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Undisclosure

Summary

Many years after the post-environmental apocalypse and the reconstruction of civilization and nature, the world populations united as one nation, " the Federal Republic of New Hope", ruled by one government with the slogan "Freedom, Peace, and Justice."

Mankind can be the builder and the destroyer. This is the same old loop. People believed in the world they promised to see; however, some group of human mysteriously gained the special gift. On ther other hand, it became their curse when the government alienated them from normal people. "H01 Case: is the abbreviation of their strange symptom and "the Risk" refers to those who have the symptom. Under the Act 2966, anyone who had been judged to the Risk and the Suspect or the corrupted human must be healed.

In San Bosa, a small district of Irina State, Alexis Davis was a girl whose future shone brightly. One day, everything turn upside down. She was arrested and convicted as the Suspect. The girl was sent to the rehabilitation program with her friends. There, they were caged in the seem-to-be futuristic paradise where the other captives resided together until the proper time for the experiment. No one knew how and which method the authority would apply to test with them. Alexis started to question herself.

 

What really happened during the post-apocalypse and the after?

 

What the purpose of this?

 

What will happen to them?

 

No one can answer.

She must discover it by herself.

 

This is a normal version without any mature content and less violent for all types of readers.

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Prologue

One day in October, five people sat around the table in the dining room to celebrate Margaret’s sixth birthday. It should have been a special day but the specialty would be elevated to another undesirable level.

The scent of happiness diffused around the room. Well, that how she perceived it. Everybody looked so innocent to the unwelcome incoming incident.

In front of the mountains of cakes was the girl with the curly blonde hair and deep green eyes. That was Margaret. The Stephens shared the same type of golden locks and green eye shades of jade gemstone.

This is the best day ever, thought she. Children always love party, sweets, and gifts, Margaret was no different. Her parents knew how to satisfy their children. Dad and Mom bought her the new released doll house that every girl in the school might have no chance to own it yet and Margaret would be the first one who showed them who was the real boss. The little girl imagined how her friends surrounding just to take a look at the new toy, still forgot that it was impossible to bring the dollhouse to the school. The most significant fact was the school would not allow her doing it. But the girl was so proud to be the first owner of this toy and forgot this rule. Molly, the big sister, brought her Princess necklace which was very lovely on her princess's costumes that her parents had bought for her last week. The only one who did not have to give her anything was Little Mary, her one-year-younger sister.

About a meter away from the dining table, the clear voice of a woman sounded from the television in the wooden frame with the antenna standing on top.

“Good evening, welcome to Cecilia’s Talk. During this dinner, I’m sure you cannot even just sit still because our guest today is Dr. Claster Deans, the Associate Professor of the law school of Hemsworth who heated up the current political situation. Hello, Dr. Deans.”

“Hi, lovely Cecilia.”

“Let’s talk about your article on the 122nd issue of Hemsworth Journals, on page 22-25. (She showed the journal to the spectators.) You declared your opposition against the Surveillance and Control of the Risks to Humankind Act 2966. Many people admired your work so much and how brave you are to speak it out. Me too. (“Thank you!” Dr. Deans said with pride.) Dear my fans in this live show and the home spectators, this article becomes the talk of the town as it has been published. (Her melodic voice totally attracted Margaret’s attention.) Dr. Deans, you’re saying that this law is against our liberation and human rights…”

“Dad, turn the TV off. We’re going to sing the song for little Meg,” Molly, aged sixteen, requested (with the reproachful look). Instead of following her order, her father just turned the volume down. He loved to watch the show and often claimed that Cecilia, the TV host, was “smart girl! She’s my classmate.”

And even six-year-old girl knew that Mom did not like how he demonstrated his adoration to the woman in TV. Moreover, Molly loved to jab her parents by making the joke that Cecilia was his first crush and Mother would be upset.

Margaret licked the sauce on the corner of her mouth, still hearing the voice from the TV.

“…well, we must consider the word to call these people carefully. ‘The Risk’, why do we call them the Risk? They are the same as us but gained or already have some special skill that the science today still looks for the answer. Yeah, that’s the reason why the laws have been enforced, the unexplainable situation. The question is what makes them special? I won’t talk about any religious belief or any side effect from chemical effects that may cause the mutation or even about the change in the DNA. It’s too imaginative but possible as well.

My point is how we value them. We might not found the answer yet but it’s not the reason we dehumanize these people. The fact is there are many people who are talented or own special skill in something and it’s not bizarre or scary. Why do we regard them as the threat to mankind? Why are we treating them like a fearful disease when they’re not? It’s like you are very skillful in painting or singing, or think about some odd ability we always see on TV shows or the circus. Perhaps, this is how we evolve as humans. According to the history, human keeps evolving physically and mentally. Think about it. Or not, why consider it’s just a very unique gift.”

 “…Happy Birthdaaay-tooooo-youu,” they nearly ended the song together, except her father who still glanced at the TV screen with eager interest so he hummed the song like an old vacuum cleaner.

“So you think that they are not sick people. There are the same as us? They deserve the human right as same as normal people.”

“Of course, they are the same and own the right to….”

While her father returned the attention to her, Margaret took a quick look at the television to check if he did turn off but amazingly, the screen turned off itself.

“Make a wish Meg and be careful of your wish.” The girl stopped watching the TV and peered at the cake before her face. “If you wish to have no school tomorrow, it will not be granted for sure. God loves good children and good children love school,” said Molly making everyone laugh.

What kind of the wish was she thinking of? To be like this forever, with daddy, mommy, Molly, and Mary, yes, I wish everything will be as good as today. The girl made the wish and blew the candles. Unfortunately, Margaret’s wish could not be true. Never. The black shadow had stood at the front door. The end of her happiness came too soon.

As she made the wish, the bell rang. Mom frowned.

“Oh, they cease the broadcast already.” Dad cried.

“No surprise. Darling, you have to find your new favorite channel. Say goodbye to your Cecilia. She’s doom.” Mom told him merrily without a single regret but satisfaction and she walked to the front door.

The little girl smiled at the cake and moved her index finger at the bottom cream then licked her finger.

“Hey, that’s not nice.”

She made her eyes pleading with the big sister.

“No, I’m not Daddy. Where’re you going?”

They lifted their head to look at Mr. Stephen. “It’s quiet. I go check your mom.”

Margaret waited for a minute then jumped out of the chair. The age of curiosity, the girl ran to the hallway and hid the tiny body behind the giant ceramic jar.

Two police in navy blue uniform were talking with her parents.

“Please, ma’am. Let we talk with Molly Stephen.” the first cop politely begged.

Molly? What did she do?

“No. I won’t let you take her.”

“This is the warrant under the law that we all know which law is and we don’t have to explain it. Please let us in, Ma’am,” he said in the monotone but a little bit haste too.

 “I’m sorry but Molly has no sign to become the Risk. She was hospitalized to the hospital when she was eight because of pneumonia. Please check her medical history before accusing my dear daughter.”

The risk? What is it?

Margaret ran to the dining room and asked her sister. “What did you do? Why the police come to the house?”

“What’re you talking about?” Molly ignored and stole her father’s french-fries. At this age, girls pretended to keep the daily low-fat diet but always surrendered to the seduction of delicious fried food when they thought no one was watching.

“But…” Then she saw Mary was going to unwrap her gift. “No! Mary. Get away from it! It’s not yours!”

The youngest sister yelped when hearing the thunder shout, in an instant panic, she ran back to her seat.

“Don’t mess with my toy!”

“I want to play!” Mary voiced back.  

“Hey! Shut up both of you. Meg, you should know how to share. She’s your sister.”

“She will have it when it’s her turn.”

Before the three sisters could yell at each other for more, the parent returned.

“Molly, do you have anything to tell us?” the sudden question alarmed the girl whose fingers still dip a French-fries into cheese sauce.

Seeing french-fries on Molly’s arms falling onto the table, Margaret made the face of doubt. Suddenly, she felt like all the lights in the room turned dimmer but actually, they were still as bright as they were. Margaret saw her big sister had the question mark on her face.

“What’re you talking about?”

“I told you! The police come.”  

“Be quiet Margaret. Yes, they come and are waiting for you outside,” explained Momma. “They talked about that law.”

“Which la…” Molly’s face abruptly painted white while her mouth started terribly shaking. The girl jumped out the chair to a corner of the room. “I-I-I didn’t do anything. It just happened. I don’t know how I could do it but…help me. I don’t want to go.” Her sister pleaded. The sudden change of their gestures dazed the other two little girls, especially Margaret who was able to understand the situation better than Little Mary but still not comprehended the whole thing.

“Tell me, baby, tell me what happened!” Mom urged.

“A car…it was a car slid to my direction and…I stopped it. I-I don’t know how I did it but it stopped…just stopped. Okay? I did nothing! Maybe the driver pushed the brake!”

“Please come with us, Ms. Stephen”

No one knew when the police officers stepped inside their house without willing permission. But now they stood in the dining room. Margaret glared at the intruders who were the officials. All she understood was they would take her sister away on her birthday and she could not allow it.

That’s very rude!

“We have the warrant, the special one. And if you don’t come with us, we must take some force.”

Don’t threaten us!” Mom screamed in anger. She ran and barred her arms around Molly in the act of the true protector. Dad tried to calm the situation down; he warned Mom, “Don’t be silly, Agatha. Please, we have kids here. Let us talk to our girl first. Meg, Mary, go to your rooms. NOW!

Two little girls heard his shouting and were shocked again so they ran to the stairways quickly. Her father normally had never raised his voice like this. Margaret stamped her feet on every step just to show them that they made her angry.

“We have no time. Come here, MOLLY. Be a good girl.”

Who went the rooms? No one. Margaret and Mary sat behind the balcony and when their father looked up, they crouched on the floor to hide his gaze. They listened to their mother and sister who were disputing with the cops. They heard Molly tearfully shouting not to go, yelling that they would kill her. Margaret and Mary began to cry due to the fear provoked by the adults’ heating argument and violent words. They did not want their sister to be killed or taken.

And they heard the noises as if they started fighting. Then Mother screamed. The girls dared not to watch so they wrapped each other’s arms and closed their eyes. Margaret prayed to God, to everything that could stop the violence in their house. Margaret wished her birthday party back.

“Stop it, girl”

“Molly, please don’t do this. You make it worse.”

Molly screamed in her deepest fear. “I caaan’t. I don’t know.”

Father screamed out loud begging, “Please. Don’t do this. I can calm her. There are little kids here, SIR! PLEASE”

“Move away Ma’am. She is the threat to us.”

“No, she’s my baby and you can’t take her…”

There was only one gunshot that ended all chaos; the one shot that destroyed everything. Margaret arms released her sister and hurriedly rushed to see what happened while Mary tailed behind. She still did not know what exactly happened and why her birthday was ruined. In front of the girl, her father screamed in terror and knelt on the floor, desperately wiping. The cruel police stood in silence and they looked at the two girls with eyes widened.

In front of Margaret, her dear mother and sister collapse on the ground. The blonde woman died with her eyes open. On top of her back, the teenage girl’s body shook, her mouth saying, “Mom?—Mom.” Molly’s green eyes met her and suddenly Margaret initially realized that her sister was not there anymore. It was just an empty body without the sign of life. The moment she understood how the soul departed from flesh and bones. Those bright green eyes gradually turned lifeless, the same way the light turned off.

 

God doesn’t exist and if they do, God is the cruel God.  

 

And this was their last birthday celebration.

Chapter 1: Doctor and Nurse

30 Years later,

San Bosa District, 3012,

 

“Have a good date, Erin”, said the doctor to the chief nurse. The recent emergency case almost spun their head around. Caleb’s team had changed their clothes from the surgical gown to the normal medical uniform and some returned to their offices.

Only Erin left the hospital early due to the important appointment with a nice guy. Who knows? He might be her last train.

“Thanks, Doctor. Really excited. Have a good evening.”

Seeing Erin galloped to the door, following her heart like a young girl forced a smile on his face and the others’.  

Caleb shook his hand with the others and thanked them before going back to his own office. 

The operation was successful. The team could take off the spoon out of the patient’s stomach even though how it went through his esophagus was still a mystery.

Caleb Davis was a forty-five-year-old man and a surgeon working at San Bosa Hospital. It was a small hospital in the small town. San Bosa was a district in Idrina State, located in the southwestern region of the Federal Republic of New Hope. A peaceful town and yes, not very big, so most people knew each other well. Like the latest patient, he was a restaurant owner in the heart of the city. His business had been run from generation to generation.

The case like this was not a regular one. What kept them busy was the patients who thought they were nearly dead and even the reaper had not taken any glance on.  Caleb secretly admitted that once there was an emergency or serious case, it kindled the old fire in him but also the guilt of his unacceptable eagerness too.

On the wall behind his chair, there were many photos hung on it. One was the photo of Macario Delgado, Head of San Bosa District, who cut the ribbon to open the celebration ceremony of the hospital’s renovation. They received the budget for the renovation after three years of the request. It was two years ago. In the photo, Caleb stood behind Delgado with his eyes fixing on something that was not in there (and he could not remember what he had been looking at). His bronze skin was a little bit glowing due to the sunlight reflecting on the sweat. Lean and tall, Caleb was outstanding from the others. His daughters said that he was very handsome in that photo with the giggle when saying that. He knew they mocked him because he also saw himself looking funny.

Next to it was the photo of President of the Federal, Georgina Lawrence with short pixie red hair. Every governmental office must have her photo as one of the main decorations. For the other photos, they were his family.

“Farewell the age of terror! My New Hope people, today, we’ll celebrate the glory of our new freedom, our forever peace, our true equality!”

New freedom…it was a lovely choice of word. What kind of ‘new freedom’ she meant, he questioned to himself while recalling Ms. President’s speech. The news today demonstrated how the world came up against plenty of serious problems but people were brainwashed to be obsessive in the unnecessary information. Every day, he would hear the small news about terrorists in borderlands, robbery, thieves, while the prior topic the media kept re-informing them was celebrities’ dating. Freedom was only a beautiful word to lure people when the options were limited.

 He caught sight of someone’s shadow through the gap of the door and sighed when that person opened it without asking for permission because there was the only one person would keep performing the reckless manner.

The guest was a good-looking woman wearing the clean white uniform that transmitted the scent of a fabric softener mixing with the intense fragrance of her perfume. She had her shiny blonde in a low bun. With those jade green eyes, she used them to stare at him. She was one of the nurses here and a long-time friend…well, ‘friend’ was the word preserved to Caleb only. Her reputation was quite unpleasant here. This woman loved flirting with the co-workers. Once a man gave her his heart, she cruelly tore it. Caleb was one of her unaccomplished missions even though he was married. She had the problem to aware of morality. 

The way she looked at him consistently made him uncomfortable. Therefore, Caleb shot her a reproachful glance. He did not like her naughty childish game.

“Why are you looking at me like that? I come here to talk about your daughter. Here, in this magazine, I saw her. I want to know about the scholarship too.  Does she win?” Her voice declared she was very excited.

The woman opened the magazine called “Femme”. Caleb saw many beautiful girls in ‘Lexy’ jeans, a popular fashion brand among adolescents nowadays. Ripped jeans, he did not understand why the young people loved ripped clothes. He spotted a girl with light-brown and medium hair who owned a pair of illuminated blue sapphires in her eyes. With that kind of face, she could conquer the world. The face that ‘they’, the staff at the child adoption center, named her ‘Angela’ before Caleb and Bianna took her to their family and she became their ‘Alexis’ since then.

“She’s so beautiful, Caleb. The girl is prettier every time I see her.”

“Yes, she is.” Caleb could not hide his proudness though he was familiar with the positive words people complimented all of his children.

“Congratulations father of the year—no of every year, I think.” She gave a wink.

Caleb shook his head modestly, “You overrate me. They are naturally special and smart. God gifted them the gracefulness. Bianna and I are very lucky parents.”

She rolled her eyes when he mentioned the word ‘God’; it was like that word irritated her ears. “You raised them well, you and Bianna. No god’s work, honey. I just heard that she got accepted to the Medical School yesterday. Amazing jobs, doctor. They’re amazing and you too. All of your children are good and smart. It’s because of you. Don’t be humble. Tell me, which one does the girl choose? Medical school or modeling job?” She did not just speak but rubbed his feet with hers.

The doctor politely removed his feet from the dangerous position. His heartbeat eccentrically danced, not because of the sexual arousal, but the fear of her quick move. Caleb had neither fallen into the trap nor curious to learn her charm. On the contrary, he was afraid if someone came and mistook the situation. The only ones he cared were his wife and his children, the most precious treasure he would never let anything taking them away.

“I’m married and I love her so much. How many times did I tell you not to do this? I don’t like your game. I despise it. Delete my name on your list. Please!”

“Okay, relax.” She gave a shrugged, no sign of understanding. “So?”

The doctor held his breath with a lot of patience. “Alexis wants to do both but it’s hard to study and work at the same time. When she’s going to be a medical student, she will focus on her study only. This work…” He tapped his finger on the photo, “…just a part-time job. She earns good money but she knows what she has to do,”

The woman chuckled. “Sound like your answer, not hers. How about the scholarship? I heard she tends to win and that means a lot of money. And your family may have to relocate.”

She talked about the government scholarships offering to five students who had excellent grades and live in the fourteen states. It meant the big fortune for the winners. They will be admitted to the private University of Futuristic Metropolis, the same title of the capital, where all the elites and the best of the bests education courses were there. After the graduation, the scholars would be admitted to work in the governmental organizations subjecting to their field. It was not only about money but also the bright future.

“The result will be announced next week. There are almost hundred candidates from all over the nation. Honestly, we wish she’ll win but the other kids are the crème too. Well, since Jesse and Bryce couldn’t, we tried not to hope because we don’t want to pressure her. Just see their names as the candidates, we’re so proud.”

“I see.”

Caleb stood up and arranged his bags. It was eight and his wife might finish her shift. Bianna might be waiting while chatting with her mates. He would not risk his life letting her find him with this woman alone in his office. Women had the superior sense than men, especially towards women. And Bianna was a woman who knew this nurse’s notorious reputation well. His wife was not too positive to think they were just talking. This woman had few friends among the other nurses here.

“You’re on duty? Night shift?” asked he.

“Yes, night shift. You don’t have to shorten our conversation, doctor. I know you love her but just talking to me for a few minutes will not hurt anyone. Can you just give me sometimes?” She bent her head like a little girl begging a sugar daddy but Caleb was not her daddy.

“You don’t think people know you are the real heartbreaker? Last month, Phil kept himself and spoke to none. Last year, you broke Nathan’s heart into pieces and he had to request for transfer. Oh, and there are many men out there. We’re getting old. Why don’t you stop playing and find someone like your sister did. I mean to find the right one?” His tone sounded like a father in the church.

She almost opened her mouth to make the counter argument but Caleb stopped it.

“Don’t,” he said glaring at her pretty face. “Don’t argue. And don’t come into my office like this again. Next time, I report to Erin for sure, I will.”

Yeah, that Erin who had the first date of her forty years and also the head of all nurses here. He hoped to see the fear in those bright green eyes. Funny to do this, everybody knew she had no fear.

