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Short Story Contest Finalists

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BUSES
 
Get up Ruby Blue, C’mon now!  I let you sleep in, it’s already 4a.m.  If you don’t hurry, you’ll never make it on time!” 

            “But mama, I need ten more minutes.”  I say trying to snuggle deeper into my raggedy quilt.

            “No, what you need it so get up!”  She says sternly.

            “Fine.” A whine.

            So I got up abandoned my nice warm bed and stepped on the hard wooden oak floors.  If felt like ice under my feet.

            “Brrrr…”  I walked, well, it was supposed to be walking, but it was more like blind swaggering in the dark. 

            “Ouch!” I ran into something. 

            “Ruby, are you ready for school yet?”

            “I ran into something.  I don’t know where I am at the moment.” I said innocently so she wouldn’t know that instead of getting up as she told me to, I had just sat there for about ten minutes. 

            “Well, maybe if you turn the lights on…”

            “Ahhh….” Those lights made my eyes feel like they were on fire. 

            “Alright, enough drama,” said mama.  She was getting angry, I could tell.  I got up and walk across the floor to where my closet is.

            “Where is my…?”  I knew where.  I stomped down the hall passing and ignoring the mirror and slammed open the door farthest away from mine.

            “Sarah May Smiths, if you have my dress, I’m going to….” There she stood with a guilty look on her face.

            “I’m sorry, it looked so pretty on you, I wanted to see if I looked as pretty as you did in it, please don’t tell mama.  She’ll get me good for this one.”  I looked at my favorite sunflower dress, wrinkled with peanut butter and jelly spots all over it.  I was so mad.

            “I didn’t look very pretty, I am never pretty.  The white boys were right,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes.  There was a group of boys about her age that walked passed her school during recess to make fun of some of the students. They usually singled her out because she was the smallest girl in the class.  So I figured yesterday, it had something to do with her looks. 

             I forgot all about my dress and went up to hera and gave her a hug. 

            “Listen, Sarah, you are just beautiful.  You just are a different beautiful than me.  You have your own beauty that makes you special.”

            “But those boys said…” she started.

            “Those boys said something that isn’t true,” I cut her off.  “Those boys said that because they’re jealous of your good looks.”  I said walking like a model, who was a little too enthusiastic and towards her door to leave.  She started giggling.  So I figured she’d be okay and that I should go get ready. 

            I walked into the bathroom, and looked in the mirror, whoa!  Scary, my morning face isn’t very pretty.  My face was still puffy from sleep, and my hair seemed to have a mind of its own. 

            “Watch out, hair gone wild!” I mumbled to myself.  I have to agree with Sarah May, I don’t look all too bad, all this morning stuff subsided.  And, I’m sure other people think so too.  But, I know when I walk into the grocery store with my mom, I feel people staring at me and pretty much can read their minds by the way they look at me. 

            “Look at that black monster.  They must have crawled out of the gates of hell.”  Not just me, all black folk. I have to admit though, not all while folk are all that bad.

            I finish brushing my teeth and hair and wash my face.  I go into my closed and find ad dress with apples on it.  It’s really nice, but not as nice as my sunflower one though, oh well. 

            “Get out, get out, its 5:00a.m.!”  I grab my books, tattered and used, and run out the door and eventually start walking, running I’d still be late so why not just walk?  I can’t help but let nasty thoughts into my head. 

            “White people are hardly ever late; I bet they get to rid buses instead of walking three hours to get to their school.  The also have new clothes and book that never have been used.  I hate them!”  Then I realize I am not being all too fair and shake off all those thoughts. 

            Suddenly I hear the roarish sound of the bus.  I tense white kids on that bus are harsh, very mean.  So, I walked tensely in the freezing weather, 30o I should add.  The bus was getting closer, until it was right next to me.  One boy told the bus driver to ride next to me slowly.  The three boys in the back opened a window,

            “Hey!” shouted the first boy.

            “Ugly!” shouted the next.

            “Oh, you look like you’re freezing, lets warm you up with water.” yelled the last.

            He poured a bucket of water on my head.  I was freezing.  I still had 10 mile left to walk to get to my school and mama would tell me that I need to ‘press on, be strong’ if I turned back home.

            I finally got to the school, I was cold, wet and tired and the day hadn’t even started. 

            Then, I realized I forgot my math homework at home.  “Mr. Burnalds going to kill me!”

            Brrrriinnngggg, the bell rings; I was late for the second time this week.  I was up for five whippings. 

            I walked in nervous and sat there.  We sat for about half an hour and I could help to be curious about what was going on.  I should have been in trouble by now.

            Finally my teacher spoke, “Kids, do you remember last week about how Mr. Brown went to court to try to get the black and white schools together?”

            The students silently nodded their heads.  “Well, it didn’t happen.”

            The students put on a sad face.  I knew they were faking it.  None of us really wanted to change and be with the white kids.  The only reason we had been slightly excited was for the buses.   

THE PERFECT HOUSE
 
 
No! Stop! Don't kill them! Don’t send me there!" Matt woke up in a cold sweat. His white shirt and blue shorts stuck to his pale body. "It was only a dream," he thought. It's odd…ever since he moved into this house, he had been having nightmares. He sat up in the bed and looked at the clock. 6:47. "Crap!" he said quite loudly. "Hun, wake up! We're late!" he gave his wife a little push. "Kristin, wake up now! We're late!" "Ugg" his wife moaned. She sat up slowly with her dark brown hair covering her face.

          Matt went to the shower, took off his clothes and got in. "Crap," he thought, "It's my first day at work and if I'm late my boss will kill me!"  Matt worked as the Principal at "Mertal Elementary School." He would have been working at the school where his two children attended but they wouldn’t allow that so Steven and Lilly went to "Peterson Elementary."

          Matt quickly finished rinsing the foamy soap from his body and then got out of the shower. As he walked back into the bedroom he saw Kristin lying in bed. "Kristin!" he yelled, "You need to get up! You're going to be late!" Kristin worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart. It was the only job she could find at the moment. The Creed family moved from Austin, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri because Matt got a job offer. The family loved the move! Well at least Kristin and Matt did. The kids didn't like the idea of having to move away from their friends. But they would get used to it and everything would be ok. Or so it would seem…

          The house was beautiful! The old owners sold it because their son had recently died because of a sudden unexplainable illness and they moved to where their family was. The Creeds just figured that they couldn’t handle the memories of their child in that house anymore.

          Kristin was definitely not a morning person. "Just give me some time…" She muttered as she stuffed her head back onto her pillow. "Kristin, get up right now! NOW!" He pulled the covers off the bed and pried her from it. After she got into the shower Matt pulled on his white button up shirt with blue stripes going down every three inches and his nicest pair of khaki pants.

          At 7:58 they both managed to scurry out the door with the kids. They dropped Lilly and Steven off at school and then went to work themselves. Even though it was a late start for both of them it ended up being a pretty good day.

          All the kids were very well behaved. This didn't surprise Matt any at all since it was only the first day of school, but still he was thankful.

          Kristin went though the check out line with no problems. She didn't over charge, undercharge, drop stuff, or anything.

          At 3:00 p.m. the kids got home from school alone. The Creeds didn't mind much them staying home alone. They learned to trust their kids. And they weren’t home alone that long anyway because Matt would get home a short while after they did.  

          Lilly was 10, while Steven was 7. Lilly loved her little brother to death. Steven had curly light brown hair and big blue eyes. Lilly on the other hand, had golden blonde locks streaming down to her shoulders. Her eyes were light brown. No one knows where she got her blonde hair from because everyone else in the family had brown.

          "How was school?" asked Lilly. "It was ok." responded Steven. "Just ok? Did anything exciting happen? Any fights or anything?" "No." said Steven as he reached for a cookie at the top of the counter. As he said this, there was a loud thump in the living room. "What was that?!" asked Lilly with a concerned look on her face.

          When they went into the living room it was perfectly normal. Nothing had fallen and everything looked in place. "Hmmm."  thought Lilly. "Oh well…at least nothing's broken."  She ignored the loud crash and then went back to watching T.V. in the kitchen. After about 25 minutes Matt came home. "Hey kids, how was your first day of school?" they responded in a low monotone voice as if they didn’t care, "ok." "Well that's good" he said as he walked upstairs to take a nap.

