while Declan tried to explain logic to my non-functioning mind. I stood back and listened to the still screaming girl. Hope stepped close enough to hear her words.

“You’re a mistake, you and your whole family. People like you make the world look bad!” Her words rolled on and on. Hope was getting a headache from all the nonsense and pulled back real hard to let loose a hard hit at the jaw. The girl stumbled and fell backwards. Mike was there to catch her and help her stand back upright. She was mad as a rabid dog.

“Why didn’t you protect me you fool?” she demanded.

“Because it’s people like you that give society a bad name!” Mike told her in return. He roughly shoved her out the door and slammed it in her face when she turned to protest. He stormed back to where we all stood and looked on in silence. Declan’s jaw dropped. Catherine and her parents all shared the same shocked expression. Gavin and Black Falcon had turned and walked back to the guestroom, and Hope was blowing on her fist. The hit had been hard on her knuckles.

Eventually we all went our separate ways. Mr. and Mrs. James went back upstairs, Catherine still staring at her brother. Even Hope was giving him a sideways glance. Nobody suspected that kind of attitude from him. Nobody could find the right words to ask Mike what had possessed him. He still wore an annoyed expression, yet upon looking around he calmed down a bit. We were waiting for an answer, some sort of response. He just took a deep breath and said, “It was time,” then walked off. The time was roughly 6 by then. Declan decided to follow him upstairs and see what was up. Hope was staring back at me.

“Why didn’t you hit that idiot sooner? You like having people put you down? I wouldn’t have let her get past those first few words.”

I stared back at her and thought about what had happened. I had lost control, it was wrong of me. Yet, she’d insulted me, my father, and Declan, I couldn’t let her get away with it. Should I have instigated a fight first, should I have retaliated sooner? No, I was right by letting her off the hook. Hope decided that I wasn’t going to answer, so she went upstairs. After a while, I figured I might as well follow. Tomorrow was another day, a day with endless new possibilities. Hopefully it would be a day with positive events on the horizon. I would have to wait and see what happened, I’d just have to hang on a little longer. In the night, the world was at peace and as I looked back on the few days, I was happy. Happy because good fortune has chosen to smile down on my brother and I.

10. Truth, Trust and Tolerance

Life is full of influence, every day, and every single event, however minor, can be considered influence. Your friends are a large influence on your life, your opinions. In my mind, I feel a good friendship needs truth, trust, and tolerance. First of all, if you can’t tell your friend the truth at all/most times for fear of possible consequences, this friendship is a bit awkward. Next, trust. If you can’t confide in your friends or depend on them in your time(s) of need, can you consider them true friends? Last, tolerance, nobody’s perfect. We’re all full of imperfections; we know them as habits. Humming, drumming your fingers, the list goes on and on but we all have at least one, whether we realize it or not. To be tolerant is being able to put up with these imperfections with a smile, to grin and bear it. To understand, or at least try to, that some people just have to vent.

This chapter is about, well, I’m honestly not sure. We’ll see what turns out in the end. Life is a very interesting thing. Think back on high school, or if you’re there now, consider it. I know I’ve learned a lot in the month or so I’ve been there. I’m not talking about the book stuff you learn, I mean about society itself, about people. There are many different classes of people, different types. There are always the “preppy” people who appear perfect yet, they too have their problems. Then you have those who are considered the “nerds” because their intelligence appears to be their only thing going for them. This story focuses on those who fit into their own group, a group that we’re afraid to challenge.

By that I mean the outcasts, a perfect example of one from the story would be Gavin. Ever see people like him at school? Black-clad, part of large gothic looking groups, the members themselves usually travel alone? They are everywhere; they survive outside of society. Again, this is dedicated to them because they are all unique. Are some of them happy with their way of life? Sure, course they are, that’s why they pursue it. Are some of them miserable? Of course, you can’t have the good without the bad. As Newton once observed, “for every action there is a equal but opposite reaction.” That’s also true in the world, for each happy person, there is a sad one. The only real way to get an answer for that would be to ask the majority their opinion. I myself have not spoken to one, I will admit to that. Yet, in the course of my freshman year of high school, I plan to. To understand people is to accept them, and to right a great wrong of society.