She stood up with an arrogant smile. “Your words hurt me enough, Caleb, such a cold.” She pinched her voice just to make fun of him.

See?

However, before she walked out of the room, Caleb inhaled and left the final message; intended to kill her stubbornness and this time was colder than ever, “I’m serious, Mary, please has some senses. You’re not a child anymore.”

Chapter 2: The Davis

A small house was situated two blocks away from the city park owned by the Davis. It, painted soft white like an egg shell, was Caleb’s paradise on earth. On the lawn at the front building, the small wood workshop stood timidly, in which Caleb would build small toys and some crafts that helped him earn small sum. It was Alexis’ idea. She took his crafts, uploaded the photos of his works online, and printed the small brochure to promote his works for sales. She did not do it for money but to make her father proud of himself. Of course, he was proud and satisfied with his little angel’s cleverness.

He parked the vehicle inside the garage. This old gray mini-van served them faithfully for about twelve years. Caleb helped Bianna got down in an act of the true gentleman as he kept doing since their first date. Her big dark-brown eyes had seen through his heart, which were powerful enough to warm it. Her dark bronze skin was the same shade as his but more beautiful, thanks to the smoother and healthier skin. Bianna was a chubby woman with narrow shoulders, however, she had the brightest smile that anybody could compare with. They dated for two years and Caleb asked her to marry him. After the effort to have their own child had failed, they adopted Jesse. Seeing the boy playing alone made them dissatisfied so they adopted Bryce two years later. Another three years later, Alexis came to their family. They thought the family was big enough but as their children grew up, the couples were afraid to be left alone so eleven years later, Charlie became their fourth and the last adopted child.

No, they were not rich; the Davis’ belonged to the middle class. The house, in fact, was available for four members to stay comfortably but with six members under the same roof, it was no different to a rabbit hole. Still, they did not get obstructed but unable to be prodigal.

Caleb and Bianna walked into the living room where Charlie was sitting in front of the television watching his favorite cartoon. The boy was only six. When he heard his parents’ arrival, he turned his face to show the red cheeks like the tomatoes in Bianna’s backyard. He was the only blond in the family and had the ivory-white skin. Everyone called him ‘Little Charlie or Monkey (or Shorty Charlie by Jesse when he was moody)’.

They were lucky that Bryce stayed home for a few weeks during the summer vacation so she could take care of her little brother while Caleb and Bianna went to work. Without Bryce, they had to leave Charlie with the old lady who was their long-time neighbor. Sadly, the boy hated going to her house because she would not allow him to watch his favorite TV show because she was addicted to a melodrama series and could not miss any episode. Without Bryce, Alexis would do the job but she had gone from home this week due to the part-time job as a young amateur model Caleb disapproved of.

“Be a good boy today?” The doctor carried his son just when Charlie bumped his forehead at his legs.

“Yeah, I’m always a good boy.”

Caleb giggled and snuggled the boy into the father’s warmth.

“Had a serious case?” the girl in the oldy orange t-shirt and white track pants asked. Her skin was golden tan but the most eye-catching parts were the straight black-raven hair, high cheekbones, and angular jawlines. Her height was not that high. Bryce was studying medicine at the University of Delphi where Alexis would continue her study too unless she could win the scholarship.

“Yes,” Caleb told the daughter releasing his son to the floor. Bianna rushed to the kitchen without greeting her daughter. Amused at how straving she was, Caleb laughed through his nose. “I left the chicken stew in the fridge. Did you see it?”

“We already cleaned the pot, dad,” the girl said and laughed with her bell-like voice. Her father was very good at cooking and his stew was the best in the town. Due to the job at the hospital, he rarely performed this marvelous skill.

“Alex is already home. Just so you know.”

Caleb raised his brows. “She came early. I thought that it will take a week.”

“Yep, but the star boy is missing. I can’t remember his name but my friends…everyone is talking about his news. Ask her the details, dad. I have to do my assignments now so…gotta go.” Bryce gave him a short hug and walked into her room that she shared with her younger sister.

In the third year, the study was tougher than ever. Bryce could not allow herself spending more time for a little chit-chat even in the vacation, that was why Charlie kept himself addicted to the television when his sister would appear during meal times only. Bryce was close to Alexis but they shared no similar traits. His oldest daughter was not the kind of talkative but strict to her schedule so if she meant no time, she really meant it.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, young lady,” he shouted and shook his head when the girl collected her voice to focus on her study desk only.

“Darling, they left your stew for the two of us.” Bianna placed the pot on the table. Both of them smiled at each other, Bryce just told him they cleaned it all but she lied. The kids knew that their parents had no time even to buy the instant meal outside. The daughter kindly warmed it for them. Caleb and Bianna were the parents that would never leave home if they had no work to do because they preferred the family time more than anything else. 

When his parents were messing with the meal, Charlie went back to his seat to continue watching. Caleb sighed, thinking that he should spend more time with the youngest son and wondered why Jesse and Alexis hid in the upstairs instead of playing with the little boy. 

“They’re talking. Maybe something serious,” he initiated the suspicious thought to Bianna. Caleb always interested in his kids’ business. A little bit bossy dad he was. Still, he had an excuse, because unlike Bryce, Jesse and Alexis were the kinds of entertainers and they normally did not leave Charlie stayed alone like this if they were at home. Teenagers loved to keep the secret from parents and Caleb was not the cool one. He died to know what they were hiding.

His wife seemed not to be interested. Contrast to the husbad, she was the kind of a mommy who understands how teens are.  “Why? I mean why you have to be so curious? They’s kids. It’s their business. They will go down soon, don’t worry. Come on. Sit!”

When Bianna gave him the disapproving glare, Caleb sat down and focused on his meal quietly. He was the one who had never agreed on Alexis’s decision to work as the part-time model. Thinking it was risky to let the child involving in the business that regards on the appearance more than the brain; on the other hand, Bianna thought it was another big opportunity for Alexis to have one more choice for her life. Caleb knew wholeheartedly that the main reason the girl joined the modeling agency because of money and some privilege discount or free clothes from the brands, but he could not find himself in peace due to underlying reason that caused him worrying. Comparing to Bianna, he was more conservative and overthinking.

“They grow up. They have lovers. They have to leave us someday. It’s their lives. It’s okay for them to have some secrets that we have no idea about it.” She grabbed his hands and looked at him like a mother teaching her little son. His heart melted, surrendered to those eyes and her reasoning as always.

“It’s okay to be worried as a parent but we know well how they are. They’re wonderful kids. You know that.”

“Yes, you're right. You’re always right.” He tried to be agreemable with his wife. “I don’t know why I always concern about her more than the others. Maybe because…”

Bianna understood what he was going to talk about so she stopped it. “Oh, come on! Don’t start it.”

The husband did not listen. “You know I always dream that she leaves us. I always fear that dream.”

“Oh, I know,” she replied, uninterested.

In the nightmare, Caleb saw Alexis stood on the cliff. He told her to come back to him but the dark wave swaps the girl away. He could saw her face, hearing her voice against the furious wind, saying goodbye and waving a hand. “I’ll be alright”, she said.

But the father is not.

It was weird when he kept dreaming of it. Sometimes, the scene changed and she was dragged away by mysterious hands. Caleb told Bianna just one of the nightmares.

“It’s just a dream, honey,” her voice was not stable as before when Caleb switched to the serious mode. The dream was only a dream but the same dream he kept dreaming…was dangerous to the heart.

Sometimes Caleb believed in predestination but he tried not to believe in these bad dreams. All of their children were good and smart but Alexis had something more than that. The secret that the parents had never talked to each other and anyone else, they tried to forget it and let the girl lived her life. Even Alexis had not been aware of the danger from her talent.

However, while Caleb worried and Bianna denied her instinct, in their deepest consciousness, both perceived the strong signal from the premonition telling that Caleb’s dream would become true someday. Bianna tried so hard to be rational but she was spiritual more than she attempted not to believe she was.

“When I was young, I saw the oldest son of my neighbor beaten by the cops. He was arrested and disappeared. Those who protested the laws and those who requested to amend it, they disappear. No more sound, no traces, no witness, they’re gone.”

“It’s long ago. This is the new age, love.”

New freedom meant the new method to terrify us, Caleb opposed but did not speak it out.   

It was the act 2966 that turned the society into the age of terror until the Revolution by the law enforcers themselves. Later, as President Lawrence declared in her propaganda, “New Hope, New Freedom.” It seemed like the situation had been ameliorated. In fact, the terror kept hiding out of the light. People knew the terror of this law still existed. 

Bianna turned her face away from him. Caleb knew she did not want to hear the truth. “This is why I want her to keep the low profile. Be a good student is the pride of us. Be bigger than this…”

“She told us—confirmed us that it’s just part-time. Honey, it’s just small work. No one talks about our girl. No one recognizes her except her friends. She chose her path already, to be like you. She’s gonna be fine.” Bianna insisted her thought.

Then Caleb thought of Mary, a nurse and colleague in the hospital, the one that tried to seduce an unattractive married man like him. She was not born here but moved from the other city with her sister’s family ten years ago. Apart from her heartbreaking behavior, she was nice and clever. Until one day, when he took little Alexis to the hospital just to survey his workplace, Mary insisted on playing doctor with the girl. After he came to take his daughter back, Mary had registered the girl’s medical history into the database that connected the hospital networks all over the nation. Moreover, Alexis profile indicated that she was allergic to dust.

“But you’re not!”, he said to the two. “What’re you doing, Mary? You put the fake profile in the data. If they find out…”

“She didn’t, Daddy. I do have an allergy. I always feel sick—I think I get a rash every time I clean the room,” the girl opposed and started to fear the symptom the woman had planted inside her head. 

“Oh for god’s sake!” He eyed on the nurse fiercely. “Let me edit her profile.”

The nurse shut the computer down and smiled at him. “We have done some tests, Doctor. Don’t be serious. Think about your daughter carefully. I save her.”

The message inside those green eyes implied everything. She had discovered the girl’s secret. Caleb found out that Mary did not do it to Alexis only but with few kids too. He had mixed feelings every time he saw his daughter covered her nose and mouth and feared to be sick when she had to do the cleaning and asked for mask every time. Ten years later, Celeb still wondered why he had not edit the girl’s profile and why he had agreed with this woman.

“Are you alright?” asked Bianna, concerning his silence.

He shook his head, “I’m alright. Let’s finish it.” He pointed his finger at the bowl.

Chapter 3: The Missing of a Teen Star

He was gone and might be for a while, and no one had no idea what had happened to him. It was mysterious and surprising for Alexis when she saw the news reported the missing of John Lloyd.

“…a 19-year-old girl, Sally Mumfords stayed at the resort with her family on the day before the disappearance of the teen stars and the other three youngsters. The girl witnessed Lloyd and his gang enjoyed a wild party before they went missing. The police found some illegal drugs and mixed alcohols in their villa that they might use during the party. As he went missing longer than two weeks ago, Lloyd’s family said his manager informed them that Lloyd was busy. Due to his non-stop works and events schedule, his parents had not been skeptical. The police said that, according to the primary interrogation, Tim Young, Lloyd’s manager, tried to cover the disappearance of John Lloyd with the purpose to cover the illegal evidence that connects the actor to unlawful drugs. However, his true intention has not been clarified if it was about drug or the other reasons.

Regarding Carl Park, the Inspector of Police Head Office of Riverland said, due to the fact that the villa stood next to the cliff, it was possible they jumped into the ocean because of the hallucination from drug’s effect. Now, the marine police also joined the investigation team in the search of their bodies while the forestry department unit of Riverland was searching for the traces of the missing teens in the woods.

John Lloyd, ages 20, is the new rising star from Blue Bell. The movie led to his fame is “Sunrise in the west”, a very famous romantic teen movie. He becomes the face of Lexy Jeans, Rowan Watch, and Ambrosia Drink. Now, “The Fall of Ozymandias” has been delayed its production, in the search of the new young King Ozymandias.”

Alexis closed San Bosa Post newspaper and said, “The news is funny.”

The girl was still in a slim t-shirt and long skinny jeans. Her backpack lied peacefully on her brother’s bed. Those elegant long legs stretched in a chilling manner.

She had the opportunity to play a minor role in the advertisement for the government’s campaign ‘Drink Milk!’ which John Lloyd was the main role and he was the brand ambassador who had been absent for the whole shooting, resulting in the cancellation. The location was in Paradiso, the special economic zone where people would spend their time to impress the blue diamond ocean and white sand beach. Alexis almost had one free day to travel around the Escape Island but had to return home early because of John’s absence, (and because it would waste her money to spend time on the luxurious paradise on earth.) Well, she got paid for the waste of time but the girl hoped for the full payment rather than the small compensation. The campaign arranged by the government and her face would be on-air all over the country. This could be the big opportunity for the beginning of fame.

“Why it’s funny?” asked Jesse. He was a twenty-two young man. His graduation ceremony would begin within two months and he had enrolled at the law school for the legal master degree. Jesse worked as a Junior Legal Officer of a small company in Hemsworth.

“John cannot drink alcohol. He’s allergic to it. Another thing is why the resort staffs have no idea about their customers disappeared? What the hell they were doing?” Emotional? Yes, she was.

He saw her point. “Yeah, that’s weird.”

“It’s illogical!”

Even though John Lloyd was the superstar but he was far from some haughty celebrities Alexis had met. They became friends during the shooting for Lexy jeans on Femme Magazine. It was her luck to have two chances working with him twice. For this reason, she could call him a friend. After the last shooting, the studio had organized a small party to celebrate, especially for an unexpected long-time job (because the main actress was so demanding). Everyone knew John could not drink alcohol so the team served him only juices, soft drinks, and water. It was the fact, not calling for attention.

“But he might use the drug,” the brother assumed.

Alexis rolled her eyes. “Many parties have pots, I admit. No! I’ve never used it. (“Not a good liar!”) No! Don’t judge me when you’ve tried it. (“Never!”) Stop! Don’t make me out of the topic! John will never touch those things and he warned everyone not to. This is why people love to work with him. He is no brainless. Those drugs might belong to his friends. I remember John once told me that to be successful in this path is hard but to remain bright and shiny is harder so he dares not risking abusing his fame.”

“Aha, you seem to close with him and he kept talking to you about his career and his dream…blah…blah. And how about your Davy? Where is your sweetheart?” The brother gave the cunning grin.

The girl glared at the beautiful hazel eyes, the same color Davy owned. Alexis knew her brother was teasing but she did not like it. He and Bryce often said ‘Your Davy’ in the mocking tone as if having a boyfriend was shameful. Yes, she was the only member who officially had a lover. Alexis and Davy expressed their love to the public freely like general lovebirds, causing jealousy to Jesse sometimes because, in contrast to his sister, he had to cover his own romantic relationship. 

 “It’s not like that. Do you think a boy like John will fall for me? Impossible! We’re friends. That’s all. I know I know too little about him but I can say that he’s not what the news trying to make us believe. And Davy is the one…” she shut her mouth, being aware of the spoils of her words but could not conceal the red radish face when talking about her bae.

“Aha,” Jesse stopped teasing his sister but still grinned. John might be a superstar but Alexis was not ordinary attractive. As the big brother, he saw how boys looked at her and understood how they admired her. She was one of the most popular girls in the school or a dream girl and was the recent prom queen. How possible would this superstar not fall for her?

“Okay, I won’t tease you. Let’s be serious. I think he’s not dead but is under arrest.”

“Under arrest?”

“You know the law, the act 2966.”

The girl shook her head. She surely recognized the law but denied his assumption, “But he has the allergy.”

“Well, if he did something apparently catching the eyes of the authority, he won’t survive the accusation. Honestly, even if he suffers from every severe sickness in this world, it won’t help.” Jesse threw some paper sheets onto Alexis’s laps. “Read it.”

Her eyes scanned all the letters “…Clause 1, paragraph 4, those who possess any special alienated ability which is excluded from the natural human’s gifts must register as the Risk at any local administrative organization or the police station…..Clause 2, paragraph 1, everyone owns the right to tip off the police about any clue, trace, discovery, and suspicion of those who are qualified or tends to be the Risk or the Suspect. In the case of H01 case, the act to protect the Federal is not regarded as privacy violation…”

“This is...”

“The Surveillance and Control of the Risks to Humankind Act 2966,” replied Jesse. He brushed his frizzy dark hair with his fingers. It was forever messy.

“You think John has been arrested on this charge?”

Her brother nodded. He searched for something on the desk, then smiled and submitted another paper to her. Jesse was familiar to share his thought with Alexis rather than with Bryce who mostly made the annoying face to him.

“The mysterious disappearance of the celebrities who have been accused as the danger to humanity by the Act 2966: a study case of Desiree Dalka -- shit!” she snapped a bad word after seeing the stamp on the paper’s head written “CONFIDENTIAL” and “DESTROYED”. The date was one year ago.

Someone did not follow the order and this ‘someone’ was her brother.

“Jesse, you shouldn’t have it. No, you should destroy it.”

“Yeah, I know but read it, quickly,” he urged, a little annoyed of her over-panic.

They heard the sound of the car engine, their parents just arrived home.

“I should surprise them.” Jesse stopped his sister and pointed at the paper. “Bryce will tell them. Just read it, okay? No one’s watching us!”

“Okay,” she replied tiredly and quickly scanned the document again.

All the information she learned was Desiree Dalka was found missing two years ago. She was the lone heir of Dalka corporations. As her parents died from car accidents when she was thirteen, her uncle took care of her but also died when she reached the age of fifteen—murdered by the girl in compliance with the rumor. But since there’s no clear evidence, she was free from the accusation. In the mature age of eighteen, Desiree sold all her shares to the shareholders and spent the money on parties and travels. People said she became promiscuous, party-animal, and gone-wild. Two years ago, Desiree disappeared from all the gossips. The news reported her missing and assumed it was about kidnap or crime or drug dealers but the next day until today, no channel or newspapers reported the progress of the investigation. Since then, her name fades away from the elite society of Futuristic Metropolis. Her name and her identity have been forgotten.

Alexis returned the paper to the brother. “Your fast reading always amazed me, phew.”

“You think he’ll…” 

“Yes. Believe me, if your friend involves in this case, another few days, we would not hear his name again,” Jesse confirmed.

Alexis leaned her back on the wall where Jesse had hung the poster of his favorite band. If John encountered this case, there would be no more John Lloyd and that was really sad to think. Hoped this would not happen to anyone. This law went against the human right. They declared “New Hope, New Freedom”. If they really gave people the real freedom so why did this law still exist?

It’s the new freedom, not the real freedom, so it’ll be the artificial freedom. The voice in her mind answered it.

The e-mail popped up on the screen. Jesse hurried to his laptop. Her eyes could catch the sender’s name “Joshua”. Her turn then, she revealed a mocking smile in revenge when he read his boyfriend’s e-mail. Then she thought of Elodie, her best friend who secretly got a hard crush on him since she was twelve. Elodie dated some boys but could not get over Jesse. Unsurprisingly, when Jesse was in the high school, he was the team captain of the school’s soccer club and one of the hottest guys. Like other girls, Elodie fell for him but all she could do was just secretly love him.