          Matt wasn’t one to dream while taking naps but this time he did. He had a dream about their new house…In the dream someone was in the house, some sort of spirit. It was telling him that he needs to leave as soon as possible and if he didn’t his family and he would pay. The dream seemed so real to him. Never had a dream felt like this before. When he woke up he woke up suddenly, swinging his upper body forward as if someone pushed him up from the bed. Again, he had awakened with his clothes clinging to him because of the sweat. He didn’t think anything of the dream…it just made him think. "Why did the dream seem so real? Why do I feel weird in this house…something's not right."

          After a while he got up from bed and just forgot about it. He was feeling pains in his stomach because of his hunger. Kristin came home just after Matt had fallen asleep. "What's for dinner babe?" he asked her. She was in the kitchen wearing an apron covering up one of Matt's favorite outfits. It was a purple little mini dress that came up to her thighs. She knew it was his favorite and she decided that tonight she would wear it.

          "We're having pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cole slaw." "Wow…what's the occasion?" he asked as he looked at the grey pork chops. "Oh it's nothing. I just wanted to celebrate our first full 24 hours in our new home."

          The family had dinner around 7:30. And boy was it good…There were barley any leftovers but the very few they had, they put them in the refrigerator.

          After dinner everyone went and did their own things…Lilly went to her room to play on her Xbox, Steven went into the living room to watch more T.V., Kristin read her book, "The Pet Semetary" in the comfort of her room, and Matt was going through the bills in the kitchen.

          Everyone continued to work in peace when all the sudden there was a loud crash in the bathroom. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked. One by one they crept toward the bathroom fearing what might be in there. They all met in the hallway that led to the bathroom. Matt was the first and only one to go in there. He let out a sudden yell and shut the door. "Honey, what is it? What's in there?" Kristin said in a scared, shaky voice. Matt's face had gone white. He was without words and he didn't know what to say. "the-the mirror…on the mi-mirror it sa-said, 'leave this house!' but it w-was written in…blood."

          Everyone was in dead silence. The right words couldn’t come out. No one knew what to say…everyone was in shock. "What do you mean?" asked Kristin. "I mean, that 'leave this house' is written on the freakin' mirror! And the glass is-is broken in half," Matt replied.

          Kristin never believed in ghosts and so the possibility of it being one never popped in her mind. "Kids, did you do this?" Her voice was shaking with anger. "No mom," Lilly said with a look of confusion on her face, "honest to God, we didn’t!" Steven added in, "Really Mom, we didn’t do anything. I was in the living room and she was in her room. We didn’t do it. I swear!"

          Kristin and Matt looked at each other and walked off without another word. They never talked about it as a family again. The time was now 9:04 and it was past Steven's bedtime. "Steven, you need to go to bed." "Ok mom." After Steven was tucked and bed and kissed gently on the forehead, the rest of the family moved into the living room to watch some T.V. Lilly insisted that they watch "Power Puff Girls" so they did...Just this one night.

          As the show ended, Lilly's bedtime was nearing. She brushed her teeth then went straight to bed. It had been a hard day. Once she was fast asleep Matt and Kristin went to bed. After laying there for a few minutes Matt interrupted the silence by saying, "Sweetie, it wasn’t the kids…the kids couldn’t have written that. And even if they did, how could they smash the mirror? Why would they do that in the first place? The children had nothing to do with it. I believe them."

          "Well if they didn’t do it then who did? Honestly, Matt, do you think it just appeared there? Or maybe a robber came and decided to tell us to leave? Matty, you know the kids didn’t want to move here in the first place. They just want us to leave! Just give them time."

          Matt still had his doubts but he wasn’t in the mood for another fight. He had had plenty of those lately with her and he didn’t want to go through another one. "That may be true, but let's just drop it. I'm beat, let's just go to bed. Ok?" "Ok." She said without arguing. "Goodnight!" "Goodnight!" They kissed each other good night then Kristin fell into a deep sleep. But Matt just couldn't. He couldn't stop thinking. He was thinking for hours.

          "I know it wasn’t Lilly or Steven. They would never do that. But if it wasn’t him, who was it? Or what was it? The dream! In my dream someone or something told me I needed to leave ASAP. But why? Why did I have that dream? Why was I thinking that? Something's going on…something-"

          He heard a noise. He got out of bed and walked down the hall. He didn’t know why but he felt a strange feeling…like someone was watching him. He knew someone was. "Hello?" he said in a faint whisper. He expected something or someone to say something back but of course no one did. Instead he felt suddenly cold. Like deathly cold…cold you only feel when you're setting out in the snow with nothing on. His lips and jaw started shaking uncontrollably.

          "I'm going back to bed." He thought. But just as he was about to go back to bed he heard a terrible whisper in his ear, "Get out of my house!" Just that whisper made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He started walking very quickly back to the bedroom. Once he got there he curled up to his wife and tried to go to sleep. But he couldn’t…"get out of my house!" The words repeated in his mind over and over again. Eventually he ended up going to sleep. But the night didn’t end there. He had another nightmare.

          In his dream he was in a corn field…just running along the stalks of corn. It was very dark, it almost looked like a tornado was about to form. At the very end of the corn field was a boy…a boy about Steven's age. He was wearing a baseball cap…a red baseball cap. In one of his hands he had a knife; a big butcher knife. But it wasn’t the knife that frightened Matt; the kid had something that disturbed Matt far more than anything. The boy had Steven in his arms. He had an evil grin on his face that made Matt want to puke. It wasn't JUST an evil grin… it was a face that made him believe that his children were in trouble. The dream ended there and Matt slept uncomfortably for the rest of the night.

          At 6:15 the Creeds actually woke up at the right time. Matt went straight to the shower. (Not to the shower in the bathroom where someone wrote "leave this house." The house had 2 bathrooms and he chose to go the other one.) At first he didn’t remember what happened the previous night then he remembered…a sudden pain lurched at his heart. "Steven!" That was his first thought. He hurried up and rinsed out the shampoo in his hair. Then he quickly grabbed for the soap and poured it over his body, rinsed it out, then ran out of the shower. He quickly changed into his suit then ran downstairs to find his children eating cereal at the table. "Thank God!" He thought. "I was afraid something might have happened!" "Hey." He said to everyone that wanted to listen. "Good morning." They all responded.

          Matt suddenly got the chills from what happened last night. "What DID happen last night?" he couldn’t help but wondering…It all seemed like a blur... he decided he would just put it out of his mind but he couldn’t. That had to be the most terrifying thing that ever happened to him. Thinking that his family was in danger was a terrible thought. "Maybe we SHOULD move… what if they're really in danger? Oh stop it, Matt! Nothing's going to happen. It's all in you head! Get a hold of yourself!"

          And that's exactly what he did. He went to work without even thinking a little bit about it. All he was thinking about then was how he would deal with the child in his school that refused to learn. He was 8 years old when Matt talked to him that day. Timmy was his name… He often threw back papers handed to him and he threw tantrums when he was asked to do a simple task. Some days he would just look depressed and disturbed. One day he came to school looking very upset…more than usual; like something was bothering him at home. "Maybe his parents are abusing him." He thought with terror. Whatever was wrong he had to do something… so he called him into his office.

          "Timmy," he said, "is there something wrong?" Timmy just stared out the window. Matt was just noticing how pale he looked. "Timmy, is there something you want to talk about?" Again, the boy just stared out the window. "Is everything alright at home?" Timmy slowly turned to him and said in a slow, horse whisper, "He's been talking to you, hasn’t he?" "Who's been talking to me?" asked Mr. Creed with a confused look on his face. "The boy," responded Timmy, "The boy that used to live there…John…he's been talking to you." Matt jumped at this statement and he got butterflies in this stomach. He felt as if he had just gone down a steep hill on the roller coaster. "What are you talking about, Timmy?" Matt broke out in a small sweat. "You know what I'm talking about, Mr. Creed. John told me. You really should leave. It's his house." Matt didn’t know what to say or do. He just sat there, looking shocked. "How do you know this Timmy, that's impossible," Matt thought. Then Timmy just slowly got up and was about to leave but then he turned around. Mr. Creed realized how unhealthy the boy looked. His skin was a greenish pale, his eyes were dark. "Listen to what I said, Mr. Creed…listen to me."

          Matt didn’t stop him from walking out the door. He was too stunned to do anything. He didn’t know what he could do to stop him. This was all too confusing. How on earth could Timmy have known that? "Was he friends with John? Were they communicating through the dead? This is crazy talk! None of this could happen! Stop scaring yourself! This is silly!" But it sure didn't seem silly.