Last chapter I mentioned anger, “the Edge”, venting and so forth. We all have our problems. Some have an easier time coping than others do because it’s just a part of life. We all have our ways, the most popular one being discussion with a trusted confidante. What if there’s nobody to talk to? Then the problems get held in. Think of a column. Consider that each problem is a layer, and as you hold them in, you add layers. You can add for quite a while right? But what happens when it gets to a certain height? It starts to falter, it tips and inevitably it will fall. By talking, we are removing layers so that the column doesn’t fall. What happens when it does? That’s when all the negativity becomes a focus, we hone into that, and take out our troubles on anyone around. In other words, we vent on the first person we see. Basically, if you have a lot of problems and you don’t find a way to vent about them, they will get the best of you and when they do, it isn’t fun. You could end up flipping out on your best friend for the simplest reason. That’s kind of scary, right? Life is a very scary thing once you get down to it, it’s about time that people realized and thought together how to make it a much better experience.

Well, back to the story right? We’re staying in Faith’s perspective to make things a bit less confusing. Now we’re seeing a bit of a calm. The old saying goes, “there’s a calm before the storm.” Is there a storm ahead for Faith and her brother? Has the reader considered the characters and their personalities, similarities and differences? It would be a wise thing to do; being it might help the reader understand why they do what they do. We all have our reasons, even the insane. Another good question, why do I ask all these questions? Because I, being the author, know some of the answers, I would like to know if the reader does as well. This story has a lot to it, it’s up to the reader to take it all in. For anyone who completely grasps the morals, I congratulate you.

Now, the story has been very…sad as of yet. I know, a lot of death, a lot of violence, couldn’t be true in our society, it’s too well constructed, right? Wrong! This could happen to anybody, do I guarantee that it will? No, because anything is possible, it may happen to a certain extent or a possibly worse one. Well, through tragedy, lessons are learned. Again, Faith picks up our story from the very night that Chapter 9 ended on. Just a few quick events to end the day, then fresh into tomorrow. So, to leave the reader with this quick thought before proceeding. Depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, what would your outlook be on the situation if you were Faith? She seems to be gradually accepting a more optimistic view, what would you be thinking about the events of the past few days? Would you trust the James’ and Declan that you were making the right choice in staying with them? Would you be truthful to yourself and share your dilemmas with a surrounding character like Gavin, Mike or Hope? Would you be able to tolerate the conditions that Faith is currently surviving in, or even the ones before her 16th birthday? A few things to consider, right? Well when you have an answer, keep on reading. Your next “consideration” will be take place next chapter, be ready for it.

I could try all night but I couldn’t sleep, it was impossible. I just stared up at the ceiling. I figured that Hope had nodded off eventually and so I was surprised to hear her voice through the silence.

“Really, why are you here, what happened?”

“It’s none of your business, my life is my concern and mine alone.”

She sat up quickly, “Bull! You’re in my house and now it’s my concern! What the hell are you doing here?”

“It’s a long story.”

She glanced at her watch. “You’ve got plenty of time, start talking.”

I didn’t want to explain it to her; she had started with Declan, making her my enemy as well. Yet, I was an intruder in her territory and she rightfully deserved an explanation. I considered it for about five minutes; I couldn’t go through the tale again. I gave up and attempted to ignore her eyes. She stared through the darkness; it felt as if she was looking right through me.

“Well? I want to know what you’re doing in my home! You’re in my space now and I want an answer! What the hell are you doing here? If you don’t have good reason then you really don’t belong here.”

She wasn’t thinking about what she was saying, and I knew it. Yet, I didn’t want to have to explain anything to her. With that, I got up quietly, watching as her eyes followed mine. I thought for a moment, nodded, and walked out, leaving the door ajar. I continued briskly down the stairs and to the door, careful not to wake anyone. I closed it quietly behind me, and ducked my head as I walked. It was pouring rain once again. About halfway out I stopped upon hearing a rustling. I thought back to that night with Declan out here, look what had resulted. I walked faster to try and get out as fast as possible. I couldn’t see it well, the hit. All I remember was falling hard onto concrete. The pain from the original fall with Uncle Tom returned, and no matter how hard I tried, my body refused to listen. Pain seared through, especially my side, movement was slowed tremendously as I got used to it. I coughed a bit and looked up to see Hope straightening up.