“They know who you really are and whom you love. They’re just waiting for you to tell them the truth.”

Her brother did not give any answer. He just shrugged and let the topic sank down. 

“I think it’s time to greet dad and mom.”

“It’s alright, just a mail,” he said. “You haven’t told me about the scholarship yet. How was the interview?”

He mentioned the scholarship which she died to win it. The scholarship offered by the government was the best financial aid and opportunity to everyone who could win it. The key to success was to live in the capital. Futuristic Metropolis was the capital city of the Federal Republic of New Hope, and the central technology, education, and innovation. The majority of populations were the upper class. Delphi might have a top medical school but the medical school in the University of Futuristic was the best. So if she had to choose, she prefers Futuristic. Additionally, after the graduation, she could admit to any hospital in the capital where all equipment and salary were better. It meant they stepped up from middle class to the upper middle class or to the upper class if she could make it. Jesse and Bryce were also the candidates during their years but could not win. Alexis knew she was the last hope. Or else, they had to wait more than ten years for Charlie to grow up.

“I try not to hope but I think there’s the chance. They seemed to interest…in me, quite a lot” She told him with eyes shone the light of confidence.

Jesse arched one of his eyebrows, skeptical. “Did they ask about the government, laws, or any social issues?”

“Of course, they did. There was one question about the newest military regime against the terrorists. I protested it.”

“What?” Jesse made the face as if he could not believe what he heard.

“I know it’s odd that I protest but I do and normal people do. The regime has zero concern for the citizens in the borderlands. You know that! It’s too rigid and inhumane. I may disapprove but also demonstrate the alternative choices and, yes, the better. They said, ‘my dear Ms. Davis, you speak our mind and suggest very helpful ideas to us.’ And that’s cool, right? They also asked me about…H01 case and the Act.”

The H01 case was the short term word to describe those who had the superior gift which the government regarded as illegal and disastrous to the nation. It was the origin of the act 2966, leading the world to the age of terror many ten years ago.

Jesse laughed so loud. “Oh my goodness…I’m sure you explained how you want it to be abolished and the new way to cope with the Risks.”

“Yep” She nodded as if it was not a big deal.

“You lose, totally lose. No hope, I mean it. Tell Bryce what you answered them, she will tell you the same.”

His words smashed into her head like a boomerang. Alexis could not understand. She even remembered how they looked at her with the great admiration.

“No, they…”

“I know you’re always smart but sometimes your positive side makes you blind—plus, your over-confidence as well. Alex, think carefully. Why they want the student who disagrees with their policy to work with them?”

“It’s not about to find a puppet…but…but.” Now her words opened up the eagle’s eyes mode. After the graduation, the scholar would work in the governmental organization and Jesse had the point. “Is…it? Damn it.” She cursed herself more than any other times. Alexis desperately needed the scholarship so much.

“Oh Alex, you’re so naïve.” Jesse combed her hair. The girl brushed his hands away. “So…why don’t you win?”

“Because I was Mr. Naïve like you are but now I become Mr. Brightside.”

Alexis bumped her head into his chest. “Jesse!”

He laughed, “What? I told you the truth.” The big brother softly moved her head away.

“I still have faith in myself. So let’s see the announcement next week.” She stood up glaring at him stubbornly challenging and grabbed her backpack. “I bought some local snacks. Don’t forget to try.” Her room was on the lower floor and she shared it with Bryce. If she could not win the scholarship, they would share the room again at Delphi. Living with Bryce was not the problem. They might fight about the territory sometimes but never had the big fight. Like other teenagers, Alexis loves to have her own room.

“Alex,” her brother called.

“What?”

Jesse was thinking of something but Alexis could not find what it was. Then, he said, “Perhaps, I’m wrong. You may counter their regime but you are an obedient girl…if they see that…if they take notice of a rebel in you. They choose you.”

“What do you mean?”

Jesse exhaled. “Nothing. Hey!” He stopped her again. “Don’t worry too much about money. I’ve got a job. Master program is tough but I still have time. And you can do your part-time job during the first and second year like Bryce did. After that, when Bryce and I graduate, we’ll have a full job. Everything will be better. Trust me.” He ended his sentence with the charming wink.

Alexis smiled a little and nodded. The higher education, the higher cost, they tried their best to reduce their parents’ responsibilities. Like the time, age has never stopped increasing, so do they parent. The Davis children wanted Caleb and Bianna to retire from hard work and have a good living for the rest of their life.

“Hey. One last thing, it’s summer but dad and mom are very busy. Maybe, we can persuade Bryce to go out tomorrow. Take Charlie out and find something to eat. Take him to the park and eat ice-cream. He loves it. You may invite June, your Davy, and Edie.”

Alexis chortled. “June and Edie? You want to the see the cat fight?”

“Edie and Davy or Davy and June…but I like talking with Edie more so…Edie and Davy.” He sighed, “I don’t understand girls anymore. They hate each other but group together. And you’re standing in between.”

“Nah, let’s talk later. I have to take a shower and have to see them.”

Jesse ducked his head and backed into his room. As soon as Alexis sneaked to the downstairs, her parents changed their face when they saw her. Alexis realized which topic they were talking about.

Not only young people love gossiping.

Chapter 4: Lovesick Teenagers

Alexis made her hair in a ponytail. She did not forget to apply mascara and painted lips with rosy pink lipstick that would be matchable for the summer look. The girl checked her final appearance in the mirror. Great, told herself. White t-shirt, black leather jacket, jeans (of course, she wore Lexy jeans), and a pair of grey sneakers. The same old style but it was her favorite look. Sometimes she wore a pretty dress but jeans always made her feel herself.

“It’s summer.”

The girl bit her lips when the older sister bluffed with the amused smile. “Hot sun and jacket?”

“It’s not that hot,” Alexis defended herself but removed the jacket from her top and roped it on her waist.

Inside the room, there were two single beds. The room had been separated into two zones, Bryce’s territory and Alexis’s territory. In Bryce’s space, there was only a country band poster on the table desk and one mahogany guitar. Bryce was very good at singing and playing guitar but she rarely showed it because of the shyness character. Alexis played guitar too but compared to her sister, it was like the talent and the wannabe. Bryce’s belongings were in order while Alexis’s was a little bit messy and seemed to intrude the sister’s territory. The younger attached many posters of the singer and songwriter named ‘Carmen’ on the wall including her other favorites actors and actresses. Moreover, on her own desk, there were many photos of her friends decorated. At the corner of the shelf next to the desk, a plastic crown hung on the piles of books and it nearly fell on the ground.

“When I went away, you ruined our room.”

“I didn’t!” Alexis denied but started to collect her belongings in order.

Among the photos, one that Alexis loved so much was the photo of three pretty young girls wrapping their hands around each other’s necks, smiling to the camera. The tallest girl in the center wearing basketball apparels smiling broadly was Alexis. The auburn-haired girl on the right side named June Joyce, Alexis’s best friend since kindergarten. The girl looked beautiful as Alexis but more maturely gorgeous than her friend who was a little childish. It might be because of those fierce emerald green eyes and the scornful smile that made the girl had the eyes of the grown-up who had experienced many bad things. The left side named Elodie Li, a pretty small girl with dark brown silky hair. The girl smiled brightly like the morning sun. The photo had been taken recently after the final match against Amora Team from Riverland District. Although San Bosa team lost, it was the most memorable match because they had never reached the final competition before. It was the second biggest news reported by San Bosa Post (smaller than San Bosa Soccer Team won the trophy of High School Soccer Championship.) In the photo, the three young ladies might look like very close friends (Alexis also wished too); however, two girls on the left and the right loved each other like cats and dogs.

“How’s June and Edie? Do they get along?”

“The second apocalypse still has the brighter future than their relationship.”

Bryce chuckled.

Alexis thought of how Jesse questioned why June and Elodie were stuck in the same group. Well, it was not easy to understand girls’ rationality even though she was a girl too.

The beginning of the trio began when June, who was the most beautiful girl in the school that boys dreamed of, and Elodie, one of the most popular girls and the captain of the cheerleading team made the agreement. June’s mother used to have some big roles in the film industry around twenty years ago and forced her daughter to dream big. As June had to bear her mother’s expectations and gained a small reputation like the other children of celebrities, she had the habit of keeping distance to people and thinking everyone was below her. She regarded Alexis as one and only friend. At the school, although June was the star, she was the kind of a girl that girls hated but wanted to be. For Alexis’ friendship with Elodie, it began in the literature class. Elodie came to sit with Alexis during lunchtime more often. At first, June got paranoid to see ‘the other’ sitting with her but as their group gained a lot of attention because Elodie could call her team and other sport teams to sit with them. That was why June accepted the new member. They became the influencers and the ‘cool people’ of the school society. How cool was it to be a celebrity even in the school? Alexis might not like how they agreed to make the terms of building ‘the image’ but she admitted that being one of the most popular group made her life in the high school be one of the best moments.

Alexis still persuaded Bryce to leave the study desk. “Just leave your books for a day…not a day exactly, just three or four hours. They won’t blame you, I guarantee that.”

Bryce was really stubborn. She insisted on studying during her short vacation. The big sister eyed on the younger, annoyed, “I cannot leave the house. I have to memorize every word. If I can eat them, I eat.”

“Just chill out. You can continue your reading at night. Please, for Monkey. Edie comes too.”

“Too many people. You can exclude me.” 

Alexis placed her elbow on the sister’s chair. “I called Davy but he didn’t answer the phone. Well, he doesn’t know I come back. Maybe he’s busy. I’ll visit his house to check if he’s there. Jesse and Edie will take Charlie to the mall first. You can go with them. I meet you there. Please Please Please!” 

“I can’t.” Bryce moved her chair to free from the younger sister. “You will understand me, Alex. Soon. I know even a brain like you can’t make it easy.”

Alexis sighed. “Okay, so do you want anything?” The girl raised the white flag.

“Poppy Gelato’s chocolate mint,” she made the order. Alexis groaned, “Grrrr, I love rich chocolate and I don’t want to eat all the quart!”

“You can eat it for a week.”

“You know it’s hard! How can people eat ice-cream and save it for another day? We must eat them all.”

Bryce turned her head from side to side. “Stop being dramatic. Rich chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, all you love is only chocolate without anything else except milk and sugar. Boring.”

“I love chocolate almonds and macadamia or added salt caramel.”

“How different! Look at the time! Hurry young lady, the two gentlemen may be rooting the floor.”

“They may get out already.Don’t worry Mom, see you.” Alexis closed the door. Instead of getting their butts out of the house, Alexis saw Elodie laughing with her two brothers. They should get out right now but they seemed to have the fun time together at home. Sometimes, Alexis thought if Jesse preferred girls, Elodie might be his first choice because they were really getting along well and Jesse liked Elodie as if she was another his sister.

Well, another sister.

“Sorry,” Alexis interrupted. Charlie jumped in his happiness. “Yeah, can we go now? Where’s Bryce?”

Alexis made the sad face, “She insists on studying so there’re only us and maybe Davy. But tell me why you guys’re still here.”

Elodie stood up, “Oh, I forget to tell you. I’ll go with you.”

The girl in white t-shirt looked fixedly at her friend in disbelief because she wanted to visit her boyfriend’s house alone. That’s not the deal. Elodie forced Alexis through her eyes, “Just agree with me”.

The big boy switched his eyes from the sister and her friend, did not understand what they were playing.

“Hey, young ladies, so?” Jesse asked.

“Okay, as she said,” Alexis told them. Jesse was still skeptical but grabbed Charlies’ hand anyway then walked out of the house. Alexis and Elodie followed. Her friend brought her own bicycle. Charlied sat behind Jesse and Alexis used the other one.

“You said you want to go with him,” Alexis spoke out since her brothers were gone.

The small girl smiled tiredly, “Sorry Alex, I change my mind. He doesn’t like me, not at all, just a sister’s friend. It’s good to be with him but it hurts too when he keeps talking about his Joshua. And he loves to talk about him.” She paused for a while as if just realized something important. “I’m sorry. I forget you may want to sneak into Davy’s bedroom and whisper at his ear ‘wake up, darling’ so you can see his top naked. Davy may sleep in his boxer. Right?”

The brunette hair groaned.

“Tada! Surprise! Muah-Muah,” Elodie laughed mockingly. “Or…more than a kiss?”

“Shut up.” Alexis rushed to the bike with her red face. “If you won’t stop, I tell Jesse how you feel about him.”

Smiling in victory, Alexis knew her friend would not dare. Elodie hit her arm and rushed to her own bike with the red face. 

“Oh, almost forget.” Alexis gave a lipstick palette to her friend.

“What?” Elodie’s eyes widened. “I love you!” She locked on Alexis’s neck. “You get if for free? I start to like your job.”

“Of course not. You think I’m the big one? I got the discount from the senior. And this perfume is for June.” Alexis showed the small pink diamond-shape bottle. “I saw it on her wishlist.” Elodie closed her mouth when her friend mentioned the rival’s name.

“You called her too?”

“No. I don’t like the cold war between you and her. I just think about visiting her house this evening. Of course, without you. Come on! We already graduated Edie.”

“So what? She hates me. I hate her. Nothing can fix that.”

“Okay…okay.” Alexis surrendered her friend and dared not mention anything about June anymore so they could ride to Davy’s house together without any quarrel.

 

**********

 

Davy’s house located on the south avenue, a little bit bigger than the Davis’. When the two girls arrived at his place, it seemed like there was nobody in the house except that his bike was still there but the car was gone, which meant only the parents were absent since it was a business day.

“He’s here. Why doesn’t he answer the phone?” Alexis murmured to herself.

“He glued himself to the bed,” Elodie said. “Does he snore?”

Alexis pretended that she did not hear the question. But as she turned her head, Alexis saw the mysterious bike near the garage. It was painted orange, June’s favorite color.

Not only the color, but it was her friend’s bike. 

Elodie followed her eyes and muttered, “Actually, I thought about talking about it for a while but since I have no clear evidence…”

Looking into Elodie’s eyes, Alexis saw her meaning so the girl slightly shook her head in denial. Davy was her first love and would be the last. They went steady for a year and everything went smoothly. He had no characteristics of being a cheater and the fact that June was her best friend could clear any suspicion.

“They’re friends, like you and him, come on…” Elodie restrained her hand and whispered. “Try not to make a sound. Don’t lie to yourself. Why June’s with your boyfriend when his parents are not home and they think YOU-are-out-of-town.”

“She’s our friend, our best friend.” Alexis tried to deny Elodie’s suspect and ignored the bad thought that paraded in her head. “You’re close to him too. You know he’s not like that.” The girl had not realized how she stressed her words to make herself believe in it. Her heart beat like crazy as if it wanted to break out from her chest.

“Please let me correct, first, she’s your best friend, not mine and since you joined the modeling agency, I don’t think so. Secondly, Davy is just a boy.” The girl added. “And in general, no one stays with best friend's boyfriend in his house, with or without parents.”

“They may be talking.” Alexis tried to give an excuse for them but the more she spoke the more she looked stupid.

Elodie rolled her eyes, “I hate your over-positive thought. You try to deny it, do you?”

The sentence was familiar to what Jesse told about her.

“I’m not over-optimistic! I…”

“Shhh, okay you’re not but you’re lying to yourself. I know you see my point.”

Admittedly, Alexis lost the courage to go inside the house. Her hands were cold and her feet turned numb. Half of her heart believed in Elodie’s suspicion but another half tried not to cause pain to herself because as they were arguing, many invisible needles nailing into her heart.

“We won’t knock the door.” The smaller girl checked on the window. “It’s not locked.” She opened it and tried to climb inside the house.

“Help me!” Elodie urged Alexis.

They almost walked on tiptoe but as Davy did not stay at the downstairs, it was easy to sneak up to the upper floor without notice. The more she got closer to his room, the more her heart skipped a beat. Her friend’s logic was making sense but she wished that Elodie was wrong.

Elodie gradually turned the doorknob; it was not locked again. Suddenly, she pushed the door open. At that time, Alexis’s heart stopped beating completely. She felt grateful that Elodie came with her instead of going out with Jesse so she would not have to see this scene alone.

June and Davy were really together as Elodie suspected, on his bed, under the blanket, arms on arms, both naked. Their clothes scattered around the room. They seemed to have a wild night.

A trophy flew to them and fell on his stomach. No, it was not Alexis’s work but Elodie who shouted and cursed them like crazy, “See! I told you! Dave, you’re such an IDIOT! And you’re WHORE” Their eyes wide opened, awake and alarmed. Alexis was not sure how she felt at that moment, to be angry, jealous, mad, or disappointed. The only thing she could feel was the empty space in her chest as if the heart was not there anymore.

I thought we’re in love.

Two best people in her life betrayed her cruelly. Sometimes the emptiness is the worst level of pain. The scene knocked her speechless.

How can they do this?

“Alex, li—li—listen to m—me.” Davy hurriedly wrapped the naked body with the blanket so June had to rush to her clothes trying to cover herself. His beautiful hazel eyes were full of guilty tears. “I—I can explain.” His charming husky voice now turned to hoarse. His mouth was trembling as if he was the criminal and Alexis was the police. His sexy bare chest was painted red by June’s lipstick and interesting bruises that she could imagine how he got them and when she saw the kiss traces on his face, she tried so hard to resist her hands not to throw all the anger on his handsome face.

Tears gradually flew on two cheeks. Alexis tried not to built waterfalls but the dam was broken. How can they do it? Why does it hurt so much? Alexis thought her life came to the peak and might be better and better until Davy screwed it up.

My life is nearly perfect. ‘Nearly’ can't be ‘totally’.

Their eyes met, June’s and Alexis’. No tears, no pleading, no apology, June stood still and slightly avoided her gaze, trying to get dress in the calm manner as if they were inappropriate to intrude to their room. Alexis could not hear anything until Elodie spoke to her ears.

“Alex! Don’t be sad.” Then she turned her eyes to June and cursed again, “Whore! How can you do it? Both of you!

“I’m sorry. I—I—I” And Davy spoke as though he got an instant tonged-tie.

She did not understand why and how they got together when June never showed any sign of interest in Davy and never took her eyes on him. June dreamed of a man, not a boy, a man who was mature and perfect. Of course, Davy was hot and handsome but June always said he was a big baby boy.  Yes, he was a boy, shy and untalkative. And Davy, he told her he loved her…, loved like never loved anyone before. They would grow old together, share dream and life. Everything he promised to her from the first day they kissed until the prom night, all had been broken. But of course, June was beautiful…extremely beautiful, the most beautiful…my best…bitch.

“You love her? Tell me you love each other and I’ll be out. No, I’m out now.” That was the only thing Alexis could say: asking them, sacrifice her love for their love.

“No” Davy assured. This time, his speech did not betray him. “No!”

His answer triggered the conflict between them. Two cheaters suddenly met their eyes and June glared at him furiously. The first word she split it out was, “What? No?”

“Come on! You know why you’re here.”

“And why you have me here?”

“Okay, I let you guys smooth out.” Alexis grabbed Elodie’s arm while Davy caught hers.