          The rest of the day was long. Matt felt a strong urge to go home and see his family. He had a bad feeling something was going to happen. But at 3:45 when he came home he was wrong. Everything was great. Nothing was going wrong. Kristin told him about her wonderful day and how she was awarded worker of the week even though it was only 2 days into the week. Apparently she had saved an elderly person's life by catching her fall.

          "Well I'm glad you're day is going well." He responded with a huge proud smile on his face. She loved this job… this life… this house… and that's what scared him. What if there was seriously something wrong with this house? How could he ruin their perfect life they're having?

          Matt decided that it would be best to forget everything that happened in these last 2 days. "Nothing's going to happen…it's just all in your head," he thought. "Stop being scared over nothing! I'm just forgetting about EVERYTHING. I am going to live the perfect life…with the perfect family… in the perfect house and no one is going to stop me!"  It almost scared him at how frightening the voice inside his head sounded.

          The next day went awesome. Everything was going so well. Not only did the day go well, but Matt soon forgot almost everything about what happened. His life was so PERFECT in his eyes. But then on Thursday his perfect week soon went to hell.

          The last couple days Matt had noticed something rather odd happening with Timmy. He had looked pale that day he took him into his office but on this particular day he looked 10 times worse. When Matt called him into his office, he was shocked to hear the answers to his questions.

          "Timmy, what's wrong? You don’t look so well. Are you ok?" Timmy just stared at him with those awful blue eyes… when he looked at Matt; Matt had to look away for a brief second. "He won't stop talking to me… make him leave me alone." Matt was a little confused. "Who won't leave you alone?" "John!" he responded with a weird voice. Fear struck in Matt's heart. He had completely forgotten about the previous experiences. "What does he say to you?" asked Matt feeling that there was no better question that he could think of. "He says if you don’t leave soon then he'll kill me and your whole family." Matt sat there feeling as if he might throw up. He had no clue how to respond to this. "Where exactly did you meet John? How do you know him?" "He was my friend…my dear…old…friend. We used to swing together every day at recess. I always liked to chase girls but he just wanted to swing. He didn’t talk much…"

          Matt still didn’t know what to say but he needed to know something… something important but he didn’t know what. "How did he die?" Timmy looked from Matt's eyes to his own hands. "John said…that…that the house…it-it was haunted and the ghost was trying to kill him. He said that once he died that he would haunt the new people in his house until they died. John did not have many friends…everyone said he was a creep or weirdo. He always came to school with cuts on his wrists and his face was pale. Then one day he just didn’t show up at all…"

          Matt figured he had enough shock for one day…he didn’t want to know anymore. He was sick at the thought of moving…he just couldn’t. His life was so perfect; he didn’t want to ruin it! "He's lying." He was thinking. "He's just lying. This cant be happening! It's not true…This isn’t happening." Matt's thoughts became hysterical. He was going crazy. This couldn’t be happening to him!

          "Mr. Creed," said the boy in a silent whisper, "please leave…leave now. You have to." Matt just sat there. He refused to leave! He refused to believe. He wasn’t going to. "Timmy, please leave." "But sir-" "LEAVE!" Matt said in a voice so loud it even scared himself. Timmy slowly walked out of the room with a look so hurt that it would make any person cry. As he was leaving, Matt noticed 2 slits on his left wrist.

          "I'm not leaving. My life is too perfect! He's just a lying son of a-" he caught himself before he finished his thoughts. "Just calm down, Matt. You're getting worked up over nothing. It's just some big coincidence. Nothing is going to happen."

          The day slowly ended and then it was 3:30 and it was time for him to go home. He thought it was best to keep everything that happened today to himself. His family had just gotten over the incident with the mirror. He shouldn’t worry them with more creepy stuff. No matter how hard Matt tried to block out the memories of that day he couldn’t. His evening went ok. Kristin made a wonderful meal and the kids were getting along for once but night was nearing and he didn’t want to go to bed. Was he scared? "No!" he thought, "I am NOT scared! This is all stupid! I'm just not tired right now…" "Goodnight Dadtee. I love you" Steven's voice startled him. "Goodnight, Steven…I love you too." Steven looked awfully pale to Matt. "Are you ok, Steven?" an unconvincing "yes" came from the child's soft voice. As he left, Matt noticed something that shocked him. On his left wrist there was a cut. A cut that looked like a knife could have done it. Matt decided that it was just probably from messing around at recess and he blew it off.

          Everyone else in the family had gone to bed while Matt sat on the couch watching T.V. *CRRREEEAAAAAK!* there was a sound like a door opening in his son's room. "Steven?" *CRRRREEEEAAAAK!* the door creaked again. He got off the couch to see what was up. He walked slowly to where Steven slept.  When he walked into his son's room he felt a breeze of cold air like he felt on that other night. He shuttered but kept walking. "Steven?" he asked. "Are you ok? Hello?" Steven wouldn’t respond. He touched his son's head. It was cold…extremely cold. "Son, are you ok?" Steven didn’t move. Matt noticed there was blood on the side of his cheek. Matt quickly grabbed his son and held him in his arms. "STEVEN! STEVEN!!!! ARE YOU OK?!?!" Steven never responded. Actually Steven never said anything else for the rest of his life because that night…he died. Matt held his limp body in his hands. "WAKE UP! STEVEN PLEASE WAKE UP!" But of course he never did. Matt moaned…he moaned and moaned. He woke up not only everyone in the house but everyone in the neighborhood.

          Kristen ran in the doorway with a look that made Matt shudder. "He's dead!" He whaled, "He's dead, he's dead, he's dead he's dead. It's all my fault! Our one and only son is dead!" Kristen broke out in hysterical tears. Her body shook violently.

          Lilly ran into the room to see what was wrong. When she saw her brother in her dad's arms with blood dripping down his cheek she ran to her crying mom and held her. Lilly started crying until she threw up.

          "We have to leave! Right now! Let's go!" He grabbed his wife, daughter, and left his dead son. They ran to the door. But he wife refused to move. She was crying so hard that words couldn’t come out. But between sobs she managed a, "w-wh-wh-why?" "If we don’t he'll kill us!" he screamed back. Kristen wasn’t in the mood for fighting. Her son was dead…nothing mattered anymore. Her life was over.

          They ended up running away…not knowing where they were going. They had no where to go. Thankfully Matt had some money in his wallet so they just checked into a hotel. They walked for a little over 5 minutes and then they found a cheap hotel called, "Sleep Inn" Everyone was still crying when they checked in. "Matt, why did we leave? Why did we leave our son there?" "Oh my gosh! Our son! We left our son there for…"it" to find. Our son!" "Hon, we had to leave. If we wouldn't have then he would have killed all of us." "What are you talking about, Matt. No one is in that house. No one is there! It was just you, me, and Lilly. Stop saying someone was in there!" Kristin didn’t understand…there WAS someone in that house. Someone was in there and only Matt knew. "Kristen, our kids did not do that to the mirror! It was him!" "Who's 'him,' Matt, who's him?" "IT'S JOHN!" he screamed "JOHN IS IN THAT HOUSE! HE KILLED OUR SON! JOHN'S THE BOY THAT USED TO LIVE THERE!"

          Kristin looked at him in terror. "He's gone mad." She thought. "He killed our son then blamed it on some ghost kid." Kristin started sobbing as she picked up the phone. "What are you doing, Kristin?" Matt asked in a worried voice. "I'm getting the help you need, Matt!" She called 911 and said that her husband just killed their son and now he was going mad. "KRISTIN PUT DOWN THE PHONE!" "NO!" she screamed back. "You need help! Why did you kill Steven, why?" "I didn’t kill him! John did! Hon, you have to believe me!" Before they knew it a police car pulled up to the hotel. "I'm going home so I can bury my son!" said Kristin between sobs. "What have you done, Kristin? What are you doing?!" Matt was being dragged by the police. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you…"

          Matt was now crying openly. He didn’t care. His family was in danger and there was nothing he could do about it. "I'm going home Matt…GOODBYE!" And then Matt was dragged into the police car. "My family's in danger! He's going to kill them!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. "I'm sure he will…" said one of the officers while he was laughing.     They didn’t even go to the police station…they drove right past it to the mental institution. "I'm not f'ing crazy!" he thought. "I know what I heard! I know what I saw! Someone has to stop them from staying there! He'll kill them! My Gosh, why did I have to be selfish? Why didn’t we just move like Timmy said?"