“Again, this is my house, I know all its secrets as well as all its shortcuts. It’s simple really, I just asked why you’re here, that’s all, no big deal. Understand?”

I looked back up at her, glaring. The pain was still there and through it, I rose. I didn’t owe anybody any sort of explanation, and with that I continued to walk at a tad slower pace. She looked after me, and I heard her steps as she started again toward me. I set myself up. Hope came running straight at me, I caught her coming, sidestepped, and caused her to falter. She overstepped, fell, hit the ground at a roll and got up as quick as she’d hit. I continued to walk.

“I’m not going back until I get a story out of you!”

I glanced back with a grin, “Have fun walking through the rain then, I don’t owe anyone an explanation, least of all you.”

From there, I started home. I figured that Hope was smart, she’d give up. I’d just stepped off their property when I heard her again. This time, at a walk she was approaching, so I stopped and waited.

“Listen, I’m sorry okay? All I want is an explanation. I heard about your  family, a real screwed up clan so I hear. I’d like to know, what’s your story?”

I turned back and kept walking, I had a while to go. She fell in step, then sped up to stay next to me. I figured that I might as well explain our story or else I’d never get home but instead I decided to just tune it out. I had relived the tale enough times already and I refused to put myself in more pain for her sake. By the time I was home she had given up anyway and figured I’d never tell her, so why waste time? I looked the old building over; the police must have taken care of everything by now. I trudged up the stairs slowly, Hope still following. I opened the door slowly and glanced around.

Of course the body had been removed, the evidence taken. The neighbors, I assume, had pitched in and cleaned the place up; it wasn’t the usual mess. I stepped into the living room and discovered a box with a note attached.

Dear Mr. and Miss Nolan,

The building is aware of your misfortune and we all pitched in to try and help out. Enclosed are a few things we all felt you might find useful at this time. Also, a kind donation from each tenant that we hoped would keep you two going until things were figured out. Declan, you can get a job anywhere, many people volunteered to help you get one. Faith, you stay in school, you hear? Officer Riley said that if you don’t, he’d be keeping his eye on you. Both of you stay out of trouble and we’ll check in on you from time to time. God blesses you, good luck and good fortune! Remember that we’re all we have, if we don’t take care of each other, what’ll happen to us?

~ Your friends that worry and care about your well being! ~

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.”

I read it a couple of times, then opened the box. It contained such things as books, prayers, and some letters of encouragement, small trinkets and so forth, as well as money in a small corner. Hope was walking around checking the place out. I looked up and noticed the ceiling leaking from the rain, oh well. I sat down on the couch that I’d slept on only days earlier. It was a strange feeling to be back. I glanced to where my father had stood, my father, yes, that’s right; he was standing right there…I was lost in thought. Hope looked a bit lost as well.

“You might as well get back before they notice you’re gone.”

She returned to reality. “They won’t worry, and I’m not going back without you, you can’t stay here all by yourself.”

I stood firm on my decision, “If I leave now, I may never come back, I have to stay, it’s too bad that you can’t understand.”

She shook her head and considered her choices. She didn’t have many. I wandered around the house, thinking back to the various events that occurred in each room. It all returned clearly, the events, the cruel reality of it. I remembered vividly the events with my father. It played over and over again in my mind. I sat on the couch I had slept on a few nights previous. It was an odd feeling. Hope was pacing around lost in thought.

“You can’t stay here alone, I can’t, I won’t allow it!” She didn’t seem confident in her statement. I stood once more to make my final retort.

“I’m staying, you can’t make me go back. If you try, I’m only going to leave again. I don’t belong there and I don’t plan on staying. If you don’t mind, you may go on your way and if Declan asks, just tell him I went off to think for a while, okay?” I sat again and lost myself in contemplation. Hope stared back, started to speak then quit halfway. She turned and walked straight out the door, closing it softly behind herself.