“I’m sorry. Yeah, I—I did like June before. It was long ago before I love you. And I love you, Alex. I love you, I do.” He gently touched her face to regain her trust. “It’s m-my fault. I hurt…you, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. Please forgive me. Please?”

Alexis could hear Elodie tried so hard not give June a mocking laugh but she did not feel like winning to be chosen. In contrast, it made her feel wasted. Watching around the room, seeing the kissing traces on his body and their clothes, Alexis wondered how many times they did it behind her back? And he said he didn’t mean it? Excuse me?

The thing she did not understand at all was why June committed this action. They were best friends for a long time. Was it because Davy became the star midfield, the key to win High School Soccer Championship, and the newest prom king?

But...why did she make this ugly decision when she knew well that he belonged to her best friend? Alexis thought her friend loved her like she did.

“So June seduced you?” Elodie asked, still stared at her frienemy. They had never been friends even they were in the same pact and both claimed to be Alexis’s best friends.

“Shut up, no one asks your opinion,” June scowled, still frustrated with Davy.

“It’s my false only. I’m sorry.” He turned to June, “I’m sorry to you too.” But her friend could not accept it.

“You’re such a prick. You want me. You spy on me. You kiss me. You sleep with me. And you say you don’t mean to fuck me. Coward!”

Like another big knife stabbed deeply at her heart, Alexis gave the demanding look to her boyfriend.

“Yes, it’s just my curiosity, my fault. I’m just a man! I know you use me just to revenge on Alex. Yes, I’m stupid. I’m selfish.” Davy confessed.

“Wait. Why you have to revenge on me?” Alexis blurted out. This was new to her. “Why June? What happened to us?” The hand that carried the souvenirs shook helplessly due to the anger.

Alexis locked her eyes with June’s beautiful greens, there were tears in them. It was the first time the girl realized that she had never understood her friend.

“The bitch’s jealous of you.” It was Elodie who answered that question.

“Jealous of me?” Alexis hardly believed when the girl in front of her possessed the natural beauty and financial prosperity without effort.

“Of course not!” June’s opposed. “Alex, you separate yourself from me. You choose that bitch! Your family loves that bitch more than me! You’re not my friend anymore.”

“I don’t choose my friends. You’re both my best friends. I love both of you. Why don’t you talk to me? Why? Did I do any other thing wrong to you?” Alexis asked but it seemed like shouting. “Because I won that plastic prom crown, is it? Tell me!

“Oh, forget it! It’s not that plastic crown. You left me and you take everything!” She scolded in return.

I’ve never left you!” Alexis threw the perfume bottle on Davy’s bed. “That’s your wishlist, is it? Tell me June, what did I take from you? This is how you revenge me? By sleeping with him? This is how you try to reclaim what I stole you? Say it!

“Don’t force for more. She’s jealous. The bitch should not blame you but her slutty arrogance,” Elodie interrupted the heat conversation between Alexis and June. But it maximized June’s rage. As the former Basketball player, Alexis grabbed the glass of jar, that was flown to Elodie’s direction in time. Elodie’s head was saved.

“Shut the fuck up, big mouth!”

“Thanks for your skill, Alex,” said the girl behind her. “She’s mad. Just a toy for your boyfriend.”

“Not a toy!” Alexis unintentionally corrected Elodie’s word. “He’s not my boyfriend anymore,” The girl concluded.

Davy moved closer trying to beg for forgiveness.

“You know what she thinks?” The one who had been cheated asked the boy while left the jar on the floor. He nodded. “And you still sleep with her instead of telling me?”

“Alex…it’s just sex,” Davy gave the excuse and it was the bad one.

“Can I say that when I sleep with other boys?” she hit back.

After a short analysis through the fact that he knew how June thought of her but still jumped into the trap, Alexis found the answer. It was not the trap but his own insufficiently sexual greed. The fact that he knew June was her friend, instead of remaining faithfulness, he took the knife and decided to help June stabbing the girl he declared his love to. It was about sex only that he wanted to say. Yes, Alexis agreed with that but it was not the acceptable excuse.

It did not make her feel better at all. I should believe what adults say! Davy who was standing facing her at this moment was not the Davy she loved, not the one that she sacrificed her innocence for.

Alexis did not want to hear anything so she threw the other souvenirs to his face. “I bought them for both of you. Check it. Have to go.”

Davy was blocking their way.

“Please, we can fix it,” he begged.

“Get dress.” She told him, “Don’t waste more time, Jesse and Charlie are waiting for us. I don’t want to ruin Charlie’s day. Please excuse me, Mr. Montes.”

His tears dropped but they could not move her mind. The mascara on her eyelashes might ruin her face enough. Davy knew he could not fix their relationship. The coldness Alexis gave him made him backed away.

Their relationship had come to the end.

 

**********

 

Her view towards the town changed. The day was not as bright as she had seen it. Alexis had not noticed the clouds before going out.

“How long did you suspect them?” She asked Elodie. They were walking, with their bikes along with their side.

“A month, after the soccer team won. I should tell you earlier but…I’m sorry. Hardly believe he joined her doom.”

“No need to say that. It’s not your fault.”

Alexis tried not to look back at Davy’s house. Jesse and Elodie were right. She had no clue at all, especially for June. Over-positive, over-trusting, she was. It was too late to pull out the knife. This knife was sharp and she would run out of blood.

“He’s fool,” Elodie said.

“He’s not. I am.”

Alexis laughed to herself but the laughter sounded mad rather than funny. “You know? I even imagined my wedding dress and a flower crown. I’ve never thought I’m so daydreaming and stupid.”

Elodie shook her head. “You’re not. I used to dream of me and Jesse too.”

Everything turned upside down within an hour. The short period of time that Alexis learned the truth and it cost two important persons in her life.

Chapter 5: Lighthouse

Very unusual, very very unsual. Everything was so quiet even the television had been turned on but it was like the time was dead. Little Charlie was left alone again and he was silently drawing the new art on the wall which Caleb had painted white a month ago. He might think it was too plain so he decided to add the new patterns on. It was an animal that might be a giraffe with the four legs that looked like snakes. On the dining table, six quarts of Poppy Gelato’s Ice-cream was left melting. No, he looked closer; the sherbet flavor quart was empty. Four quarts of chocolate mint gradually melted, also the quart of chocolate with caramel and Macadamia. In the kitchen, the cooking pot on the stove was almost burnt. Charlie ran to them while Bianna closed the door. There were the traces of sherbet ice-cream on his rosy cheeks and lips.

“Why do they leave Charlie alone again?” He spoke to himself struggling to free from Little Charlie who ran around him jovially.

“They’re melting, love” Bianna collected the ice-creams in the fridge and turned off the heat on the stove in her signature—calm manner. They still smelled the pot burning.

Charlie still played with his father saying “Jesse and Alex took me to the mall. We ate Pizza at Mr. Binochino and they took me to the park. I met Olly and Kaysey. We were playing together.” His voice did not conceal the jolly. “Alex brought us the ice-cream. It will be the best day if she doesn’t look so sad. I can’t wait so I eat my part.”

“Wait? Is your sister sad? Why?”

“I don’t know.” Charlie pointed his tiny index finger to his eyes, “her eyes were red and she barely spoke.”

Caleb and Bianna looked at each other. They could perceive that something smelled fishy.

 “Where’re your brother and sisters, Monkey?”

The little one smiled and pointed to his sisters’ room. “After we arrived home, Alex keeps herself in her room. Jesse and Bryce thought she turns strange so they went inside. Alex said the dust was in her eyes. I think it’s still in her eyes so Jesse and Bryce have to help her.”

“Oh my dear,” Bianna touched his shoulder. “I’ll go see her. There must be something wrong with her. You take care of Little Monkey.” She said. Caleb nodded even though he died to know what had happened to his daughter. However, before his wife reached the door. It opened. Jesse and Bryce walked out.

“What happened?” asked Bianna.

“They break up. I mean our Alex and the dickhead Davy...sorry mom. Well, she found him fu…I mean with June,” the big brother told his parents in a good short summary. Jesse also added, “Alex needs sometimes…alone. Mom, don’t look at me like that! She asked for it. Not me!”

“What did Davy do to Alex?” Little Charlie asked. “I don’t understand what Jesse said.”

Caleb eyed at Jesse. The big boy sighed and took the little brother away. “It’s something you don’t have to understand yet, shorty monkey.”

“But I want to knoooow” 

Caleb turned to Bryce and she gave them a shrug then walked to the kitchen.

“This is not how I raise you!”

They could not allow themselves leaving Alexis alone. At this time, the girl needed the encouragement and the good recharging more than ever.

Bianna did not wait for long so she entered the daughter’s room. Caleb followed. He wondered why these kids hurt his child, especially June. He saw this girl since she was little. Not very talkative but she got along with Alexis well. They looked resemble, like adorable twins. Hanging out together, talking to each other, and be good together for many years, June became one of their family members for a long time, he saw them like the gracious rose and the lovely white jasmine. She would be a bigger star like her mother someday if the girl followed her mother’s path. So why?

And the damn Davy, he was shy and polite as Caleb recognize. As a man, Caleb could see his feeling for Alexis was sincere. How could he be so blind? He was the adult and the father. He should have protected his daughter from this boy. Shame on me.

Caleb did not think he would saw Alexis wailing dramatically and he was right. The girl sat alone in the corner behind her bed. As they approached, they see the girl was looking at the photos of herself and June from childhood to these days. Alexis sat in despair but still in the amazing calmness.

She did not cry or mourn for the loss of love and friendship but they could see her watery eyes. Bianna sat on her left and he sat in front of her. The last time they comforted the little one might be five years ago when they lost Blacky, the husky dog aged twelve.

“You’re not ok. Cry, my love. Release all your tears and tomorrow everything will be better. Don’t keep it,” Bianna told the girl.

“I’m alright. I cry enough, mom. Look at my eyes. You don’t have to worry about me. Just…a few days, I need just a few days for…and I will be the same girl you know,” she smiled but it was a very sad smile. Not her nature for being sad. Caleb loved her smile. It was so beautiful and bright as if she was the happiness bringer. But now the bringer was drowning in the sea of despair.

It seemed like everything went well for the girl, education, friends, lover, and career. But life is life. The storm takes a visit when everything goes on peacefully. Before people are aware of the danger, the heavy rain cruelly flooded the home.

“My daughter is always strong. He’s not the right one and that’s okay to cry and talk to us, my dear.” His hair caressed the girl’s hair gently. He tried his best to comfort his daughter. Even though they were the entertainers, Alexis had some different traits from Jesse. This third daughter shared some characteristics of him, her father. Caleb usually concealed his emotion, to keep everything inside. Alexis was the same. So he knew well that it was not good to keep the pain within herself.

Alexis listened to his words so she started talking. “I don’t understand. Why did they do this to me? I don’t understand June at all; I thought we were best friends. How could she hate me so much? She blamed me that I left her. Blame us that our family preferred Elodie. I’ve never left her. And Davy, he said he loved me…so much.”

Young lovers, a few could make it to the finish line.

Caleb felt like these two youngsters also stabbed him in his back as well. Alexis’s pain was also his. Davy was a good kid as he knew earlier. Anyway, there were two things: first, time changes people through experience and second, they just reveal their true color. Bianna looked at him urging to speak something because the girl was quietly crying. His wife was too sensitive when it was about her children. To see her child in this state and situation, the mother could not even speak but shared the girl’s pain.

“Because my girl is good, you deserve better friend and better guy. I cannot answer why they did it to you, to hurt my daughter. But all I know is you will move on. Some love may die but my love for you; the love of our family will never die. I don’t want you to cry all the time or lament for their betrayal but just cry for this moment. This cry will remove all your sadness, I promise. I want you to understand this isn’t the end of your life. One day the happiness consumes you from head to toes and then people, things, even a fly can make you cry. Think that it’s your luck that you know them earlier. You’ve found many true friends like Elodie and the others. And we love you too. We care for you so much and will support you in every way.”

After he finished the speech, Alexis raised her head and they saw the tears dropping.

“Dad,” the girl leaned her head on his chest and cried eventually. He and Bianna sighed in relief.

“My child, my sweet child,” Bianna softly kissed on the girl’s cheeks.

“My face is ruined. My mascara…”

Caleb and Bianna smiled at each other. The girl still had the mind for a joke. “Nothing hurts your face, my dear. Your mascara is apparently waterproof.”

The girl laughed with tears. Caleb hoped his love would send it to her and all the agony would perish.

“Do you think I’ve done anything wrong that make her feel I prefer Elodie?”

Caleb fanned his head from side to side. “It’s not your fault. To be honest, Alex, you stay with Elodie more frequently than with June. She might feel bad about it but I don’t say the way she did to you is right. You are friends. You should talk.”

She bobbed her head in agreement. “That’s what I thought. I love them so much and they’re so mean to me.”  

They talked and talked and comforted the girl until she fell asleep. Rarely people will find that their first love will become true love. Well, at least his daughter was lucky to know how Davy was before they continued the relationship to the serious level and with the wrong person or got married or having children. It was the first time they saw how fragile she was. She tried not to be dramatic about it but witnessing that scene built the bad trauma for sure. So when they looked at her peaceful sleeping face, they knew she still dreamed of them. Caleb and Bianna kissed the girl’s head, left the room, and let the night healed the broken heart.

Jesse, Bryce, and Charlie were waiting for them on the table with the easy dinner meal Bryce had made, sandwiches. The burning smell still diffused all over the room but no one mentioned it or claimed to take the responsibility for nearly causing the house on fire.

“How is she?” asked Jesse, eagerly.

“She’s sleeping now,” Bianna replied.

“But she doesn’t eat anything.”

“So you want me to wake her up?”

The big boy frowned. “I didn’t mean that!”

“Let her rest.”

“Is she okay?” Little Charlie asked. He might not really understand why his sister was so sad because of the damn dust and what Davy had done but he wanted to join the conservation.

Caleb nodded. She will.

It was eight and a half. The dinner passed slowly and they had to listen to Jesse who complained and cursed Davy and June during the meal (and Bianna would reproach him when he spread any rude words). If the boy was here, his son might kill him certainly. Jesse was hot-tempered. Caleb remembered how his friends had turned entirely surprised when Jesse decided to go to the law school. They had thought he would join the sports club or entered a computer program school. He had a good grade but not a good person who could focus on books for hours like Bryce did. It amazed Caleb and Bianna as well when he graduated with honors. At least, the parents admired his hard-working.

In everyone’s amazement, Davy did come.

The bell rang while the clock ticked to eleven. Caleb saw Davy standing in front of the door. He pulled Jesse’s shirt in time before his son committed any harm to his sister’s ex. “I’ll talk to him. Jesse, you're studying law, are you? Calm down. Go back to your room right now!” He preferred the fierce dad look.  

Headstrong, Jesse scowled and stomped away with his firm legs. Caleb opened the door, facing the boy’s guilty face. Davy seemed to considerate his ex’s father more than any other time. With athletic body, broad shoulders, thick eyebrows, dirty blonde, and handsome like hell, it was not surprising that he could win girls’ hearts. Alexis was totally crazy about him as he observed the way she spoke about Davy. The boy had been so nice but boy is boy and male is male. Davy grew up stronger and more attractive than the last year when he and Alexis, holding hands, told them they were in the romantic relationship. And June, she was far from ugliness. The older understood that some men can change their hearts within one sight they look at the other woman but some men are exceptional. He had thought Davy was one of the exceptions or would be. Caleb blamed himself again.

“How is Alex?” the boy asked cowardly.

“Fine,” Caleb coldly replied.

Obviously, the boy could catch the distant tone, his voice volume lowered due to fear and it was like Davy was whispering.

“I’m sorry. I—I—I know it’s late but…can I t—talk to her?” he stammered.

“No, you can’t. She’s sleeping. Go home, Davy. I don’t think it’s the proper time.”

Davy tried to focus on his speaking. And this time, the awkwardness was fixed. “I’m sorry, I really mean it. Can you forgive me? Can she forgive me? I love her, truly…Dr. Davis. Please forgive me. Please tell her, I’m really sorry. I’m sorry I disappoint you but…I need your chance…her chance.”

The boy did not move waiting for his answer or forgiveness. Caleb began to have the sympathy for the boy. Davy did feel apologetic and care his daughter. It was his braveness to come to Alexis’s home—well as he could see. And Bianna would say that everyone could have done wrong, people deserved the second chance, the forgiveness.

But he cheated on my daughter. He makes her cry. His anger rose again and the heart to forgive him melted down.

“It’s my daughter who will answer that. Go back to your home Davy. Your parents will worry about you.” He spoke to the boy with the softer voice, did not know that Davy’s parents were not home today. Davy obeyed and walked back to his bicycle with his chin dropping down on his chest. He was sad and regretful.

Caleb sighed. This day was not as bright as it ought to be. It was Alexis’s unfortunate love life but the next day, the storms would weaken and she would be stronger than the other days.

Chapter 6: Unexpected Guests

“Edie, I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t have the mood! Don’t you understand?” Alexis replied to Elodie through the home telephone.

“Please, just go. You have to meet friends. You can’t keep yourself in the cave! Please! I’ll go too.” She begged.

“But you have to help your father.”

“I change my mind. Party or work? What do you think I will do?”

It was difficult to win her stubbornness so Alexis agreed to go to the party at Wade Miller’s house. Friends and alcohol, which one will fix my broken mind better?

After catching Davy with June, her ex-boyfriend kept calling her every hour. He visited the house on the next day after the incident. In consequence, Alexis officially ended their relationship and she did not forget to accept his apology for the complete closure. There was such a lot of love for him left in her heart but also unreliability and bad trauma. In spite of what she had done, Davy kept appearing in her dream; it was a pity that she yearned for the dream where she forgot the reality where there was no Alexis and Davy anymore. Often, she dreamed of their last prom, the kiss, and the intimacy at that night. She concluded to herself that it was the haunting regret of her guilty pleasure as she had committed something her parents disagreed with.

What made Alexis felt worse was June’s silence. She did neither call nor visit; neither apologize nor make more confession. From that day, the June she knew dove into the black hole, sinking into the deepest of the universe, forever gone. The only thing left between them was the question inside Alexis’s head asking herself, “Why?” June valued their long-term friendship no different from a price of shit.

“Where’re you going?” asked her mother. It was Friday’s evening, her parents stayed at home.

“Wade’s party, I may come back before ten.”

Her mother nodded meaning giving approval. “It’s good to see you go out, meet friends. Have fun, honey!”

“Why don’t take Jesse with you?” Her father suggested, pausing his reading for a while with eyes narrowing through the glasses. Alexis chuckled when her mother hit his arm lightly. “Oh come on. How many times she visits the Miller’s place. Go, Alex. Don’t listen to the old man.” She ended the conservation with her merry laughter.

“Okay, I’ll be back.” Alexis waved her hand and exited.

“Did she bring my cell phone?” Caleb still worried.

 

**********

 

The light of sunset painted the thick cloud on the sky orange. The chilling breeze passed through. She rode past the oriental spa which its front door overlaid by advertising posters. Previously, the poster of John Lloyd’s old teen movie attracted everyone’s attention but now it had gone nowhere, perhaps, in the junk. His name vanished as Jesse had assumed.