          Matt ended up in the institution for the rest of his life. In the next few days he learned of three deaths…his wife, his daughter, and his student, Timmy. Hearing this he truly did go crazy. If his family would have only listened to him…if only he police would have listened to him they could have spared 3 lives. Once they removed the dead bodies from the Creed's home they put up a "for sale" sign…

TOWARD THE LIGHT
 
 Light. I haven’t been exposed to this much light in months. It’s really hard to remember what my life was before the day. That one day. It’s amazing how one random event can completely change everything in someone’s life.
   Before that day, I was a miner. Mining was my life, not my kids, or my wife mattered more than my mining. We lived in the Pacific Northwest, Wyoming to be more exact. I had been at the mining camp for a couple of weeks and was due to have a leave off of the work to go see my family in two more.
   The dynamite. Dynamite caused all of this, or perhaps it was myself. My ungratefulness. Our job was to pack the dynamite to close off this mine. The coal was no longer present in this mine. So our camp was going to close the mine, pack up and start another mine elsewhere. Johnson and I were going to pack the dynamite into the sides of the mine shaft then detonate the blasts.
   And we did. The mine closed, but in doing so took us with it. The demolitions experts had miscalculated the timing of the blast. It went off five minutes too soon. 
   The mine collapsed but took Johnson and me with it. It proved mortal for johnson and all I had on my left leg was a stump starting at the ankle.  I was unconsience for about three days, maybe more. When I did come around I was engulfed in pain. After hours or maybe dats of sitting there not knowing who I was or where I was i finally started to get to my senses.  After the pain subsided enough the hunger settled in. This incredible ravenous hunger that I had never felt or have since felt came over me. I would have grabbed the rat next to me right then if I could have seen it. WIth the collapse of the mine shaft the light dissapeared.    Humans depend on light more than any person who hasn't had the experience of complete and utter darkness for long periods of time could understand. 
   The rats fed me for months, and there was a stream of water running through the mine. Time was hard to determine. People never fully understand how much humans depend on light.
   It was raining above. I could hear it. This rain brought with at a steady stream of mud down from the collapse sight. This meant escape was possible. It could take years, but I could make it.
   I awoke one mourning to find it raining once more. But there was something different about the cavern. I could see shapes. Light was coming into the cavern. Now. Now was the time to escape. Freedom could once again be mine. I started to climb. The top was near. I got there and dug.Light. I haven’t been exposed to this much light in months.

LAPTOP LOVE
 
 

"Because he is cute. No..." thought Ali, pushing the backspace button on her laptop. Thinking of reasons for "Why I Should Meet Roman Cain" turned out to be a lot harder than sixteen-year-old Ali had expected.

Ever since AliCat16 had met Rome179 on a chat room two years ago, she couldn't get her mind off of him. It had started with a simple "Hey. Wanna chat?" and gone to "Alright. Love ya tons!" The simple "Love you too" from Roman made her heart feel like it was going to pound right out of her chest. Ali had the Love Bug. Bad.

She pushed her blonde hair out of her face and rubbed her eyes. "Two A.M.? Wow, Babydoll we gotta get to bed." Babydoll meowed in reply. She pet him and then carried to him to bed with her.

Somewhere in Louisiana, seventeen-year-old Roman Cain was laying in his bed, thinking of AliCat16. Ever since he'd asked if Ali thought she wanted to meet, he couldn't decide if Ali felt freaked out or relieved that they were finally going to meet. That is, if she wanted to.

Roman rolled over on his other side and kicked off his covers. Tonight was too hot and humid for even the thinnest sheet. Roman hear his older brother Jamie, start up his big truck. "It must be two A.M." Roman thought aloud. He rolled on his stomach, fluffed his pillow, and fell asleep to the sound of the chain on his ceiling fan clinking.

"Alison Marie! You better have your cute butt ready in ten minutes or I'm dragging you to school in your pajamas!" Could her mom possibly sound anymore motherly? Babydoll was lying on her honey blonde hair, so when she tried to sit up, she grumbled. "Okay, today is...Friday...hmm...hoodie and jeans with my Doc Martins. Any Test? Nope...I'm free." she thought to herself. She got dressed and was pulling her hair into a ponytail when her mom came into her rom. "Well, at least you're dressed..."

Roman woke up to the sound of his alarm blaring near his head. He slammed his fist on it and rubbed his eyes. Friday meant work and work meant Abercrombie & Fitch. Roman's uncle had offered him the job in January and since he needed some extra cash, he agreed. Roman could hear the tapping of his dog's claws on the hardwood floors in the hall while he zipped up his jeans and buttoned up a blue shirt. "Coffeebean! How's my favorite girl?" he asked the Saint Bernard while petting her head. She licked his face when he bent down to grab his hat.

Roman was out the door when he heard his cell phone ringing "Truly Madly Deeply." That meant it was a text message. From Ali. He sat down heavily on the couch and flipped open the cell phone. "Yes." It read. Yes what? Roman was throughly confused. "Excuse` Moi?" he responded with. "Yes...I want to meet" was the last and final text from Ali. Roman did a victory dance and sang "I've Got Sunshine" all the way to his truck.

"Ali, I thought you weren't going to meet Rome179," was the first thing Ali was greeted with at school from her best friend, Mia. Ali had told Mia the night before on messenger that she was going to meet her mystery man, but now she was regretting it. "Well, things change." Ali said, getting defensive. "What if he's not who he says he is?" Mia asked eagerly. Ali had pondered that question many times herself. There was too much proof to say that Roman Cain was indeed not Roman Cain. His webcam, e-mails, even his cell phone number proved he was actually Roman Cain! "Stupid question, Mia. I know it's him...even you know it's him!" Mia had been sort of jealous, yet freaked out by the whole "Meet Your Future Husband Online" thing. But she knew how much Ali was in love with this guy. Ali couldn't shut up about him after those first few weeks. The bell rang. "We're going to be late if we stand here and continue arguing about Rome179." stated Mia matter-of-factly . "Mia, that may have very well been the smartest thing you've said all day." replied Ali with a sarcastic smile. So the girls split up and went to class.

"Yo! Rome! The Boss wants you!" came a voice from the back of the store. That voice was un-mistakable. It was Brian, Roman's friend for as long as he could remember and one week of coworker. Roman knew Brian couldn't hold a job very long so he wasn't too attached on the idea of working with his best friend. On the way into his Uncle's office, Brian pushed him playfully into the display of hats in the center of the room. "Cool it, morons!" boomed a voice from the office. Roman walked in and took a seat in an old, brown leather chair that looked older than the seventeen long years of his life. "What's up, Uncle Carmen?" Roman asked. "Okay, I'm not gonna stall and keep your Wrangler butt in here for too long. I've got interviews later today." Uncle Carmen was always a straight to the point kind of guy. "So?" Roman questioned. "So, what's your problem, Rome?" Roman gave a puzzled look and a raised eyebrow as a response. "You're acting...giddy." "Nu-uh!" "Uh-huh, my dear nephew. Take this morning for instance: putting women's shirts in the men's section? I had to tell a guy that the shirt he was trying on was actually a woman's shirt!" "Yea, so I made a lousy mistake..." replied Roman defensively. "Rome...is there a girl involved?" This cause Roman to pause for a couple of minutes. His deep, dark, blue eyes stared hard at his uncle. "There's one girl." He said, clearing his throat. "She's wonderful...everything I've ever wanted." "Oh, now, Rome I love hearing about youngins, such as yourself, falling into love, but just keep it out of the workplace. Get outta here before the interviewers show up." "Thanks, Uncle Carmen." said Roman getting up from the chair. "Oh, and Roman?" "Yea?" "Don't be getting all gushy and crap here on me. I love you and all, but keep your love life to yourself." Uncle Carmen said this with a wink and picked up the phone to call someone. Most likely one of his many girlfriends. "So what happened?" Asked Brian with a smirk. "He said you're fired." Brian stopped laughing. "I'm just kidding man." "Ah! That ain't funny!" said Brian, punching Roman in the arm. Roman put Brian in a headlock, but released him when some customers appeared.

IT was after school and Mia had track practice so Ali just walked the five blocks home. Ali was greeted at home with a note that read "Be home in a couple of hours! Heat up the spaghetti!" Spaghetti was Ali's favorite food and her mom had made it last night, so she was to eat leftovers for dinner tonight too. She didn't mind though since earlier she had the brilliant thought of making garlic bread and that sounded good to her at the moment. It was the beginning of November and starting to get chilly. Last night it had been hot and humid, but today it was just downright cold. She took off her backpack and placed it in the extra chair at the kitchen table. Babydoll came wandering in and meowed as if to say "Hey Ali!" He stretched up on Ali's leg so she bent over and picked him up. Babydoll's rhythmic purrs sent Ali into a trance. Her version of a trance, was dreaming about the day that her and Roman might meet. Ali was snapped out of her trance when Babydoll jumped down to go to his food bowl. She decided to work on some of her homework for the time being.