The silence was earth shattering, the slightest noise would ruin its perfection. I just sat and stared at a wall I don’t recollect seeing. Sleep was taking over slowly and eventually I gave into it. I feel asleep on the very couch I had slept on the night of my birthday. It had been a while since I was able to rest so peacefully. It was odd because after all that had happened, one would think that I’d be haunted by all that had occurred in the house. It was a peculiar feeling that I could never put into words but I was at complete peace. Being at home was a wonderful feeling. The last thing I remembered was the surrounding darkness of that September eve.

I awoke with the sun’s beams shining brightly in my eyes. It would be Tuesday, I think? I checked the clock. It was roughly 5 in the morning. I decided that I couldn’t avoid the inevitable, so I got up and prepared for school. It was as much a mental task as a physical one. I was dressed and ready by say 6 though my mind was still a bit messed up. If Declan wanted to come back, it was up to him, I wouldn’t/couldn’t force him to. I figured I might as well get to school early and explain my absence. I started out, walking slowly down the somewhat crowded streets at this odd hour. People were going to work; some were just coming home. The world was awake and stirring. I arrived by about 6:30 and checked in at the office. I’d barely stated my name when they told me it was taken care of. I walked out thinking. It had to have been Mr. James who arranged everything. I decided to go hang by my locker until classes started. The time dragged by slowly of course. I wasn’t eager to get to class, but I had to. The halls were nearly empty. It didn’t matter to me much whether they were full or not, I didn’t bother with anyone anyway.

Barely five minutes had passed when a familiar face appeared down the hallway. At a calm, steady pace, Declan was approaching. I sat and waited patiently for his arrival. He came and sat down next to me, acting like he had every reason to be here. He took a deep breath, looked around and began speaking.

“So, what’s up?” he asked rather matter-of-factly.

I gave him a sideways glance, which he returned with a smile. I refused to believe that he had followed me! What a jerk, but I suppose he must’ve been worried if he’d decided to follow me into school. I sighed and asked him what was wrong. He looked around considering his answer.

“Was just making sure you were all right, being you mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night. Course, that’s just a small reason for worry?”

I laughed at his sarcasm. He was right, after all. I explained myself in as few words as possible. He nodded slowly and when I concluded, rose.

“I suppose I’d best be off then?”

“That would be wise, you’re not a student here anymore, remember?”

“I know, but I still remember my old stomping grounds. Once you’ve learned, you never forget. Now you stay out of trouble, you hear?”

I nodded and watched as he walked off. Classes would be starting in maybe ten minutes. I looked up just in time to see my favorite enemy walking down the hallway at a calm pace. She looked cheery and excited until she laid eyes on me. Her pace quickened and by the time she reached me I was standing straight and tall.

“So, the little witch is back in school? Ready for another round of humiliation?”

I stared back at her and figured I would just walk away. Instead I hit her square in the face which sent her staggering.

“Yea, I’m ready,” I replied, and walked off. I didn’t turn to look back at her at all. I closed my eyes and zoned out for a moment, and continued briskly down a flight of stairs. I’d have to keep low for a while now. I don’t know why, but I had to end it quickly. I turned to see if I was being followed, and walked directly into someone. I stumbled, regained my balance, and looked at whom I’d walked into. It was Robert Smith, leader of a large group of “social outcasts”. He looked a bit surprised, as was Julie. She was probably his best friend; she hung around him at all times. Rob had also slipped half a step but was now standing fully upright.

“Hey, what’s the big hurry? Should be paying more attention…” his voice was oblivious to my mind. I turned and looked at the stairwell in time to see a crowd approaching. I recognized the leader instantaneously. If she wanted a fight, sure as hell she was going to get it. I looked around, knowing I was outnumbered. Odds could have been worse. Rob had seen them coming; I jumped when he tapped on my shoulder.

“Sometimes the wise thing to do is run, you’re outnumbered, handle this later,” he said quickly. I considered my options and as much as I hated to admit it, he was right. The crowd was approaching quickly; I glanced past Rob. With his words still ringing in my mind, I turned and ran. If they followed I wasn’t sure. I knew everything about this school, so I ran all the way, looking back whenever I could. I slowed to a brisk walk, constantly glancing over my shoulder. I should’ve been in class by now but that would’ve been damnation. I was looking back when I hit the biggest guy I’d ever seen. I immediately recalled him from “her” gang. On the floor, my mind raced to find the proper response, but all I could stammer was a jumbled, “Hello”.