Thinking about the star friend helped extinguish the fire of fury towards Davy and June for a while, but it came with the fearfulness from the recognition that a friend was missing, perhaps forever. The worse was John’s identity was removed by the authority. Jesse’s assumption peculiarly sounded reasonable and she started to believe him that her superstar friend was arrested and taken to the rehabilitation program that no one had ever returned.  In the past three days, Alexis could not search ‘John Lloyd’ name on any search engine. His own website and the fan club website had been shut down. When people talked about his missing, they whispered, dared not to speak out loud because they were scared to be heard. And in the end, they would simply conclude that he might be dead. Alexis concerned on his family more than anything else because when she imagined if someone in her family encountered the fate that John was facing, how she could manage her mind and her feeling when the loved one was completely gone. And to think of them was illegal and frightened to do.

Wade’s mansion stood elegantly among the other mansions in the north, far from the heart of the town. His house was grandeur like June’s mansion which was situated four blocks away. (Sighing, she could not stop thinking of them.) It was the pool party but Alexis did not wear or bring bikini because she aimed at watching people having fun rather than joining with them. What she determined to do was to drink and drink and be drunk.

“Hey, Alex!”

The mansion owner greeted the guest. Wade Miller was sparkling in his bare chest and khaki swimming shorts, waving his hand energetically towards her. There were a lot of guests more than she had thought. At least she saw the whole cheerleading team without the captain who was Elodie. Well, no school anymore, they were waiting for the new life in college. No one needed to stay home for study.

“Where’s Edie?”

“Oh, Edie can’t come. She phoned me just a few minutes, saying that she has to help her father manage the stock.”

“What?” Alexis felt like being betrayed. She was quite upset because Elodie confirmed that she would come and who would take her home if she was drunk? A trick? Seriously?

Wade clapped on her shoulders. “Nah, don’t worry. Everyone knows you. We’re all friends. Come on. It’s time to recover.” he said and pushed the girl inside the party.

“What? Recover? You know?” Alexis could not hide her amazement when he knew about the break-up, due to the fact that she told no one except her family.

Oh…Edie, how can I forget this one?

“I didn’t invite both of them, don’t worry.” He told her.

“It’s okay. I don’t mind.” Alexis replied at once. Guilty she was; Davy was his friend.

The boy gave her the wicked smile. “Actually, I did, but they don’t come. It’s not strange for June but Dave thought about coming. When he knows people talking about it. He felt sick for a sudden.”

Wade possessed a very unique charming smile. If Davy could not make the victory score during the last match, this boy might win the prom crown. Wade Miller was the soccer team captain and one of the candidates to win the government’s scholarship. He shared some similar appearances with Davy, such as the perfect height, blond hair, hot body, and whatever charms hot guys should own. But he was no shyness. He spoke loud and clear and loved to socialize while Davy preferred the private space. The house parties had been frequently organized in his place.

“You…are…”

“Go go go go!” He made haste.

As she walked inside, the soccer team cheered at her, “That’s the spirit! Alex. It’s gonna be okay. We will re-educate him! We’ll bring your Davy back!”

She knew they tried to cheer her up but it was really embarrassing when they used the word ‘your Davy’, the same way Bryce and Jesse frequently did.

At the same time, Alexis understood why Davy dared not to come when she met the others, especially her girlfriends. Possibly, Elodie announced their break-up to everybody’s in the town. When she met some of her basketball team, they said, “He’s a jerk, Alex. You find the better one.” And the whole cheerleading team which all members were Elodie’s minions shouted, “Don’t care the bitch June! If we meet her, we burn her alive.”

Women’s rage was very scary and when they teamed up, the fire of fury went wild.

Alexis knew that June’s popularity mixed with positive and negative reputations. June had the character of the women who girls loved her dresses but hated her. She rarely went to the other’s parties except her owns and had no other friend except Alexis. Boys dreamed of her but she did not regard them as friends but her big fans. Hearing people talked bad to June made Alexis feel more guilty. June’s words lingered in her mind that Alexis left her friend to go out with Elodie. Of course, Alexis had heard what they talked about June. Instead of fighting against them, she ignored it. Just thought it was the best not to deal with them when she knew who June really was. And the others were also her friends. But June might not think so, especially when Alexis hanged out with the girl who was the head of these gossipers. June expected her best friend to be her guardian. It was not Alexis’s intention to make June feel abandoned, though she had unconsciously betrayed June by her silence. 

I did or not, intention or not, June had no right to sleep with him. The girl argued with herself.

Alexis shook that thought away. It was the old story. Perhaps it was their last year in high school and people have to separate from each other in order to follow their dreams. Many had to continue their study far away. The only friend like Alexis might be unnecessary to care when June could make the new squad at college.

During the first hour, people came to ask about the incident. Some were rudely curious and needed every single detail for further gossip. Some did care and comfort. Alexis had no time to enjoy the drinks until Wade dragged her to the pool. Of course, she refused but he forced so she kicked his butt and the party host fell into the water. 

People laughed out loud. Wade got up and glared at her furiously. Lucky enough, Wade’s friends stole the attention by jumping from the roof into the pool and people began to try jumping from the roof too. 

“I’m sorry. You forced me!”

Wade nodded and shook the water out of his head towards her. The furious glare disappeared. The boy sighed. “Edie and I want you to have fun. We—we want to see the old Alex who smiles and laughs and...crazy…whatever.”

His breath smelled like alcohol and perhaps pot. He might be a tough guy but not the brainless type. The alcohol inside his head might stimulate him to reveal everything.

“Well, Dave screws it up. He’s my friend but he can’t blame me for what I’m going to do. I want you to be happy with the new person. And that person should be me.”  

 Alexis understood what her friend was thinking now. The trick had been uncovered. Elodie wanted to link up to her and Wade together. It was like hearing her friend’s thinking, “Hot guy and the team captain, Davy should learn that he lose the best thing he had!” Alexis knew Wade liked her before she and Davy had been in the relationship. Most of the students grew up together since kindergarten. The society in San Bosa was too small. If you spread one secret to a friend, the other people might hear it too.

But you don’t understand, Edie. You can’t mend a broken heart with a new boy. I thought you knew it profoundly.

His face was red and he was totally drunk. Alexis pretended she heard nothing about it. So she turned her back to him.

“Hey! Where’re you going?”

“Restroom, stay here, I can go alone,” she shouted back.

Walking inside the house, she accidentally bumped into some couples. These lovers were exchanging their tongues in everywhere she went. Some guests sneaked out from the party to have the intimate activity at the kitchen, restrooms, balcony, under the stairways, behind every counter they found, etc. Alexis had to walk out of one of the restrooms at once since there was another couple reserved the space for their own.

Your parents must imprison themselves in their chambers for sure, Wade, she thought when she found no sign of his parents and it might be because the mansion was so large for them to escape the chaos when his son organized the party.

Alexis preferred to give her time alone in the backyard. The music beat the house as if they were in the mini-concert. However, the girl was able to find the time for reminiscence among lovers and loud noises when she had her time with herself. No, she was far from an introvert and loved partying, dancing, and being wild like other people did. But that was before her heart broke. Here, at Wade’s backyard, last two months ago, she and Davy, like other couples, sought a quiet place. It was because of those eyes, the pair of hazels locked her gaze and she felt his lips on her lips, the warmth of his breath, the touch of his soft hands, and the scent of his cologne. Alexis could not make her mind stop thinking of that moment. Every time she thought of him, the radiant face of June popped up and her heart began to twist and it was the pain that continued torturing inside. She hated how it was impossible to forget. The kiss and the loss, every moment between them was crystal clear like the day she had experienced them.

Is it was wrong to dream of the love like her parents had for each other?

You still love them.  The voice inside her head reminded the unwanted words. Yes, it’s true, she answered to herself. 

And someone bumped into her. 

“Oh, I’m sorry.” A croaky voice woke her up from the past memory. A boy with red hair in a plain t-shirt and old pale blue jeans tried to balance himself. Two hands held glasses of beer. “It’s dark, I—I...”

“Oh, it’s okay. I don’t mind. Not hurt, really.” She said, wiping the tears from her face.

He seemed to be considerate in those tears.

“It’s alright. Not your work, don’t worry.” She said and was about to move out of the temporary shelter. “You’re alright?” He asked but not met her eyes. It was his normal habit, a little shy lad.

“Yeah, why you come alone? Where’s Christina?” She asked Oslo, a classmate in the mathematics class and one of the candidates.

“Well, we came together but her crush was talking with her now so I…” They exchanged the knowing smile to each other. He was a little bit taller than the girl, might be an inch, not a tall boy. His eyes were light brown and his face was full of freckles.

“I heard you got admitted to Delphi, congratulations,” he said.

He was the only one who had no interest in asking about her relationship with Davy and June and did not mention anything about it.

“Thanks. And you?”

“Eastland, Environmental Science.”

“That’s cool.” She looked around. People were chasing their dream. Again, Davy’s face flashed into her mind. Alexis remembered he had thought about studying science or business but had been introduced to one of the professional soccer clubs after the final match and he agreed. Thinking of him also reminded her of the memory when Alexis saw herself and June sat in the stadium cheering for him on the victory day. After the match, Alexis ran to him and they kissed to celebrate the victory, just like in the movie.

Damn me! Stop thinking about them!

The music turned dead but the cheering crowd continued. There must be someone took the ‘Dare’ and performed something crazy outside.

“Tomorrow, I think I’ll see your name,” he kindly mentioned. Alexis shook her head to remain humble but also felt glad that he kept talking about this. After the conservation with Jesse, her confidence decreased to the lowest. Now, Oslo helped to refill it. “The interview was really bad. They had no interest in me,” he told her.

“Hmm, I’m not sure too.” Alexis avoided telling the truth so she would not discourage him. Perhaps, she still had the chance. Perhaps, Jesse was wrong. She might win. They like me. They really admire me.

“Well, I come alone too, why don’t you stay with me. Let’s see what happens outside.” Alexis did not want to stay with her basketball team because they would talk about Davy and June again. She preferred talking with Oslo because he had no interest in it. This made her feel more comfortable. Alexis knew her friends cared for her but she needed not like to spread any more words about them.

“Okay! Oh, want a beer?” He offered her one of his drink.

“You kept two glasses with yourself?”

“For Christina until I saw her chatting with…”

“I see.” Alexis took it.

They returned to the pool area. People were cheering Peter Leyton walking on water. Wade was sitting on the lifeguard chair recording his friend with the video recorder. It was clear that there were glass sheets under the water.

“It looks like he really walks on it,” someone said.

“Right? Tomorrow people gonna be surprised,” Wade predicted. His face turned completely red.

The glass sheet is really invisible to the eyes. You guys are already drunk.

Alexis and Oslo were not really interesting in the stupid trick. The girl looked up at the black sky. At that moment, she became aware that her real mood totally failed to fit in the party. Her head fused with the thought of Davy and June. She did not belong here when these two had never gone from her mind. It was hard to pretend. She needed time to calm her thought.

“I think I have to go. Sorry Oslo. I just change my mind,” she gave her excuse.

“I know. I’ll take your home.” His eyes demonstrated how he really understood her. It revealed that no one missed the news. 

“That’s sweet of you but I take my bike. Thanks and goodbye. Very excited to hear the announcement tomorrow, let's keep our fingers crossed.”

“Alex, you don’t look excited. I’m about to go too. It’s alright, I ride with you. Christina doesn’t want me anymore.” He jerked his head to his girlfriend’s spot so Alexis could see she was laughing with her crush. A few seconds that she could catch the glimpse of his broken heart. Those brown eyes revealed what he was thinking about his best friend.

They had the same problem, lovesick.

They were going to move away from the crowded place. Suddenly, the party was crashed when the siren thundered at the Miller’s mansion. Wade called his servants to clean off all alcohols and illegal drugs. Oslo and Alexis raced to the door but it was too late, the police enclosed Wade’s mansion in a flash of lightning.

“This is bad. Mom will kill me. I told her to return home by ten,” Oslo murmured. Alexis heard Wade cursed to whom informed the cops.

“Same. Damn, I have to listen to my dad’s and my brother’s lecturing me all day.”

Alexis thought she would go home late certainly and her father or Jesse had to pick her up at the police station, owing to the fact that she had to take time on drug testing. The girl searched for her father’s cellphone but found out that she forgot to bring it.

The cops announced through the megaphone, “You’re all under arrest. Come with us to the police station. Don’t resist!”

Alexis saw Wade rushed to them. Although his face was still red, the consciousness still remained with him. “Sir, I can explain. We have parents here. Please see my father.”

It was the first time she saw that his parent was really home. His father, like the older version of Wade, blonde, tall, and handsome, ran into the Police in his pajamas, trying to negotiate.

“No excuse sir, all of them must come with us. The party is over. We have the special warrant.” The emotionless officer in navy blue uniform declared his right to detain all teens in here. “Under the act 2966, sir.”

“What?!” Mr. Miller was out of words. “Are you kidding me?”

All of them covered their mouths, having no idea why the officers used this law to arrest them.

“My ears’ must be wrong. I heard they said the act 2966?” Oslo asked.

She nodded in conformation. “Your ears are fine.”

It was summer but the nightly wind turned cold. This was not about drug test anymore.

Chapter 7: Parents' War

At two o’clock, Caleb and Bianna could not sleep properly because their third child had not returned home yet. They kept calling Elodie, but could not reach her too, because of busy lines. The couples started to be nervous and terrified, imagining dangerous things happen to their daughter. Why the line kept busy? There must be something happened at the Miller’s mansion. He also phoned to the Millers but the line kept busy the same. Caleb thought about driving to Wade’s Mansion by himself too.

“Why don’t you sleep?” Bryce walked out of her bedroom. She was reading surely.

Jesse got down from his bedroom too. “What happens?”

“Your sister isn’t home yet,” Bianna told them. “We’re calling the others. The phone lines are busy.”

Caleb was searching for the number of Mr. Miller’s cell phone. “I don’t have his number. Maybe, I have to go there. I should’ve reminded her to carry my phone.”

“She may be late,” Bryce suggested. “It’s party. Dad, mom, please go to sleep. You must work tomorrow.”

He pointed to the clock. “Two O’clock, impossible. At least, your sister must call us!”

“Yes, if she didn’t drink…too much.” Jesse assumed. “I’ll call Matt. His sister may attend the party like Alex.” 

However, the phone rang before the boy could do any help. Caleb reached to the telephone in one jump. The caller was Alexis herself. In his relief, Caleb signaled his wife to ease her worry.

“Where’re you? We worry about you. Don’t you know?—what? At the police station? Why?”

Alexis sounded hurriedly.

In a second, Bianna was standing next to him. Caleb hung up the phone. His body turned numbed for a while and when the senses returned, he rushed to the stairs. Not fast enough, Bianna grabbed his wrist. “What happens to her? Why’s she there? Don’t walk away like that.”

“Drug test?” Bryce guessed. Alexis went to the party; there was only one possibility would be.

Caleb shook his head, “No, the Act 2966. All of them are under arrest.”

“What? All of them?” Bryce cried out. “That’s impossible!”

“Well, it is.”

Caleb could feel Bianna’s gaze but he was not ready to face her when the hole in the chest was expanding. Those fucking nightmares…

“Someone informed the cops about the Suspect in the party and they came. Alexis just got to the phone. The numbers of telephone booths are not enough for them.” He looked at his son. This was the right time to show his skill though the chance was low. “Jesse, you come with me. Bryce please packed some clothes for your sister. I think she needs it.”

“Why? Alex has to stay there all night?” asked the daughter, terrified. “I thought we can take her out tonight. It must be a joke. How can they arrest all of them? And she had no sign of being the suspect.”

Jesse fanned his head from side to side, “You don’t know how strict this law is. They have to interrogate everyone in the party which means our sister must stay there until the process ends. I think it takes a few days.”

“A few days?” Bryce still hardly believed it. 

Or more than a few days, Caleb thought but dared not to speak it out. The dream repeatedly replayed the same motion picture like a vicious haunted ghost.

Bianna was still unmoved, thinking the same thing with her husband.  She recalled the dream Caleb always told her. Of course, she was, most definitely, frightened. Caleb touched her face. “It must be alright. It must be.”

“Sounds like you remind yourself,” his wife said and slowly lowered her head, trying so hard to have faith in those words.

“Dad?” Jesse stared at them with suspicion.

“Nothing, Jesse. Are you ready to go?”

“Definitely.”

 

**********

 

Caleb and Jesse arrived at the police station within the next ten minutes. They met many parents dashing to the station after receiving the call from their children so he had to park the car along the road instead of the parking lot because it was full. They saw the police: men and women who had to deal with loads of anger and dirty words that came like the furious ocean wave. Caleb rushed to the information desk inside the lobby before the other parents behind him.

“I am the father of Alexis Davis, ma’am.”

The young policewoman scanned the dirty white computer then pointed to the sofa. “Wait for the call, sir.” Her voice was sharp. Jesse let him sitting on an empty seat while he surveyed around. Some parents remembered him and they smiled at each other without saying anything. The tension diffused around the room. All of them were worried about the young ones.  

Why you catch my daughter? She’s clean. She doesn’t deserve to be here!

This voice echoed through the room before the voice owner appeared.

Everyone stared at this woman whose colorful outfit attracted all the eyes in the lobby. Her loud yelling thundered as she stepped inside. It was like she verbally attacked the officer as soon as her eyes caught any sight of them.

“Every girl and boy in the mansion must be detained for further investigation. Ma’am, please sit there and wait for the call like the others.” The policewoman pointed to the sofa, the amazing same gesture, and facial expression that Caleb met earlier.

The woman did not move. “She returned home before you arrived at that boy’s party. She headed home. How could you drag her during the way? I don’t care which warrant you have but you have no right because she was not there.”

Caleb could swear that he saw the blonde police inhaled a very long breath encouraging herself to absorb all the shouting words and not to lose any temper. This woman was Mary Carter, the mother of Belinda Carter who was the president of the student council and one of the candidates. Her daughter got accepted to the same school as Alexis was. And now, she missed the point. No matter when her daughter had been, the fact was she had jointed that party was still the reason for being detained. Well, everyone tries so hard to rescue their child. It was not surprised at all.

“We have to detain your daughter for further investigation. Mrs. Carter, your girl reported the unexpected performance that could possibly involve with the Risk’s qualification in accordance with the Act 2966. We are glad she’s done the right thing as a good civilian should be. But according to the law, we had to interrogate her for more information and, of course, for the truth. Please understand and stay calm.”

Caleb and Jesse looked at each other. They accidentally acknowledged the cause of this trouble. Mary Carter might not expect that she would face many eyes of hatred.

So why you put her in the cell?”

All parents stood up, especially Mr. Miller, Wade’s father. “Enough! Now we know who’s behind this mess. Your daughter is the big liar who causes us all trouble.”

Mrs. Carter glared at him with her menacing look; her chocolate brown hair fell from the bun behind her back once she set her chin high, she countered. “Excuse me? My daughter did the right thing.”