Ever since Ali's mom had started working from one P.M. to eight P.M., she became more independent. She didn't need reminding about doing homework, or feeding Babydoll, and she could cook her own dinner. Ali had turned it into a game of choosing which homework to do first. She closed her eyes and chose a book. "Bummer. We chose geometry." she said to herself. Ali got through the first five problems without any trouble. Then she got to the next few problems and went cross eyed. She was so stressed that she just gave up, slammed the book shut, and opened her laptop to check her e-mail.

Roman slipped off his Nike's and fell back into his computer chair, that was previously being warmed up by Coffeebean. It had been a long day and after the talk that he had with Uncle Carmen, the day seemed to go downhill from there. He had to deal with the customers from Hell. The ones that glare at you when you ask if they need help and then five seconds later they are chewing you out for not helping them.

The only thing that could relax him now, was Ali. As he waited for the computer to turn on, he reclined back into the chair and rubbed his temples. He heard the faint snore coming from his brother Jamie, in the other room. He signed onto messenger and noticed Ali wasn't on yet and sighed heavily. Not two minutes later, the box saying "AliCat16 has sign on," appeared. Roman's heart skipped a beat. He had never felt this close to someone before and quite frankly, it scared him.

AliCat16: Hey Hunny

Rome179: Hey Baby, sup?

AliCat16: Not much, just practicing being bored. Was working on homework, but spazzed out because I didn't understand it.

Rome179: Lemme guess...math?

AliCat16: Very good. You're observant

Rome179: Yes Mam, I am.

Roman knew Ali better than anyone else so it came as a joke to the both of them when one of them tried to guess about the other's current problems.

AliCat16: How was your day?

Rome179: About as fun as a heart attack.

AliCat16: Ouch! Wanna talk about it?

Rome179: Work just sucks.

AliCat16: It sounds like there's something else...

Rome179: Really want to know?

Alicat16: Yes, my dear, that's why I'm asking.

Rome179: The one I love, is out of reach.

Roman anticipated Ali's response. Ali didn't know what to say exactly. She loved him too, but admitting this wasn't so simple. Ali brought up another subject and didn't even mention loving Roman back. Roman sighed heavily after they both said goodbye and signed off.

Ali was highly confused. She didn't know if she should have told Roman that she loved him too when he told her he did. "You've got mail!" was the noise that broke her thoughts. She opened her e-mail to find a picture of a rose with dew on it. It was beautiful and surprising, but from who? Ali used the mouse to scroll down and read the message that was attached.

"This rose will never be as beautiful as you."

Love, Roman.

Ali's heat was filled with love for Roman, but this...this made her heart want to burst.

Ali's next mission was to send Roman an e-mail spilling her heart to him. Her ideas were very creative, yet she didn't seem to think so. Many of her thoughts were crossed out and this is what she managed:

Roman,

I have known you for more than two years and talking to you and telling you everything seems normal. However, there is something that I failed to mention. I have known this for awhile, but I just lacked what it took to tell you. I love you. It seems to me that you feel the same. Especially since you made it very clear this afternoon that you loved me. Hopefully, you know this, will carry our relationship to the next level.

Love always,

Ali

Ali re-read the letter about ten times before pressing the "send" button. When Ali was nervous, she tended to wander about aimlessly. The house had adapted to the path that was worn from Ali's wandering. Too many thoughts were going through her head in order for her to be able to relax and sit down.

By the time Ali had finished typing her e-mail, she was starving and dead tired. As Ali walked into the kitchen to scan the refrigerator, there was a small, faint knock on the door. "Maybe practice ended early for Mia." she thought aloud. She picked up Babydoll and walked to the door. A black mustang was parked in the driveway and had no one occupying it, so Ali figured the driver must be at the door. This ruled out any possibilities of it being Mia.

Ali opened the door to see a handsome young man, standing with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his Levi's. His green eyes reminded her of spring and his brownish blonde hair looked like it could only be produced from a bottle of hair dye. "Are you...Ali?" He asked, pausing only to look at the piece of paper in his hand. "Yea. And you are?" she replied. "Brian." he said simply, taking her hand to shake it. She noticed instantly that his hands were rough . Roughness like this could only come from doing hard labor.

"So, what kind of Girl Scout cookies are you selling this time?" she asked playfully. Babydoll leaped out of her arms and started to rub against Brian's legs. "Haha. Very funny." He said with a smirk. "Actually, I think we have a mutual friend..." "Wow! Kiddo, Santa is everybody's friend! But who do we both know, really?" Brian's dimples showed when he smiled and said "Roman."

Roman got up out of his chair and went to go lay down on the couch. If only Ali would say she loved him back...Jaime walked into the room with his eyes glazed. Roman's brother was known to often sleepwalk around the house. It always freaking Roman out, but he always managed to guide Jamie back to bed. "Go back to bed, Jaime." Roman ordered. Jaime smiled and walked out of the room. Roman laughed at his brother. One time, Jaime and Roman got into a huge brawl over whose turn it was to cook dinner and Jaime stormed off into his room and fell asleep. Roman went and got a razor and well...Jaime awoke with only one eyebrow. Roman got lectured by his Mother, but they were both wiping their eyes before the end of it.

It was useless to try and take a nap while thinking of Ali. "Well...I'll call Brian and see what he is up to." he said to no one in particular. He pulled his cell phone off of the clip attached to his pocket. Brian's reactions to cell phones were rather slow. Roman always joked him about it by saying "The bombs ringing!" because Brian always stopped instantly doing whatever he was doing and had a confused look on his face.

The phone rang and rang, but nobody answered so he left him a message. "Brian! Hey it's Rome! Call me man, I'm going to die of boredom!"

Ali was still in shock when Brian mentioned Roman's name. This was getting more serious than expected. She loves Roman to death and nothing could change that. Brian had admitted that Roman didn't know about him going to visit Ali. Brian told her that he had to meet his best friend's "mystery girl". Ali suppressed her laughter when she was called a mystery girl. "Well, I decided that I was going to meet him, but why drive for ten hours straight to meet your best friend's mystery girl?" "You don't understand how much he talks about you! He always gets that sick love puppy look in his eyes and I can't take anymore of it!" said Brian. Ali noticed his accent was thick, but inviting, just like Roman's. "When did you plan on meeting?" He asked suddenly. "I don't know...we haven't gotten that far, yet." Their conversation was interrupted by a beeping noise. Brian looked at Ali. "Not me, the bombs in my house right now." she said with a giggle. "Oh, it's my cell phone." replied Brian. The old porch swing that they were sitting on had a history of breaking for no good reason at all. Ali prayed that the swing wouldn't break, so far so good. Ali looked out across the lawn while Brian listened to his messages. She had one of her infamous trances. She imagined meeting Roman and running into his arms. Ali often found herself lingering for his touch, just a simple hug would do. "Speak of the devil...it was Rome." Ali snapped out of it and became intently interested.

"Yea? What did he want?" she asked eagerly. "He wants to know where his partner in crime is at." he said with an innocent smile. Ali crossed her legs. "How long have you known Roman?" she questioned. "Since we were babies." he replied. He gazed off as if remembering all the good times he had shared with Roman. Ali sighed.

"No other guy has ever made me feel as loved as Roman does. You might think it's corny, but I feel like he's the only one that can understand me at times." Brian nodded. "The infamous Roman seems to think you have the same effect on him." "What do you think I should do?" she asked him. "Well...I think you should meet Rome and see how everything goes between you love bugs." Ali was extremely comfortable and at ease with Brian. She could tell why Roman had chose him as his best friend. "Friend to friend though, I think you two were a match made in heaven." Brian looked over at Ali for a rebuttal. Ali stared hard into his suggestive, green eyes. Brian's arm was placed on the back of the swing so Ali turned it into a friendly gesture and leaned her head back on it. "I think I like you already." she said.

Normally on Fridays, Ali rented movies to watch with Babydoll or Mia. Since Mia was going with her parents out of town, it would be Babydoll's night, but Ali had other things on her mind. After Brian and Ali had traded cell phone numbers, she went inside and signed onto her messenger.