Mr. Miller sneered at the woman. “And you should know that they were recording the video to surprise their friends. It’s a magic trick…a stupid trick. I’m watching them all the time. They’re not the risk, not even the suspect. Such a big mouth, A FOOL!

“How dare you!”

“Your daughter is the liar,” People around him shouted to this woman, the same way he saw in the Salem witches movie. They all were full of emotions. Seeing many supports, Mr. Miller could not stop his attack easily. He proposed an ugly idea, “I know. I know. Your daughter is a candidate too. She wants to frame my son I know it!” The owner of a water business met Caleb’s eyes. “And your daughter too, Doctor!”

He wanted to be invisible at the exact time. Frustrated, yes, but he did not think that fighting against Mary Carter would help their children safe; in contrast, it might lead to the worse result.

Mrs. Jessens, Oslo’s mother, raised her hand, “My son too! My dear son is arrested because of your daughter!”

Caleb looked at Jesse. In his surprise, the boy remained calm, showing no sign of any exasperation or the need to join Mr. Miller. Those hazel eyes scanned all people and just listened to the quarrel, concerning, with a thoughtful smile.

“Jesse?”

“Don’t join them, Dad. Sit quietly,” he whispered to his father. Caleb should say that, actually. “This law offers the absolute authority to the police. Our good obedience will keep a good image in their eyes and benefit our Alex.” He explained. “Now I know she’ll be alright. There’s nothing to worry, Dad. It’s clear that the girl told them lies. They will check Alex’s profile and medical history. And they’ll find nothing. This Belinda will confess and it’s her trouble, not our girl.” 

Caleb averted his eyes from the son; that is the problem, checking those things. His mind thought of Mary Stephen, the nurse who recorded the false information of his daughter into the system. If their investigation came to this stage, it might be her doom and Alexis’s too. Being judged as the Suspect was no better than being judged as the Risk. He felt ill in his stomach.

The dark sea….May you have mercy. Please, God, protect my child. Don’t let her drown in that sea.

“Just read the files?” He asked his son to make sure that the nightmare would never come true. They moved away from the cursing war between Mrs. Carter, Mr. Miller, and the others for the private discussion.

“I’m not sure but I don’t think the case is not bad as I thought before. If Belinda confesses the truth, we can take her home by tomorrow.”

Caleb wrapped his arms around Jesse’s neck. The heat of the argument rose higher and higher but as they were called to visit the girl, it was a good chance to flee from the scene completely.

They were taken into a small room decorated plainly with a desk and three chairs. Alexis was waiting for them with her sleepy face. When she saw them, the girl straightened up but as one of her arm was logged by the handcuff that tied her to the table so she fell back into the chair. His heart weakened immediately. His daughter still gave them a tired smile.

“Sorry I cause you trouble and wake you up.”

“Don’t worry about us. How are you? Have you rest a little bit?” asked Jesse. The way he looked at her declared the love of the family.

Alexis shook her head to Jesse. “I can’t even I want to. They took us in the cells. A lot of people were talking and talking. We’re all afraid at first. Pepper and Greta cry all the time. We discussed what happened—how it happens…”

Alexis paused. She made the face as if something nailed on her head. “And the scholarship…I just heard that all the candidates in our district have been withdrawn from the list.” She seemed to concern on this topic rather than her situation. When she saw their question marks on their faces, the girl added, “I heard it from Ryan. His father works at San Bosa Post and he is the first one who arrived at the station. Ryan said tomorrow no today news reported that we are charged with drug use. Some of the arrests are the candidates for the government’s scholarship and their names have been withdrawn from the list.”

Caleb already abandoned his hope for the scholarship but wished her freedom more than anything else. But when he saw her sad face, he knew Alexis was totally disappointed to be withdrawn from the false accusation.

“I want it and I don’t mind if I don’t get but not because of this.” 

“Belinda Carter reported you and your friends to the police,” Jesse revealed. “Hope it fixes your bad mood. If they find out—if everything is clear, your name will be enlisted again.”

The girl got stunned, more confused rather than upset. “Carter? Really? Why she did that?”

“Well, I just heard they’re arguing. Your friend’s father guessed that she wants to eliminate the rivals. But I don’t know her intention, really.”

“So if they prove that she told lies, I could go home? Really? And I still have the chance for the scholarship? But in the morning, they will announce the winners. I think it’s too late to hope. And I can’t believe she’ll do that. She’s a very just person. As I know, she’s not that kind of person.”

Jesse moaned in disapproval, eyes narrowing on his sister. “I wish she did so they can release you. That’s the best thing I hope it will happen.”

Alexis turned to her father. “Dad, you’re so quiet. Are you alright? Are you mad at me or disappointed in me?”

His mind could not focus on her presence but the girl in those nightmares. That angel face smiled sadly. She said goodbye and went away. Even though they thought she would be freed, his instinct still signaled the ungraceful feeling towards the incoming future.

Dad?” Jesse and Alexis called him.

“I just haven’t slept since you’re out,” he lied. “Where they put you in?”

Caleb was not a good actor. His children exchanged the look because Alexis just told him about it.

“In the cell, dad, about ten people in the same cell, it’s very small but not that bad. I mean because there are a lot of people and everyone thinks it’s a joke though we thought it was scary at first. Anyway, it’s still hard to sleep on the cold solid floor.”

Caleb disagreed. “No, it's not a joke, my dear. And you should concern more about it.”

Alexis lowered her head, “I’m sorry. I should think more when I speak. I mean there are too many people so we don’t take it seriously. I know the law, dad and…Jesse just told me Belinda reported the false accusation.”

“Yes, it’s not her fault, dad” the brother gave the excuse for his sister. He grabbed the girl’s hand and squeezed it gently. “You gonna be alright. Don’t cause any trouble. Obey them. Trust me. There’s nothing to worry.”

She nodded obediently.

I sue you and her daughter. I sue you all!

“That’s Mr. Miller, your friends’ father,” Jesse told his sister.

“Wade’s father.”

They heard the woman’s voice came after. She must be Mrs. Carter.

Jesse thought something then told his sister, “Another thing, tell your friend to warn his father. This trick won’t work but make it worse. Sometimes they may find none of the evidence but the accused is convicted of being what they aren’t. You know? The bully in disguise of the authority, these officers holds the superior power and if they have no fair mind, hell. Don’t risk. We should be nice in their eyes. This kind of behavior disturbs their nerves. Tell your friends to warn his father.”

Alexis nodded, “Sure, if I can tell Wade in time. So I can get out tomorrow, right?”

“If there is nothing more, yes,” Jesse confirmed. “Dad, don’t worry.”

Alexis smiled at them. “You don’t mind if I sleep at noon?”

Caleb did not answer. Jesse confirms and I should trust him but why my heart is unrest? Caleb quietly watched the brother talking to the sister. It’s just a dream, Caleb. Only a dream.

Chapter 8: The Interrogation

Jesse told her everything would be alright. On this account, even the cold concrete floor could not be bothered anymore. Alexis woke up with the thought that she would be free this day. After a short period of sleeping, Alexis saw some of her friends still had eyes open wide. All acknowledged the fact that Belinda Carter reported the lie. Therefore, some felt comfortable with the situation but some continued to be unsettling. Due to this law directly related to the H01 case, the authority regarded the Risk and the Suspect as harmful threats to the federal republic so did the arrested. As everybody here was caged because of the lie, if the law was strict but just, the authority would not treat them like the criminals for sure. Alexis had faith in justice and Jesse.  

Thanked the luck or whatever, Alexis stayed in the opposite cell that imprisoned Wade and Belinda together. They shouted and stopped and shouted. The heat around them which might be hotter than the heat in summer could be visible to the eyes, as she saw the way friends moved away from their radius and let them fight at the center. They had never been enemies until this day.

Belinda had to suffer from the angry eyes of many friends after their parents told them who brought up this trouble, they blamed her for everything. It might be hard to believe that this girl, who was the student president, had done such thing. Firstly, Alexis felt indifferent to Belinda’s behavior but began to feel a little bit frustrated when she insisted her right to do. Sometimes smart people could be unexpectedly stupid but Alexis wanted to learn what the real reason was.

Later, the argument between Wade and Belinda started to be more violent until the other had to intervene or else they might kill each other before being released. It was about an hour and the new fight started. It turned out to be the boring loop.

After midday, the police came to free some cellmates. At least, the whole cheerleading team was freed.  Alexis and Oslo watched their friends walking out of the cell crying with happiness. They were eager to be free like them but as the sunlight withdrew from the small window above their head, they began to be anxious because there were only Alexis, Oslo, Wade, and Belinda waiting for the call, even Wade and Belinda stop fighting.

“Why there are only us...left?” asked Oslo wrinkled his brows together. “Is it fishy?”

“There are many people. We’re just the last,” Alexis tried to explain the current situation. 

“Why me?” murmured Belinda. As Alexis saw Wade’s capillary on his forehead gradually danced, she hurriedly talked to him just to shift his attention to herself; or else, they might fight again, “It’s gonna be alright.”

“Don’t you think it’s weird? We’re all the candidates,” Oslo was still skeptical and then he pointed out the clue.

“We’re no more candidates, redhead. Thanks to this bitch,” replied Wade.

In a few seconds, Alexis understood Oslo’s point. He was right that it was too long and the only people left were the crème of the school. They should be released since the others were free. It was not a good sign at all.

“Just take time,” Alexis summarized with her fingers’ crossed.

In the late evening, Joseph, a policeman, called them to change their clothes that the parents packed for them yesterday’s night. Horrifying, they demanded the answer from him.

“Why don’t you free us?”

“Is there anything wrong?”

“Please, I can’t stay here any longer!”

“I’ve done nothing!”

“Easy…easy, guys, we found some errors in your profile data. Actually, I don’t have anything to explain so no more questions. Just follow me, okay?”

“So cold,” the soccer team captain muttered.

Oslo and Alexis exchanged their looks. Both were confused. But when the girl thought of her brother’s advice, she continued to obey and told her friends to do so. The girls were taken into the women’s shower rooms which were divided into two small booths as same as the shower rooms in the school’s gyms but here was smaller. As they were allowed to wear the clothes that their parents had prepared for them, not the prisoner’s uniform, this comforted them a little bit.

Jesse, I can trust you, right? 

It was the longest showering she had ever experienced. Staying with Belinda was the same as sitting on the giant ice cube. They were used to be friendly as an acquaintance but now the former student president acted coldly toward her as if they were enemies for ages. Nonetheless, the change of Belinda’s reaction did not irritate Alexis as much as her non-guilty face. Belinda believed that she did the right thing even telling the lie. It was really upset to live with this type of people who blamed everyone but themselves and hated everything but forgot to fix the attitude.

First, June, now Belinda…Alexis exhaled tiredly.

She was confident that their family must take a visit and hoped to get them back but because there was no order to release the adolescents. They might be sitting somewhere in here or mournfully staying at home waiting for the call.

“Do you think we can get out?” Oslo asked when they returned to the cell, fresh and clean. At this time, they moved all teenagers to the same cell and there were only them. The other cells were empty. San Bosa was a peaceful town with 0.02% of the crime rate.

“I don’t feel like that,” Alexis admitted. Her faith in Jesse began to fade away when the clock ticked and ticked. At this point, her disappointment towards the withdrawal of the government scholarship could not disturb anymore. It was the justice she desperately needed it to exist. 

“We can. Maybe it takes some time to check our innocence. The video is just a magic prank. And it’s the best evidence to prove that the bitch beside me reported the false information.”

Belinda glanced sideways to Wade. Alexis tried not to look at the girl when her haughty face had the effect to provoke anger.

“That officer did say that there were errors in our data,” Oslo reminded him. “What errors?’

Everybody closed their mouth, no idea about it.

“If we…If we can’t get out?”

Wade shook his head. “No way! Stop saying that Ossy!”

“Oslo! My name is Oslo.” The boy with red hair yelled. “Bel, why you did it?” Now the boy turned to ask Belinda. Wade did not start another argument which was really thankful. He kept his mouth shut, dying to know too.

Belinda hugged herself tightly and budged to the corner, replied shortly, “I’ve done the right thing.”

Wade evilly laughed. “It’s obvious you tried to eliminate us from the list. You can lie to yourself as you please…arrogant bitch.” He moved away from her as if the girl was the most disgusting insect he could not tolerate to live with while Alexis and Oslo sighed. The girl did understand how Wade’s temper rose easily but it was useless to be frustrated with the person who had no regret for their behavior. The situation attracted her attention more than the will to blame Belinda because it was about her whole life.

Can I believe in you, Jesse? Can I still believe in you? She thought. Jesse had never broken his promise or never lied to make her feel better. But there was something wrong. She was so sure about it.

On the next day, the same officer came to wake them up. Thought that they would be free, they were disappointed again when he just came to serve bread for their breakfast. Wade could not control his temper as always. He started blaming on Belinda but this time she chose the other way to fight him by sleeping. And it brought peace to the other two when Wade had no counterparty to challenge with for a while. Anyway, the heat still existed when Wade tried to make Belinda answered him why she destroyed his party until Oslo was unable to listen to Wade’s complaint anymore.

“Miller! Please shut your mouth. You get on my nerves!”

Before Wade countered, Alexis stopped the new war, “You guys! We can do nothing. Don’t make another quarrel, please? Wade, trust me. No matter you shout or scream or blame anyone, they won’t come to release us unless they receive the order. Calm down, please?”

She placed her hands on his shoulder. Like Alexis could activate his wisdom and tolerance modes, he remembered how she told him what Jesse had suggested what to do; the boy shut his mouth finally. In a few minutes later, this time, the policewoman came.

“Come with me. The interrogation team is waiting for you.” 

They glanced at each other. Only Belinda bubbled to herself, “It’s ok, it’s gonna be ok.”

“Why we have to be interrogated?” Alexis asked the officer.

She did not give the answer. They had to follow her anyway. These officers did not like being questioned. All of them wore the emotionless face. The police officers were not town’s people. They came from other cities, changing their face every two or three years.

The interrogation room had no similarity to the room she had seen in the movie. In the movie, the table stood on the center and the police would perform the interrogation process while the other officers stood behind the glass window listening to the conservation. It was far from likeness and it was scarier. There were no table but four office chairs and four electric chairs that looked like mechanic tormentors in a horror movie. No doubt they were prepared for Alexis and her friends. The atmosphere was not chilling. What would they do to them? Alexis did not understand why they treated them like violent criminals.

Age of terror, it still existed. 

They led Belinda to the first chair and she was crying in fear; Wade sat on the second, speechless. Alexis sat on the third and Oslo sat on the last one. Her legs weakened. She watched the police officer locked her arms on the armrests. The police wore the metal helmet with wires connecting to it on her head. Oslo and Alexis exchanged their eyes, wondering why they had to use this kind of methods to them. Four interrogative officers in black suits entered the room and sat on the empty chairs. Two men and two women sat opposite to the boys and the girls. The woman in front of Alexis put the stonehearted mask on her oval visage, with her eyes fixing on the encounter. The two police, one was the woman who brought them here and another one was Joseph, stood as their assistants. The silence frightened them. The time slowly killed their courage. She heard herself swallowing the saliva and also the beating heart.

She still could not believe it was real.

“Good afternoon young ladies and gentlemen, we brought you here for good information and the truth. Don’t be afraid.” The man opposite to Wade spoke. “We have normal questions to ask you. All we need is the truth, the most truth. You can see that you are sitting on the polygraph. In fact, it’s not the normal lie detector that you may have recognized. Once your mouth spread one lie, the chair will transmit the electrical current to cause an electric shock to you.”

He paused and smiled as if demonstrating how to brush teeth for little kids. “Listen carefully, one lie, your friend on the left-hand side will get the electric shock. And you, redhead,” he mentioned to Oslo, “For your lie, Ms. Carter will pay for it.”

“To warn you all, don’t try if you don’t want to cause pain to your friend. You understand?”

They slightly nodded. Wade fixed his eyes on Alexis, trying to give a message through the eyes contact that he should not have to sit next to Belinda who was the biggest liar among them.

“I must be roasted alive.” She heard him whispering. It did not sound joking but serious.

“Okay, let’s start with Ms. Carter,” the woman on the right-handed side began. “Ms. Carter, tell me if you reported the false information to us that some of your friends who attended the party at the Miller’s mansion performed something that may involve with the qualifications of being the Risk.”

“No”

Wade screamed in pain when the electricity shocked him. In her horror, she saw his big body suddenly shaking violently. The scream of pain made her blood run cold. It lasted just one second. Yes, only one second but that one second killed all her optimism. There was no sign of burns but Wade breathed hardly and was still shuddered for a few minutes after the shock.

“Fuck you, Bitch!” At least, he still had the energy to scold Belinda.

“Are you alright?” Alexis asked him, shocking; still, her heart seemed like it stopped moving for a while when heard his howl. The boy shook his head telling he was alright with a dreadful look. Alexis was incapable of seeing Belinda but heard the former student president’s sudden sobbing. Perhaps, Belinda might feel sorry to cause Wade’s pain which she didn’t mean to do or she was just too scared.

Dad’s right. This is not a joke. This was indeed a torture room, not the interrogation room. Alexis put all her effort to search for the answer to this arrangement but found none.

“May I ask you again, Ms. Carter? Did—you—lie—to—us?” The woman stressed her words.

“Y…es”

Nothing happened. Wade exhaled, soothing.

“Why did you lie?”

Instead of answering them, Belinda preferred crying. For a few seconds, Wade screamed again. “Tell them!” He yelled after taking a breath.

“I—I—I want to win the scholarship. I want to get rid of her. If—If she’s withdrawn, I know I will get it.”

She? Belinda meant to entrap me only? WTH?!

“She? You mean Ms. Davis?”

“Yes. Yes, of course. She was likely to win…and I need the scholarship. I didn’t intend to frame all of them but-but I can’t think of the other way to frame only one.”

“My dear, you can win if she wins. The scholarship provides for five students and we don’t have the quota-limited. It is still possible for you all to win together.”

Belinda sobbed. 

“Thank you, Ms. Carter, you committed the wrongful act in accordance with the Surveillance and Control of the Risks to Humankind Act 2966, Clause 31, the punishment of false accusation committed with the purpose to defame the other to be the Suspect or the Risk, the convict must be sentenced to life imprisonment. You’re convicted.”

Life imprisonment? Alexis thought that it was excessively severe punishment but if she considered if that false accusation destroys someone’s life, for example, Wade, Oslo, and Alexis were withdrawn from the scholarship, it might not overact. However, if they could prove themselves that they were innocent; this punishment for Belinda was a little bit too harsh.

Belinda did beg but Alexis could not catch the words because her pleading fused with her wailing.

“Calm down, Ms. Carter. (Who can? Alexis thought.) If your action leads us to discover any Suspect or any Risk, intentionally or unintentionally, in other words, by your luck, the sentence shall be pardoned. Unfortunately, we still have to give you the other punishment instead.” The woman changed her paper, the act of carelessness. “The good news is we found none evidence demonstrating that you are one of the Suspects or the Risks. Therefore, please wait for the others and we will come back to make the final judgment for your wrongdoing again.”