Roman was bored, but also curious of where Brian would be. Brian never left Roman alone on a Friday night. Roman called Brian again and still got no answer. Coffeebean came plinking into the room and laid her head on Roman's lap. Coffeebean had been with Roman since the day he was born. She was an old lady in dog years. Roman took off his hat and placed it on the arm of the chair. Coffeebean used to chew up Roman's hats when he was about eight or nine so it was a natural reaction to make sure she didn't grab the hat.

When Coffeebean went into Jaime's room, Roman signed onto his messenger. His heart fluttered. Ali was on.

AliCat16:Hey

Rome179: Hey Princess

AliCat16: Princess? I'm anything, but that!

Rome179: You're my princess though

AliCat16: So...did you get my e-mail?

Rome179: Um I guess not LoL!

Ali breathed a sigh of relief.

Rome179: I'll check it out later

AliCat16: Alrighty then.

Rome179: I don't mean to throw us off topic, but do you still want to meet?

Ali paused and then started to type intently.

AliCat16: I want to meet, but how are we going to? I can't drive from Missouri to Louisiana! I don't even have a car!

Rome179: Okay, Ali, kiddo, breathe! You're making me freak out.

AliCat16: Sorry *breathes*

Rome179: Are you aware that I have a truck?

AliCat16: Um...no. Your truck has never been mentioned in our conversations! LoL!

Rome179: Well I got myself a truck :-P! I would be willing to drive to Missouri to see my baby.

Ali blushed at that and then all of a sudden grew panicked.

AliCat16: Well, I still have these doubts. What if you're some serial killer?

Roman snorted.

Rome179: Ali, I'm not a serial killer. I promise. Run a search on Roman Cain if you don't believe me.

Alicat16: Okay, I believe you, but still.

Rome179: Jeez Ali! What does it take to convince you?!

AliCat16: Well, it's just...crazy...how we met and how we feel...

Rome179: It's not like I don't have doubts. For all I know, you could be an eighty-year-old man.

Ali giggled.

AliCat16: I'm not. I promise.

Rome179: We trust each other, agreed?

AliCat16: Agreed

AliCat16: Oh, hey, I gotta go. My Mom is home and I don't want her reading my conversations.

Rome179: Okay baby. Love you!

AliCat16: Love you too! Bye!

They signed off.

It was a chilly Saturday afternoon and would have been enjoyable except Mia was practically yelling in Ali's ear. "Since when do you become a secret spy, sneaking around, looking for guys you meet over the internet?" Mia squealed. "Since...two years ago in December!" Ali said with a giggle. "Well! I'm worried about you! What is Roman is some killer, that is looking for little girls named Ali, such as yourself?" Mia questioned. "Mia, Roman is anything except a killer." she paused to take a sip out of her Dr.Pepper. "I've never felt this way about anybody and I'm almost positive Roman feels the same." Ali admitted. "Okay. Fair game, Ali. But are you really going to go through with it?" Ali pondered the question for a minute and linked her arm with Mia's. "I think I will."

At about noon, Roman decided to call Brian to see if he wanted to go do something. Brian's groggy voice answered the phone. "Well, hello Sleeping Beauty!" Roman greeted. "Oh, sweet Lord. What do you want? What time is it?" Brian murmured. "Well, it's about twelve-fifteen in the afternoon and I wanted to see if you would like to spend some quality time with your best friend." "Mkay. Roman, you called me while I was asleep. You're not my best friend anymore." Roman laughed. "Why are you still sleeping? You're normally the one up at the butt crack of dawn." "I had a long night. Meet me in an hour at the Italian restaurant down the road and I'll enlighten you about it." Brian said, waking up a little bit. They agreed and said goodbye.

Roman had forty five minutes to waste, so he decided to see just how long it took to get to Missouri to see Ali. Some of that middle school math came in handy, but not very often. Roman calculated ten hours and fifteen minutes from Louisiana to Missouri. He knew he would drive twenty hours to see Ali though. Jaime was up and was eating a bowl of cereal on the couch.

"Hey Jaime?" "What?" he answered. "How far have you driven to see a girl?" Roman asked. "Oh, about ten minutes." Jaime said with a snort. "Jaime, I'm being serious!" Jaime chuckled. "I know little bro. I'm just giving you a hard time. If I can recall correctly, I drove about three hours to see Emma." Emma and Jaime had been a couple since seventh grade. Last year, Emma cheated on Jaime and Jaime hadn't cared for her since. Roman couldn't blame him. "Why? You got a long distance love?" he asked. "Yea...something along those lines." Roman said. Roman could tell Jaime anything. His secrets were always safe with him. "Rome, you're holding out on me." Jaime said with a sly grin. "I'm not so sure I can tell my big brother all of the details in this one." Roman replied. "Okay, well tell me what you can."

Roman spilled everything from meeting Ali to falling in love with her. The only part he left out was deciding to meet her, though he was pretty sure Jaime could figure it out from the first question he asked him. "Well, Rome. Sounds pretty intense and she sounds pretty awesome." "She is." By then, it was 1:10 P.M. and Roman had five minutes to make it to Papa Guiseppie's to meet Brian. He told Jaime he'd be home later and then ran out to his truck.

When Roman pulled up to Papa Guispeppie's, Brian's black mustang was parked and he could make out Brian's figure bobbing around through the tinted windows. Roman's best bet was that he was singing. Brian tried to look tough, but when you've known him as long as Roman has, you learn things. For instance, Brian rocks out in his mustang to Shania Twain. Roman snuck up behind the black car and banged on the window fiercely. The figure in the car about jumped out through the roof. Brian got out of the car with one hand pressed against his chest. Roman could tell that he had scared the Be-Jesus out of him.

"Roman?" "Yea?" "I hate you." It was a decent enough conversation. "Well, at least you didn't scream like a girl this time." Roman said with a laugh. "Shut up, Rome." Brian told him. "So, is there some new girl I don't know about?" Roman asked Brian. "Not exactly. I think you are quite familiar with her, actually." Brian said. The two were sat at a table by the plate glass window. It was rather picturesque. A cute red headed waiter took their order and left to go get them some salad. "Okay, Brian, back to your night. Where were you?" Roman felt like a cop from the movies asking all of these questions. "Missouri." Brian said nonchalantly. Roman choked on his Coke. "What?" Brian asked with a grin. "Why were you in Missouri? That's like a ten hour drive!" Roman asked briskly. "I know how long of a drive it is and I went to go see Ali." Brian told him. This time Roman started choking on his salad and Brian had to hit him on the back. "Why did you go see Ali?! I haven't even met her yet!" Roman sputtered. "Well, I think you chose one of the best ones in Missouri. She's your perfect type. Everything you'd ever want. I'm jealous of you, man." Brian said. Roman gave Brian a smile. "I know. But why did you go meet her?!" he asked. "Because, Roman. You wouldn't shut up about her. I had to know why you were so crazy for her." Roman knew now that he had to meet her soon. His best friend had already met her and he hadn't. What was wrong with that picture?

"Well, what did she say?" Roman questioned. "She said that she wanted to meet you and then she got all lovey-dovey about you." Brian replied. "So she definitely wants to meet? "Yes, she definitely wanted to meet, Rome. She'd be good for you." Roman was still bothered that Brian drove ten hours to see Ali. But it was all for a good cause. After all, AliCat16 wasn't an eighty-year-old man.

Ali and Mia were at a teen clothing store when a cell phone began to ring. Mia was trying on clothes and Ali was outside of the door, handing her more clothes when she said "okay". Ali dug into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. She didn't even bother checking who was calling because she figured it was her mother. "Ali, I need you home in an hour." Yep, it was her mother. "But I thought you said I could stay out with Mia." Ali protested. "Change of plans." Her mother shot back. Ali hung up and told Mia. Mia didn't mind too much because she was tired anyways.

When Ali got home, her Mom had dinner set out on the table and was dancing in the kitchen. "Where's my Mom at?" Ali asked jokingly. "Sit down and I'll tell you why I'm so happy." her Mom said with a grin. Ali took off her jacket and sat down in her normal chair. "I got a promotion and I'll be working day hours!" she squealed. The extra money would be helpful and seeing her Mom would be awesome. Ali shrieked with joy and hugged her Mother. Finally, things would return back to normal.

After dinner, Ali went into her room and laid down on her bed to relax. Her cell phone started to ring and Ali grunted. She rolled off of her bed and flipped open the phone. "Hello?" "Ali! I'm so glad you answered!" It was Roman. Ali stopped breathing. "Ali, you still there?" he asked. "Yea, I'm just...shocked." she said. "Don't be. I got your e-mail...you can't understand how much that meant to me." Ali sighed heavily, partially from relief. "I want to be with you. When will we meet?" Roman asked. His accent was thicker than Ali remembered. "Over Thanksgiving break. My friend will be out of town and she will leave me her car. If I can convince my Mother that I will be gone and safe for two days, we could pull it off." Ali said. Mia always went out of town for the holidays and she didn't trust leaving her car out in the open, so she grave it to Ali for the time being.

"But, I thought I was going to drive to see you..." Roman said, sounding confused. "Well, I just realized I will have that car and this might be easier for the both of us." Ali replied. Roman frowned and tried to think of how this was going to work. Ali heard her Mother go to bed. "If you can last two days, then we can do this." Ali told him. A thousand thoughts were running through her head and she couldn't catch a single on of them. "I won't allow you to drive all that way, Ali!" Roman said. "Well, why not? It would be well worth it..." Ali replied. "Yea, but it's not fair for you." Roman said, sound desperate. Ali shrugged to herself.

"Roman, I don't care. I'm driving to you." Roman sighed. This last time he met somebody this persistent, he was in preschool and the kid had taken his toy truck and wouldn't give it back. "Are you staying with my family and I, or are you going to a hotel?" Roman asked. "Probably a nearby hotel." "Well, the nearest hotel is three hours away...we live in a small town in Louisiana." Roman said laughing. Ali sat up on her bed. "Well, I guess I'm staying with the Cains then..." she said. It's not like she didn't have the fears that she was falling into a trap. It was behind the gut feeling that told her Roman was okay.

"How are your Mom and Dad going to take it when you tell them they're housing a girl you met over the internet?" Ali asked. The conversation was more relaxed now that the subject had changed and was getting lighter. "Well, my Mom and Dad split when I was seven." "Oh..." Ali said. "Yea, but it's not like I don't get to see him. I still have a pretty tight relationship with him." "My father died when I was two." Ali confessed. Roman had always wondered why their fathers were never mentioned in their conversations. Now he knew Ali's reason. "I'm sorry, Ali." "I don't remember him much, but when I do, the memories are strong." Ali told him. No one had ever known about Ali's memories except for Mia, but she doubted Mia remembering those.

"What about your Mom?"she asked, changing the subject. "My Mom is something outta the movies." he told her. "She's like SuperMom. She still enjoys and insists on doing some of the farmwork." Ali giggled. Roman loved making her laugh. He felt she should do it more often. "My Mother is a legend to me too. She's raised me by herself for fourteen years and we've beat every obstacle God has thrown our way. We've been through a lot, but never without." Roman was a good listener and Ali enjoyed talking to him voice-to-voice.

What will your Mom think about me?" Ali asked. "Well, your guess is as good as mine, but she is awesome and will house anybody in need of a home. There might even be an exception since you're the girl her baby boy loves." he said jokingly. "I don't know what to tell my Mom for when I'm gone. Like an excuse..." she told him. "Would she flip if you told her the truth?" he asked. "Yea, I'm fairly certain she would, Roman." Ali said. "You'll think of something. So how about Brian?" he asked her.

Ali started laughing hysterically. "Brian...is crazy." she managed to spit out, emphasizing "crazy". Roman had to laugh. Brian was just one of those friends that when you though about them, you can't help but laugh. "Yea, he's something else." said Roman. "Well, in two days, it'll happen." she told him. "Yea...seems unrealistic huh?" Roman replied. "Well I need to get some sleep because we have managed to talk until 3 A.M." Ali said. "Wow. Time flies when you're having fun!" Roman said playfully. "Well g'night, Ali. I love you." "I love you too, Roman. Good night." Ali hung up and went to sleep. Roman closed his cell phone and went to go lay on his bed. He fell asleep thinking of Ali.

On Sunday, all Ali could think about was a reason for "What I Should Tell My Mom When I Go To Meet Roman." Her mother was not an easy person to convince, so she was going to have to make up a fantastic excuse. Ali found this to be a very hard challenge. She didn't know anyone who lived in Louisiana so she couldn't say she was going to visit them. Her cousin Hannah lived in Florida though...that was it! She would call Hannah and have her cover for her! Hannah and Ali were very close. They had been ever since they were little, but when her Aunt and Uncle decided to move to Florida, she didn't get to see her as much. Hannah would do anything for Ali and it was exactly the same way around. She picked up the phone and dialed Hannah's number.

Roman got out of bed and rubbed his eyes. Had he really called Ali the night before? He had and it wasn't a dream. Ali was coming to Louisiana. He repeated that to himself about five times to let it sink in. Roman couldn't stop smiling while he got dressed. He was almost positive Brian would know something was up at work. Then he would have to explain to him how Ali was coming down. Roman put some gel in his hair and patted Coffeebean on the head on the way out the door. His next mission was to convince his Mom to give Ali a place to stay. It wouldn't be too difficult, but it would require some effort. If it got to the point where he needed enforcements, he would bring in Jaime and Uncle Carmen. When Roman got to work, they were abnormally busy.

"Hannah! You've got to do this for me...please!" Ali whined into the phone. "I don't know, Ali. It sounds kind of risky." "Hannah! You don't understand! I have to meet him! Just this once! Please!" Hannah sighed. "Ali you owe me." she told her. Ali squealed. "Oh my gosh! Hannah I love you!" Hannah giggled and said "uh-huh". Their plan was now in affect.

"Oh, hell Hannah!" was the sound that was coming from the living room. Ali smiled to herself. She felt like a spy in the movies that had invented some marvelous scheme. "Well, yes, I guess she could..." Ali could hear the hesitance in her mother's voice. "But that is a long way for her to drive on her own...yes, I understand you haven't. Okay, Hannah. Bye bye." Ali heard the click of the phone being set on the receiver. Then, the trudging footsteps leading up the stairs into Ali's room. "Who was it?" Ali asked innocently. "It was Hannah and she wants you to come down for two days." "For what?" Ali had to seem innocent so she had to ask. "Well, for an early Thanksgiving and for visiting." her mom said. "So...do I get to go?" Ali asked. "But I need the car." "I could drive Mia's. That is, if it's alright with her." Ali said. Her Mom pondered the thought and finally said "okay". Ali grinned foolishly and hugged her mother. Ali had pulled it off and she was going to meet Roman!

Roman was folding shirts when his cell phone began to ring. He hoped it was Ali. "Hello?" "Roman! I'm coming to Louisiana!" Ali answered. Roman smiled and did his own little victory dance. Brian came stumbling out of Uncle Carmen's office laughing. There was no telling what he had done this time. He stopped laughing when he saw Roman talking on the phone and began snorting, trying to stay quiet. "Who is it?" Brian mouthed. "Ali." Roman mouthed back. "Ali! Roman loves you!" Brian yelled into the phone. Roman knocked him back. "Yes, Brian says hey." Rome told her. "Uh-oh...the Big Man has found it..." Brian said, just as Uncle Carmen came stomping out of his office. Cell phones weren't allowed on the job so he had to cut their conversation short. He slipped the phone into his pocket just as Uncle Carmen got to Brian. "What's wrong?" Roman asked. "Brian thinks he's funny." Uncle Carmen answered. "I took the screws out of his chair and he can't take a joke." Brian rebuttaled. Brian was wiping his eyes now and Roman couldn't look at his friend because he knew he would bust out laughing if he did. "You're lucky I don't fire you right now, Brian." Uncle Carmen mentioned. "Cool it Carmen. You wouldn't fire the boy who's like a son to you!" Brian said. Uncle Carmen shook his head and walked off.

It was Monday and Ali was on the road on the way to Louisiana, but her Mother thought Florida. It took a couple of phone calls to get everything squared away. Hannah said that she would call Ali's mother later that night to say Ali had arrived and she was safe. Ali planned to call later on her cell phone. If this wasn't thought through fully, it could end fatal for Ali. Meaning her Mother would kill her. She was a little over halfway there and she had only stopped twice for drinks, gas, and restroom breaks. She was on schedule and expected to arrive in about four hours. By now, Ali could sing every commercial on the radio and was probably only lacking knowledge of one or two songs. She was excited, yet nervous and couldn't wait to see Roman. She wondered if Roman was as anxious as she was.