She ended the interrogation with the fake smile while Belinda could not control her emotions well. Life imprisonment meant the end of everything, the bright future, the dream. Belinda might not expect for the softer punishment. Alexis felt the complexity of her feeling towards Belinda, between sympathy and satisfaction.

The man who had to interrogate Wade moved his focus from Belinda to the boy in front of him. He arranged a pile of papers several times before questioning Wade.

“Mr. Miller, please answer our question carefully. Do you have any idea about this?”

He showed the photo of Peter walking on water. Because the picture had been captured from the video clip, its quality was not good. Wade held his breath, ready to answer. “We tried to make a magic trick video to upload in our school community website. You can see it clearly that there is a glass sheet under the water and four boys in the pool carried it. I am the one who recorded the video. In the video clip, it may look like he can walk on water. We tried to trick our friends and intended to upload the second video that reveals the trick after the first one. Anyway, I was drunk and now I see that it’s a foolishly fake video.”

No electric shock, Alexis listened carefully. In the deepest sense, she knew he would not lie after experiencing the pain he had experienced and his answer was assuring without any staccato rhythm.

“Good. Now this,” he showed another photo. It was the drugs in the party, including packs of cocaine, marijuana cigarettes, and condoms.

Wade confessed immediately, “Only one belongs to me. The others, I don’t know.”

“Which one belongs to you?”

“The cocaine, that one in the blue zip lock.”

“Did you regularly organize sex and drug party?” The officer chortled, so did the others.

“Once a month, does it regularly?” Wade paused and seemed to concern on his bad mouth. He looked at Alexis to see if his answer wronged to them. When she said it was alright, he continued. “No…sir. It’s normal party. You can find it in every party, teens or adults. They always have these things”

“But they’re illegal and you’re the candidate and the team captain.”

“Is condom illegal too?”

The eyes of cruelty glared at them. Alexis got chilling when those eyes fell on her. Wade realized his mistake. “My bad, sir. Yes, I know wholeheartedly they’re illegal.”

The man who questioned Wade controlled his temper. The boy had the irritating habit sometimes but he should know when he could do it.

“Mr. Miller, you are convicted of illegal drug possession less than 100 gram and will be fined 50,000 rels or sentenced one year in jail. Unless we find any Suspect or Risk, your punishment will be pardoned but we still have to give you the other punishment. Like Ms. Carter, we found none evidence indicating you are qualified as the Suspect or the Risk, please wait for the final judgment again.”

Alexis had expected it but she understood that it was impossible to control the temper when their judgment was clearly unfair.

“Excuse me? Do I have to wait for the final judgment? So if you found any Suspect or any Risk, I have to go to the program with them, right? To seal my mouth and my witness in this room, I know what you’re going to do. Can you tell me how it relates to my offense? This is unfair and I want to pay the fine.”

In a flash of time, the electricity passed through Alexis’s body, she could not help but scream in agony. It lasted just one second but absolutely painful, as if it fed all her energy and all she could do was breathe difficultly. The girl tried to control her stiff hands.

It’s not a lie detector. Someone must control it!

“I’m sorry, Alex. I don’t know it will hurt you,” Wade apologized and kept his mouth shut eternally, losing his courage to be against the judgment that lacked legitimacy. This proved that Jesse’s warning was right. These people had made the decision. They could do nothing but listened to their bullshit.

“Do you have anything to say, Mr. Miller?” His tone was full of mockery.

“No sir,” Wade replied, his hands shaking.

“Good.”

Alexis lowered her head in disappointment. Jesse was right but not all of it. He was correct about the authority acted like the bully. Like Mr. Miller’s case, she meant Wade’s father who threatened the police with the will to free his child but the outcome was dissatisfied. More importantly, Wade was right. They tried to close their mouth about this cruel interrogation and unjust judgment. Alexis could sense they attempted to accuse them of the wrongdoing they did not commit. She prepared her mind to handle anything that was going to come to her next.

It took a few times for Alexis to discover the answer. If all the adolescents were released, the government would be the fool in front of the public when they listened to the girl’s lie without proper investigation. She thought she knew what would happen to her. The girl clenched her fists. I can handle it. I can prove that they threaten the innocent children.    

The woman in front of her revealed a soft smile, the same smile that the psycho murderer showed the victims before slaying them cruelly.

“Ms. Davis, tell us what is your special ability that Ms. Stephen tried to cover it from us?”

Alexis sensed the eyes of friends staring at her but she truly did not understand the question how Ms. Stephen related to this case, “Ms. Stephen?” She frequently met this nurse when she was a little but it was long ago. To be honest, Mary Stephen was not the family’s close friend. Bianna, her mother did not like Alexis to play with this nurse.

The corner of her left eye caught how Oslo tried to shrink away but nothing happened.

I speak the truth and my feeling is true, except that someone’s holding the controller.

“Yes, Mary Stephen” The officer stressed her words but the girl was still confused.

Alexis shook her head, “I don’t understand, honestly not’.”

And Oslo was still fine.

The interrogative officers discussed with each other. So she spent this time to survey around the room, learning how the two police stood still like marble sculptures. Alexis could not saw the blond police’s name when her fish tails covering the nametag.

In a few minutes later, the officer continued her job.

“Ms. Davis, please looked at this screen.” Alexis raised her head, watching the plan of this police station on the screen object whose size was similar to a large book. She had never seen this kind of advanced technology before because the users only touched the screen and could control the application via the display screen. The female officer counted to ten then signaled the police Joseph to unlock her right arm. “Please draw the plan,” she ordered and overturned that tablet.

“I’m left-handed sir.” She told him. The cop nodded and changed his position to unlock her left arm.

They gave her a transparent sheet and a black pen. Alexis began to draw the plan from her memory. It took about five minutes then she returned her drawing to Joseph. He locked her arm again.

The woman laid her drawing on the screen. She showed it to everyone in the room. Alexis’s drawing perfectly fitted in the original plan. The other officers nodded to each other.

“When did you discover this skill?

“Maybe seven years old, I’m not sure.”

“With this skill, don’t you think you’re better than anyone else? Or different from the others?” 

“No, it’s just a memorization skill. There are plenty of people have better skills than me or weirder than me. I like it, especially when I have exams.”

Her interviewer laughed softly and bobbed her head.

“Did your parents know?”

Alexis got stunned for a few seconds because she was afraid they would try to arrest her parents too. “…Yes, they said God gives me a very good gift but it doesn’t make me different from the others.”

“They did say that? Don’t you think they try to cover it?”

Alexis tried to be wise. “No. If they try to cover it they would ask me to hide it but they didn’t.” It was the half-truth but the electric shock had not harmed Oslo. 

“She really thinks she’s normal,” the male officer who interviewed Wade interrupted and all of them were nodding in mutual agreement. Their similar gesture stirred up a strange feeling inside her stomach. These people act like the robots from the same factory.

Alexis tried not letting the nervousness troubling her mind. She spoke the truth or at least, she thought it was the truth and it would not harm her. Their attempt to accuse her would be unsuccessful, the girl assured herself. It’s gonna be alright. I just have a good memory. Father always says that it’s a special talent but not the danger. But what happens to Ms. Stephen? Why did they mention her name?

“Ms. Davis, how do you feel when you’re in a dusty room?”

“Itchy, I get running nose and rash on my skin. I’m allergic to dust.”

She hated the way they exchanged their eyes to each other.

At last, the women declared the judgment. “For your case, we can’t say you have hypochondria because you are made to believe that you’re allergic to dust since childhood. It’s our body that sometimes plays trick to us. Ms. Davis, according to your blood test, you have no allergy in anything, which means that you are 100% healthy and Mary Stephen who recorded this false information in your medical history is trying to cover something about you…from us. And it may relate to the talent you have.”

“It’s a normal gift,” Wade blurted out. Again, another electrical shock ran through Alexis’s body. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t say anything. Please?” She begged him even though knowing that he just wanted to protect her and himself for the reason that if they found none who could be the Suspect or the Risk, Wade could just pay the fine and returned to his normal life.

“I’m sorry to say this, but Ms. Davis, you are qualified to be the Suspect.”

It was the same feeling when she saw June and Davy together, the emptiness inside her chest. After that, the greatest disappointment started to move her mind.

“I speak the truth and this skill is just a normal skill,” she said to them, trying so hard to control her voice volume.

“My dear girl, we’re all in mutual agreement that you’re qualified and need to join our rehabilitation program. Don’t worry, child. We can fix you.”

Fix me? Ridiculous. So what? So I can’t argue with your wrong judgment? Alexis tried to steady herself. Be calm. Be calm.

It was hard to accept the judgment with the same old obedience because the judgment denoted the undesirable legal process. A few days ago, apart from the heartbroken story that seemed to be ancient, Alexis still saw her life as the new freshman in the medical school of Delphi in the case that she could not win the scholarship, bright and beautiful her life would have been. She would have joined a sorority and the basketball club, taken the other magazine shootings, and returned home during the breaks. Even though her father did not like the model job, Alexis loved it and dreamed to be the famous model and the smart doctor at the same time. Being the suspect means the end of the bright future, the end of liberation, and the dream. The rehabilitation program they claimed to fix people had never succeeded to cure those whom they charged with. No one returned to tell them what they had faced and how. Alexis could not return home, the best place in this world. She could not return to the people she loved.

Is it…the new freedom they claimed?

“Is there anything to say to us?”

“Obey them,” Jesse voiced in her mind. No, her heart opposed but…How can I do? How can I change their judgment? If I try to defend myself, Oslo will get hurt.

“No” Alexis reluctantly answered. Her eyes brimmed with tears.

She was always obedient but what gave her? Her life was ruined. Alexis was not the only one who was crying. Belinda and Wade also realized their fate. We are merely the slave of the corrupted system.

 “…So if you found any Suspect or Risk, I have to go to the program with them, right?” She looked at Wade but he did not return his gaze to anyone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I can’t defend myself and you’re dragged with me.

The last one was Oslo. She hoped that he would survive from this unjustness. Even so, the man that interviewed him mentioned about the abnormality of his grades recorded by Mrs. Dobies, their math teacher, and was Ms. Stephen’s sister.

“…Mr. Jessens, it is clear that Mrs. Dobies, similar to Ms. Davis’s case, tried to cover something about you. Regarding all of your profile, it is possible that you are qualified to be the Suspect. We all have the mutual agreement to judge that you are qualified and needed to receive the rehabilitation program as same as Ms. Davis.”

“It’s not clear that I’m one of them. There’s no clear evidence indicating my identity as the suspect. I don’t think I deserve…”

Belinda bellowed in suffering. Oslo closed his mouth tightly. Alexis saw the tears at the corner of his eyes but he held it bravely. In this room, everyone’s name should be removed from this fucking H01 case. They swallowed the bitterness inside because sometimes tears could not release the entire sorrow they were enduring now. How was their future? Who ought to be responsible for it? How would the program treat them? Who knew?

Bullshit, this is bullshit.

Chapter 9: Teacher's Tale

Under the small light on the white-gray ceiling panel, she was there but not her mind. Alexis sank into the sea of despair. The others might be drowning too, in the same ocean. Unquestionably, all were suffocating.

She darted a glance to Wade and Belinda. Guilty she felt even though did not know why blaming herself. Wade’s father certainly could pay the amount of fine to make him free if there was no Suspect found. Belinda could assign an attorney to plead for softer punishment. The judgment had no difference from life imprisonment. They were doomed.

The blond-haired boy lied down with a small injury on his arms and shoulders. After the completion of interrogation, as he was freed from the locks, the boy darted to the governmental officers aiming at attacking. Lucky enough, yes, Alexis used the right word. If the two police had not caught him in time, Wade would be sentenced with more serious punishment due to harming the state officers. They beat him with the bats but the girl knew that this was the only way to stop his silly madness.   

“I’m sorry.”

Oslo was the first who spoke it out. They did not utter any single word after returning to the cell. 

“I should say that too,” Alexis said. “You two should not be here.”

“You two? No, all of us should not be here. No one’s fault but her,” Wade stood up. His eyes glowed fiercely at Belinda. “Because of you! You destroy our life!”

Alexis and Oslo restrained him before he could attack the girl. Belinda wept helplessly and crawled to the corner. It was the first time she showed them the fear and the first time she surrendered to him, dared not to fight against him anymore.

“She’s a girl!” Oslo reminded the bigger boy.

Like I care!” Too strong, even two people hardly stopped him. “You, that-Stephen-woman, and Mrs. Dobies! They must pay for us.

“I’m sorry, Miller.”

The voice behind their back belonged to the newcomer. Actually, there were two newcomers. Ms. Stephen and Mrs. Dobies were standing on the central aisle. Both of their hands got handcuffed. The most appalling was their look that did not differ from maenads—well in the negative meaning. Their hairs were crazily messy and some parts of their skin got burnt. Their familiarity with Mrs. Dobies was more than Ms. Stephen. She, once, was a very charming woman that usually had her blonde hair in a neat high bun and always painted scarlet red color on her lips. Her entire appearance now contrasted to her usual image. The red on her lips now tainted with blood. Her brightness faded from her beautiful face. Ms. Stephen had no better condition than her older sister. It was visible that they had not only been tortured by the electric shock but also brutally beat.

“We’re so sorry,” Alexis said.  

Belinda crawled to the cell bar, regretfully, asking the teacher if they were alright. Again, the first gesture demonstrated that Belinda Carter cared the others, “What did they do to you? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

Mrs. Dobies had the heart of the true teacher. Her eyes gently revealed forgiveness to the girl. Alexis lost her strength again. Their condition was worse. Ms. Stephen almost leaned on her sister. They nearly lost their balances.

The kids should blame them. They should curse them. Instead of doing that, they cried: silently crying and flooding tears on the faces, all of them. Mrs. Dobies was the most favorite teacher most students admired. She was funny, kind, and devoted. Although Wade might blame her at first because of his hot temper but when she was standing before him like this, how could a mild heart have no pity on her? She had previously been their guardians, their second parent, and what did she look like now? Alexis was afraid of her parents’ fate. Did they torture them too? And how about her brothers and sister, Elodie, June, and Davy? How are they?

“Get inside, ma’am” The police, short and a little bit bald, told them gently. He was not Joseph. People called him Bruce. He was one of the police who had come to Wade’s mansion and detained all the teenagers there. When Ms. Stephen was about to fall, he helped support her.

“This one is kinder,” Oslo whispered. Alexis agreed. If Joseph or the blonde police was here, they would let them fall.

The two women moved inside the cell that faced them. Bruce smiled at them with sympathy and walked away.

Seeing the two women weighted more pressure on their shoulders. Oslo sat on his knee; she knew how he lost. No hope glanced at them. They had to accept the reality that life came to the end. Alexis wiped the tears away. Crying did not save anyone. 

“How is my family?” Alexis asked her teacher.

“They’re fine. Don’t worry. It’s Mary’s work, not your father’s. Only us they interrogated. I’m sorry. We’re really sorry for you all. We try to protect you from the witch’s hunting. But…,” then sighed.

Mrs. Dobies was entirely weak but forced herself to give some explanation, especially about actions. She said the authority chased the people whom they regarded as the threat to the system. Owing to the fact that the source of superhuman quality was still unknown, it was dangerous to let them be free. She did not know how the rehabilitation program would treat them. She had no idea.

“If you want to know why, this is our reason to do this. Before you were born, the government founded the special unit for chasing the Risk specifically but because these people began hiding their identity, the qualifications of being the Risk, therefore, has been declared and the word ‘Suspect’ has been added for those who tend to be the Risk even their talent is invisible. People opposed to this measure and they were defeated. Those that sit behind the government could not sit in peace. The riot rose and was eliminated and the new one rose again. The cycle of chaos found no end. The government realized that when people feel like they are being over-controlled, it will cause more trouble than letting they think that the government is under their control. Later, they declared the deposition of the special unit in order to respond and to reduce the protest but it still works in secret until now.”

“How do you know about this?” Alexis asked and then she thought of the mysterious case of Desiree Dalka which Jesse had made her read it. Some people know but lost the way to transfer the information or were prohibited from doing so. It was dangerous but the danger is also a good seduction. The protestors still worked secretly. Listening to their voice’s tone, it was clear enough that they told them the fact, not from the imagination.

“That time was the age of terror,” Oslo guessed.

“Yes, it was. I’d never understood that kind of terror until it happened to my family. What made the protestors defeated is because of the ignorance of people. Not all the people thought about the other’s right. My family was the ignorance too until the police visited our house. And then we became the victims. On my birthday thirty years ago, our mother and our sister were killed.” Her jade green eyes were full of tears when recalling the worst memory. Alexis hugged herself, attentively listening.

“The cops visited our house and tried to drag Molly, our sister, with them. They said she was the threat to the nation. My mother protected her so she was shot. The bullet killed both of them. My birthday was ruined. Even now, I still remembered my sister’s lifeless eyes. But one thing I and Mary could not see is her ability. She died before I see it. Or maybe she died without possessing it.”

“I’m sorry to hear that Ms. Dobies.” Alexis felt ill when she heard this story. “You don’t have to tell us if it makes you down.”

The teacher shook her head. “No, my dear Davis. I must tell you. You all must know. Everyone must know. After the tragedy, our family moved twice to escape the scene that keeps haunting us. Mary and I tried our best to prevent the same thing happened to the other families. I don’t want my students to have the same fate as my sister. I love you all and I want to protect you. But we didn’t think it will end like this. Mr. Jessens, your calculation skill is above the other. Yes, it’s not strange. It’s gifted. But I was too afraid that it would attract their interest so I changed some of your tests before submitting to the central education headquarters. You still get A from me but not perfect A. I did it too much…And I cause you trouble.”

She moved her eyes on Alexis.

“And Ms. Davis, your memory is too magical but because Mary put the wrong information on your medical profile and you have never outshined it so I let this work to my sister.”

“I haven’t known both of them have the super brain,” Wade said.

“It’s not the super brain,” Alexis corrected him. “It’s just a skill.”

“Yes, just a skill. We thought it was the best way to protect them but if they did not find out, they won’t interrogate you. They will think it’s the make-up story by Ms. Carter only.”

Alexis thought of her parents. They insisted that her gift was just a normal gift but she was better not to show off because it might cause annoyance and hatred when someone overacted in something. Now she understood that they tried to protect her like Ms. Stephen and Mrs. Dobies had done. Sometimes a gift could be a curse.

“I don’t know who to be blamed. I don’t see the point of it.” Alexis revealed what she truly felt right now. “They want to put us in this case. It’s no doubt. If it’s not us, the victims can be others. If it’s not you, they still force us to be the convicts. They can free Wade but they don’t. It’s not about who to be blamed, Mrs. Dobies. It’s about the system and the power users. Carter might start the fire but if there’s no fuel, we won’t sit here.”

“She’s right,” Oslo supported her thought.

“I am the fuel,” The nurse uttered. It was like she ran out of energy. “My…because of our action, they dig up the whole system in our district. The other kids would be arrested soon if they…Oh, Meg! If they find out.” She started to cry. Mrs. Dobies comforted her sister.