Roman woke up and laid there in bed for a minute before realizing that it was Tuesday and Ali would be arriving shortly. He threw off the covers and rolled out of the bed and stood up. Roman had told his Mother on the previous night that his friend would be coming from Missouri and she needed a place to stay, considering there were no hotels in their city. However, he failed to mention that he loved Ali. Weather or not Ms.Cain would figure it out, was a different story. He would mention him and Ali from time to time, but he would always start off with "My friend, Ali..." His Mother agreed almost straight away that she was welcome in their home which surprised Roman tremendously. But his Mother was always the one to give out a helping hand. An all around good Christian. Roman thought he might want to inform Jaime about Ali coming to stay for two days. After all, he had told Jaime about her and how he felt for her. He cleaned up the house for the next two hours and supposed maybe it was time for a shower. Then, he would enlighten Jaime about Ali's visit.

Ali clicked the radio off. She wanted to enjoy the scent of the fields and fresh country air and get rid of the fuzzy noise coming from her car's stereo. Ali took a deep breath and smiled to herself. The last time she had smelled air this fresh, she was visiting her grandparents on the countryside of St.Louis. She remembered the bright stars and how the dark sky brought out their shining colors. Ali looked at the piece of paper that held the directions to Roman's house. She knew just a couple more miles of dirt road before she would reach Roman's house. Ali didn't know what to think. Her heart was racing, her palms were sweaty, and her breathing was cut short. She expected the best, but braced herself for the worst. Just then, a large house turned into a gigantic plantation. The fields didn't end and the house probably had over nine bedrooms. The beauty of it had taken over Ali's ability to breathe. An old Saint Bernard was running around the mansion. "Coffeebean!" called a voice from the porch.

When Ali had parked the car, she got out and looked towards the house. The voice belonged to a tall, handsome man. His brown eyes met Ali's and stayed there. They creased slightly when he smiled. "Oh my gosh." the man said. Ali didn't know what to think. The man told her just a minute and went inside. She heard him yell "Roman!" This was it, Ali thought. She was going to meet Roman. The boy who had stolen her heart and swept her off her feet.

As he walked out to the car, his deep blue eyes grew wider and his pace quickened. Ali leaned against the car for support. She thought she might faint. The closer Roman got, the weaker she got in the knees. When Roman stopped in front of her, they both seemed to be studying each other as if they couldn't believe it. Ali was the one to make the first move. She took a step forward and wrapped her arms around him. Roman seemed to be expecting this because he took no time wrapping his farmer's tanned, muscular arms around her. They fit together perfectly.

After three minutes, Ali noticed the first man she saw here, standing on the porch. She pulled away and nudged Roman to look that way. He took Ali's hand and led her up to the porch. It seemed rather natural, really. His hands weren't as strong and rough as Brian's had been, but they had seen their fair share of farmwork. When she stood face-to-face with the man, she noticed how similar him and Roman looked. Same build, different eyes, a square jaw...

"This is my brother, Jaime." Roman said. "Jaime, this is Ali." he continued. Jaime took Ali's free hand in his and shook it lightly. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Ali." Jaime said. Ali could see where Roman got his nice, Southern Charm. "Of all the years Roman and I have talked, you've never been mentioned, but pleased to meet you all the same." she said. Jaime laughed and thanked Roman for failing to mention him. He joked that if Roman had, Jaime might have put him to shame.

Roman told Ali to sit in the wicker rocking chair beside Jaime and wait while he went out to go get her bags. She had insisted that she should help, but he wouldn't allow it. He popped open the trunk of the car and noticed that there was about five bags. He looked at Ali, then back at the car, and back at Ali again. "I told you I should help." she said in a knowing tone. Ali got up out of the chair before Jaime or Roman could object. "I've been in a car for the past ten hours. The last thing I want to do is sit." she told them. Roman tossed her the two lightest bags and took the last three by himself. Jaime held open the door while Ali and Roman shimmied inside.

As they worked their way upstairs, Ali noticed the beautiful banister and the details of it. The stairs didn't creak when you went up, which was surprising for how old this house could possibly be. "Isn't your Mom here?" Ali asked suddenly. She tried not to sound worried, but she was. "She'll be in town until late tonight..." Roman replied. Ali relaxed knowing this. She had heard those horror stories of daughters-in-law meeting their mothers-in-law for the first time. "This...is your room." Roman said. It was a large room with a bed that could fit three people, at least. The walls were painted a deep red and the dresser might've been just as old as the house was. The silver framed mirror hanging on the wall showed Ali's dropped jaw. She couldn't help it. If this was just the guest room...what did Roman's and Jaime's and their mother's room look like? Ali guess beautiful beyond belief. Well their Mother's room anyways.

Ali dropped the bags on the floor. Not from amazement, but from pain. "You can set the bags down, hun." she told him. She figured his arms must be ready to fall off. If it hurt him, he didn't show it. "Do you like it?" Roman questioned. "I don't like it...I love it!" she replied. Ali opened a door, which she thought was a closet that turned out to be a bathroom. The tub was white with claws clutching something for legs. The sink came to her waist and stood on the bare marble floor. Obviously, a newer investment. "This is our bathroom." he said. "Ours?" "Yes, see that door right there?" he asked. Ali turned and looked. She nodded in reply. "That leads to my room. That's the only thing I don't like about this house." he told her. Ali didn't mind. She had just never shared a bathroom with a guy before. Roman took Ali's hand again and led her down the stairs. She could smell spiced apple pie and it made her stomach growl. All she had to eat today was a doughnut for breakfast and some Dr.Pepper in the car. Roman laughed. "You hungry, kiddo?" "Yea, just a little bit." she replied with a smile. "Well...it looks like Mom made some pie. Do you want any?" Roman searched the kitchen. "Sounds good to me." she said. Ali asked where the forks were and went across the room to get them. When she stood back up, Roman was there looking down at her. Ali jumped back from being surprised. "Ali, you don't understand how glad I am that you came." Ali smiled and grabbed his wrist. "Did you doubt I would?" she asked, interested. "Yes, I did sometimes..." he confessed. "But now that you're here," he continued. "I feel as if everything is fine and complete." Roman inched towards her and looked into her eyes. She held his gaze and didn't look away. "Hey! Break it up you two! Not in the kitchen!" Jaime had ruined the moment and Roman was going to enlighten him later about it. Roman sighed and Ali giggled. "C'mon Ali. Let's go somewhere with privacy." he said and he stuck out his tongue at his big brother. He dodged Jaime's playful punch on the way out.

By now, the stars were out and appeared absolutely beautiful to Ali. It was chilly and you could see your breath every now and then. Roman wrapped his arm around Ali. "Let me take you somewhere." he whispered. She laced her arm around his back as a sign of agreement. When she climbed into his trucked, she noticed how much better she liked the country than the city. She had only two days to spend with Roman though and that crushed her, so Ali tried not to think about that too much. As they drove down a dirt road, a country song was playing on the radio singing about love. Normally Ali would have changed the station, but it sounded perfect just at that time.

Roman sang to the song sweetly in a hushed voice. He turned out to a field and stopped the truck at a fence. He hopped out and opened the gate and ran back into the truck. After he drove a couple of feet, he got back out to close the gate, then jumped back in. He drove for about three minutes before stopping again. Ali trusted him so she wasn't even a little bit nervous. Roman got out of the truck again, but this time he went around to Ali's side and opened the door. He helped her out and then reached in the back seat for a blanket. That might come in handy since neither one of them had brought a jacket.

Roman opened the tailgate and jumped on it. Then he helped Ali up. The stars were amazing out here. There wasn't even light from the Cains's house. Roman sat down with his back to the back window and stretched his legs out. He motioned for Ali to come over by him. She snuggled up close to him with her head on his chest and her legs stretched out. Roman spread the large blanket over the two of them. The night couldn't get any better.

"I used to think the stars were the best thing in the universe." she said, breaking the silence. "Don't you still?" he asked, placing his hand on her back. "Yea, but when we moved to where we are now...the stars seemed to disappear along with my time and patience to watch them." "I used to sit under the stars when my Mom and Dad got a divorce." Roman told her. "I made a vow out here that I would never get a divorce." "Well, your wife will be one lucky lady." Ali told him while wrapping her arm around him a little tighter. They had a contest to see who could spot a shooting star first. Roman won and Ali told him to make a wish.

"What did you wish for?" she asked him. "You're not supposed to tell...I can show you though." he said, with a sly grin. Just then, he lifted up Ali's chin and kissed her sweetly on the lips. Ali felt completely safe right then and there. Being in his arms only made it better. "I love you." Roman told her. Ali looked at him and said "I love you too."

Ali knew from here on out that things could only get better and she hoped for many other nights under the stars with Roman.

 

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