“No, you’re not.” Alexis denied. “It’s the system, the act, the people…it’s those people who sit behind those chairs…they have no right to do this…to all of us.”

The girl looked at her feet, wondering how she had felt before. The scholarship was the goal she dreamed of since childhood but to be part of the dirtiness and the absolute authority, being a puppet was never the thing she dreamed of.

Because I was Mr. Naïve like you but now I become Mr. Brightside,” Jesse’s words replaying in her mind. It’s too late for me to become Ms. Brightside.

“They have the right to do everything.” This time Oslo protested her words. “That’s why we’re here. We’re over. We can't do anything. We have to admit it. I don’t blame you, Mrs. Dobies. Your intention is goodwill. I blame the fate. My life is over. Goodbye, my future.” And he returned to his place, sitting and admitting the reality.

No one said anything more but the silence reflected their agreement that the boy was right.

The teens had no more questions to ask the teacher. She looked totally weak and they let her rest with her sister. Belinda kept crying and no one thought about comforting her when everyone had their own misery to bear. Alexis sat leaning her back on the wall trying to calm her thought. It was the end. No more university life, no more social life, nothing left to yearn for.

In the evening, they hardly consumed foods but they were tasteless anyway. There was no new information announced so Alexis did not know when she would leave here and if they would allow them to meet their family or not.

“Please, we do nothing. We don’t know anything about the false information.”

Alexis and the other poked their head to the cage door when they heard the new voices. They saw the other teenagers were detained. Most were younger than them. Mary Stephen wept again. 

“I don’t know what she’s done!” Mrs. Dobies focused on her laps with her sister lied her head on. The new cellmates cursed the two and, of course, Belinda too. The girl with the chocolate color hair kept herself at the corner, covering her ears.

“You guys, please tell us what they will do to us?” Anthony Hernandez asked loudly from the next cell.

Alexis wanted him to keep his mouth shut. Telling the truth would make them scare but keeping silence caused the same thing. She did not know how to answer them.  

“Electric shock and shut the fuck up!” Wade replied. The younger boy dared not to ask again. Perhaps, her friend’s answer shocked him and the others.

“You don’t have to put all your temper on them. They’re frightened,” Alexis warned.

Wade did not answer, fixing his eyes on the bruises on both arms.

The newcomers kept talking among their group while the other two cells sat in silence. The new ones still had hope like Alexis and her friends before entering that room. Alexis glared at the ceiling without certain thought and she fell asleep.

During the night, the girl dreamed that she was freed. Their judgment had been amended and they were judged as the innocent. Until she heard the noise outside the cell as if someone talking, Alexis hardly opened her eyes. She was too sleepy to wake up at that time.

“Don’t even touch them.”

“So you’ll come with me?”

Who’s speaking? Then she succumbed to sleepiness.

**********

The next day, four teenagers were allowed to meet their family and friends. Elodie came with Alexis’s parents and she cried all the time, blaming herself that she was the real cause of Alexis’s trouble. The girl spent a lot of time to comfort her dark-haired friend instead of being comforted. Her father said if Alexis had not been there, she would be arrested anyway because of Mary Stephen’s confession (or being forced to do).

“The newspaper stated that three crème students of San Bosa High School involved with drugs. How could they write that fake news?” Jesse complained.

“They’re forced to write that thing,” her father explained.

“At least it did not show our names, didn’t it?” asked Alexis.

“Nope, if there are any, I will sue them.”

“You sound like Wade’s father.”

She noticed that her mother and Bryce rarely spoke. It was hard to manage their feeling. They sat quietly watching her talking with Jesse. At the same time, Elodie’s cry echoed all over the room. Even her father and Jesse were extremely tired as she observed them. They might put all the effort to save her in every way but failed. Her brother completely lacked all of his confidence, comparing to the assurance he had given her two days ago. Well, nobody expected this would have happened to Alexis, to become a wrongdoer or the threat to the nation.

“You all look deadly alive like zombies,” she tried to make a joke but it was the worst joke ever.

“You have to go?” asked Little Charlie, the only one who was not infected by the depression. He was too young to understand that his sister would never come back to him, never teach him drawing, never take him to eat ice-cream and pizza, and never play with him, never and never again.

“She will come back,” Bryce spoke. The sister gave her a hard-breathing hug. “Right?”

They shared the room for almost fifteen years. Being sisters and best friends for most of their lives and one day when one of them had to sleep alone; it was so depressing to imagine how loneliness both had to encounter. 

“Please…” Alexis pleaded. Resisting the tears was super hard. Little Charlie stared fixedly at her, demanding for the answer.

“I try, Monkey,” replied she then he was satisfied.

“Do you know?” her mother finally revealed her voice but to her father. “Do you know about the fake information that Mary did?”

Caleb nodded guiltily.

“And you let she did it?”

“No one’s fault,” the girl interrupted at once before her mother said anything more. She did not want their parents arguing in front of everyone at this time and they had never done any single time since she became their daughter. The grief devoured all hope in the room and she needed not the heat of rage or quarrel because the time to stay with them was running out every second.

“They said the departure date will be announced within tomorrow. Alex, I’m sorry. I can’t do anything for you. I’m incapable of doing anything. I’m useless.”

“I said no one’s fault,” she repeated and took off Bryce’s arms before being out of breath.

Bianna asked Jesse again if he could find any good attorney. And they had to listen to Jesse’s explanation (how many times he had to do it she could not count). The fact was the offense of being the suspect under the act 2966 forbade the defense from the accused’s side. The law was unappeasable and the verdict meant unchangeable. During two hours, they discussed the law, the possibility of Alexis’s liberation, and the system. In the final minutes, Bianna could not make her mind steady, she cried to Jesse, demanding him to find the way, blaming the authority. Jesse had to take her out of the room before the police officer did it with the barbaric manner.

It was time for them to go. The girl smiled at her father, trying so hard to be strong in his eyes.

“Tomorrow, we will come again. Take care of yourself, my girl,” her father said and kissed her forehead. Bryce and Elodie did the same but Little Charlie lingered a little bit. “You promise to come back, please? I want to draw an elephant. You’re the best at it and Jesse’s drawing is suck.”

“How can you learn to speak like that?” she cried while carrying him on her laps.

“Jesse always said the system is suck and full of bloody people.”

Alexis closed her eyes. Next time, the brother must be lectured. “Don’t say that words. It’s rude, you know? I can’t promise you, Monkey. I try my best, okay?”

Instead of giving him her promise, she gave him a big kiss on his full cheek. Because she knew she would break it, father taught her not to make any promise that she could not keep.

Charlie jumped down and waved back with his bright smile before getting out with her family. The handcuff locked her hand on the table so she had to watch them go away although the heart followed them.

That day, their friends and teachers at the school visited them too. She began to sympathize with Belinda when all of them preferred to meet only three of them. There were the cheerleading team, the soccer club, the basketball club, the astronomy club, etc. Davy came too, with the soccer team but June still ghosted away even her mother who was familiar with Alexis’s family had not shown up.

If you just show up, I will forget everything. I will forgive everything. Alexis missed her best friend from childhood. Although the conflict between them damaged their friendship beyond repair, June’s betrayal caused the severe pain, truly. Anyway, the girl knew wholeheartedly that they would never meet again so she needed the good ending. Another reason, even though she bore the knife June had left it, Alexis hoped her friend would take it off and they could reset thing together before she departed. In the profoundness of her heart, Alexis just wanted June to say sorry. That was all she needed.

The girl was taken outside the visiting room, waiting for Wade, Oslo, and Belinda. They were walking towards. The police Bruce, standing beside her, clapped his hand on her shoulders gently.

“You’ll see them again tomorrow, young lady.”

She nodded. “Do you mind if I ask a question?”

“You still have time. Go on, girl.”

The girl smiled with relief. He did not act coldly to them like the other two police whom they frequently met.

“What they will do to us at the program?”

Bruce sighed. “I can’t answer you because I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. Sorry girl.”

“Hey!” Wade greeted her.

“Let’s go back.” The police guided their way. They passed Anthony’s group that was heading to the interrogation room.

“Good luck!” Wade shouted. The other group turned to him, perplexed.

“Go on!” The blonde police urged and pointed at Wade with the warning gesture. Alexis’s group watched them disappeared behind that door.

“You’re mean!” She elbowed her friend. “Don’t you see their faces?”

“I warn them,” Wade claimed.

“Stop the girl!”

Alexis turned and she heard the chaos. Then the scream of people sneaked out of that room. 

“Get back to the cell, right now!” Bruce ordered with the walkie-talkie in his hand. “We need back up. Interrogation Room. Repeat! We need back up. Interrogation Room.”

Chapter 10: Inner Monster (new)

“It’s the vivid light—so vivid. My butt didn’t touch the seat yet and I couldn’t see anything. The light blinded me, no, blinded us. They fought against her. There’s gunshot and Sonya tried to flee. I heard them saying that. Not really sure. I can’t see it. They fought her to stop.”

“What’s her power?” asked Wade.

“The light! It’s the light.” Anthony raised his voice volume.

“Light?”

“Yeah, the light,” Anthony repeated.

Wade turned to her, doubtful. “I don’t’ understand. How the light can harm people?”

“It’s the same way we can’t look at the sun during the midday.” Alexis guessed. “Am I correct?”

“Yeah-yeah, something like that, or maybe she can control the light. The light burned things. Or it’s about the heat. Whatever, but after she was taken away, I saw all light bulbs burned. Two girls got injured too. Their skin burnt and they are unable to open their eyes. They probably stay at the hospital now.”

Alexis’s group exchanged the news from Anthony’s group, from cell to cell. “I think Sonya was scared. When she saw those chairs, she burst her everything out. It might be an accident.”

“What’s going on with her now?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know where they take her.”

Alexis looked at the cell where they put Mrs. Dobies and her sister inside. Now the cell was empty.

“What about the interrogation?” Wade still asked for more information.

“It terminates but I’m not sure if it’s temporary or not. Hope they cancel it forever.”

The former soccer captain returned to Oslo and Alexis. “Well, who is Sonya Romuller?”

Alexis rolled her eyes. 

“A junior student, she’s quiet but really nice,” Oslo answered him. “I thought you know a lot of people?”

Wade shook his head, “No not a lot. But you can’t tell me I have to recognize everybody in the school, especially the quiet ones.”

“I saw her at your party regularly.”

“No, I usually don’t pay attention to the guests. When I said, ‘hey, come to my party’, people parade into my house from word-to-word. I haven’t known you until we’re here. Alex, do you know this Sonya?”

Alexis nodded. “She sings for the school’s choir.”

“So this one is really the Risk.” Wade turned to Belinda who sat far from them. “Congratulations!” He clapped his hands slowly. “You did help them find the real one!”

“Stop it. Leave her alone,” Oslo cried. “Just leave her alone, okay?”

“Okay, Saint Oslo,” Wade muttered with playful eyes.

 A couple hours later, the police came and they released the other group. Alexis pressed her face against the metal bars. It was the first time since the interrogation that there was the sign of hope. Miracle, please. I know you’re here.

Her eyes fixed on Anthony’s group. When the police ordered them to get out, they were reluctant to do.

“Don’t you want to go home? You’re free now.”

“How about them?” Anthony pointed to Alexis’s cell. “You’ll release them too? You already found the Risk.”

Alexis would like to kiss him once.

“They’re convicted as the Suspect. (“Me?” Wade yelled.) If you won’t go, I’ll put you inside. And you, Miller boy, shut your mouth.”

“Why?” Wade asked. “You let them go. Why don’t let us? You already found the Risk. We’re not.”

“I already said you’re the Suspect,” Joseph replied and showed the bat. “Need another hit?’

Alexis resumed her place, laughing to mock herself. Oslo who was still leaning on the wall smiled at them scornfully. “You two still hope?”

“Yep,” she admitted. “Is it wrong?”

“I didn’t mean to offend you, Alex.” Oslo shook his head. “Well, I don’t know what to do even to hope so I go to sleep. Sweet dream both of you.” The boy with red hair laid his back on the solid floor. They slept like this for three full days now. Certainly, it was not comfortable at all. Alexis got the back pain and she needed a full day in the spa.

“They’re lucky,” she still talked to Wade. “They didn’t receive that treatment and the judgment haven't been made yet. I wish I have that luck.”

Wade squeezed her shoulder. “I know. Feel the same thing but can’t do anything.”

They sat quietly for a while. Her eyes fixed on Oslo who slept peacefully.

Then Wade said, “It’s funny… I agree with him. The only thing we can do is sleeping.” 

Alexis sniggered.

Wade lay down. “You can lay your head on my arm? Or here?” The boy hit on his chest, slyly grinning. Alexis kicked one of his legs and laid herself on the floor next to Oslo.

“Where did they take them?” Alexis meant Mrs. Dobies and Ms. Stephen.

“Donno. Hope it’s not another torment.”

There were only four prisoners. The ambiance was deader than the other previous days. She watched the plain ceiling until surrendering to the weight of her eyelids, the girl fell asleep. 

**********

How many hours passed she was not certain but was sure that it was not morning yet. It might be the wee hours of the new morning. Alexis felt someone shaking her arms softly. Her eyes blinked before seeing a man in navy blue uniform kneeling beside her. Alarmed, the girl almost shouted but he covered her mouth and shook his head. The light from a small neon bulb brightened and revealed those dark brown eyes which gave a sudden turbulence stirred inside her stomach. Bruce whispered that there was an emergency call from her family.

The door was opened and Bruce came inside to wake her up. It seemed he did not want to disturb the others.

“What happened to them?”

His brows tied a frown warning not to make more questions which surprised her. Bruce was not the same kind uncle she had met before. Alexis got up and unintentionally woke Oslo. “Ere doo yoou goo?” He asked yawning and when he saw the officer inside the cell he became fully awakened. “What?”

“Sorry. I have an emergency call,” she whispered back while Wade’s snore echoed all around. Bruce made the exit and urged the girl to follow him.

When she got out, Bruce locked the cell again and told Oslo to continue sleeping. However, as she turned back, Alexis still saw Oslo’s eyes following.

“Bad news? What happened to my family?” Alexis worried. Bruce’s haste made her think of bad things occurred to them.

“You’ll know.” 

The police station at this hour was noiseless, comparing to the madness on the first day she was here. Alexis had never stepped inside the police station until being arrested. There were no other accused imprisoned for further legal processes. There were only them.

The door ahead slightly opened so she could listen to the sound that sneaked out. The girl looked through the gap, seeing Joseph and his female partner dozing off on the table. They met these two officers more often than the others so when she saw their sleeping posture which was against their hostility, it amused her. She was not sure which rank they were but might not that big. Observing the insignia on Bruce’s shoulders, she found it was no different from the insignia on the two sleeping officers. They were the same rank.

Bruce made the soft sound to accelerate her speed. She just walked past the police’s canteen which was looked like a small kitchen. There might be the other officers in the lobby. During the walk, her mind fused with many ideas about her family. Her anxiety mainly focused on Bianna. Last time which meant this last morning, they saw each other, the depression consumed her badly.

Alexis noticed Bruce’s odd behavior as they must turn left to go to the visiting rooms but he still led her to the way where the end was the storage room and the fire exit.

It was not where he told her where the emergency call was. The phone booth was in the visiting room and the lobby.

Alexis paused. “Sir, that’s not the right way. Where will we go, the lobby or the visiting room?”

Bruce grabbed her arms, “This way, girl. I’m working here, forget it?”

He was right but Alexis did not feel alright. The girl politely removed his hand away, “Sir, who called? What the emergency is about?”

“If you speak again, I will slap the doubt out of your little head, I promise.”

He took of the kind man’s mask. Alexis looked up. The way ahead could not convince that she would be saved. The girl nodded, pretended to be obedient and when the police turned away, she started to run.

“Help!”

Something hit her back with an instance. Might be a bat. The acid pain stopped her movement so Bruce could reach her in time. His fat hand covered her mouth. The officer dragged the girl into the storage room. She was thrown inside and when she looked up, there she saw a girl tied with chains. Her body stood against the wall. The blindfold covered her eyes and the tape covered her mouth. Her black hair loosed out of the braids. She got bruised and blood all over her body. What horrified Alexis more than anything was the blood on her skirt. Her tears poured down like a rapid stream. Besides Sonya, a policeman stood guarding the victim. The top uniform loosed out of his pants. He took off his belt, smoking cigarette.

 Behind Alexis’s back, the gun pointed at her waist. The sweat instantly poured out of her body and her feet turned cold.

“She yelled. I’m not sure if Joseph and Helga heard or not. Silas is in the lobby. And Roger is on his duty in the town.”

“Go check if they heard r or not,” the one who was standing inside the room gave the commanded. He was not either tall or short but bigger than Bruce. She rarely saw him. The name tag on his shirt declared he was named “Cameron.” Alexis heard Bruce opened the door. The girl tried to calm herself. Here was where Sonya Romuller was chained and tortured…and raped. Alexis would be the next. These two tricked her for the cruel intention.

“Sonya!” Alexis called the girl. Her body shook a little. The girl was aware of a friend’s existence. Cameron fanned his head. “No talk, little bitch.”

“Why you take me here?” It was the stupid question. Alexis already knew but she did not know what to say properly. Sonya can blind them…but how? She did not know how to help the girl and herself. There were two policemen with two bats and two guns.

Bruce returned. “They’re still sleeping.”

“Let’s be quick. I’m bored with this one.” Cameron pointed to Sonya. “You turn.” 

Her eyes wandered around. Cameron left his bat and the walkie-talkie on the table, except for the gun which he was holding it. Then he said something that came up to his mind.

“Bruce…I thought there are two.”

“The other one’s sleeping like a corpse. I can’t wake her up. But this one is the prettiest.”

“I see. Come closer, pretty girl.”

Alexis did not move but begged instead. “Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone. I swear!” Think, Alex! You must find the way out!

“Rope or tape?” Bruce offered his colleague. They talked like they did it often.

“No. I’ll love kissing her. Just use the gun. We don’t have much time.”

They communicated with each other, ignoring her pleading. “Please, don’t do this. Please.” She pleaded with the two men. “You’re the police. Please, don’t do this.”

Bruce aimed the gun at her while the other one was taking off his pants.

 “Don’t’ make more sounds, pretty. Take off your shirt. Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean. A girl like you is no virgin. Come on. Show me how good you are.”

“Hey, I’m first. Your turn is the black head,” Cameron reminded his buddy. Now he was standing with only a boxer. Bruce groaned. Alexis tried to speed up her brain. Her eyes glanced at Sonya. She could blind them…but she is being blinded. Bruce came closer to Sonya and massaged her tight. The girl in chains shook violently protesting.

“No, please! Don’t touch her,” Alexis cried. Think, Alex. There must be the way out. “I’ll do anything to please you two. But please, don’t beat me and her.” The girl did not know how to fix the situation so she bought some time with the stream of words while the brain worked fully loaded. 

Cameron smirked. “Bruce, this one tries negotiating. Is that a deal, pretty girl?”

Alexis refused. “No, sir. I mean to serve. I-I know what you want…I know how to please you. Please, don’t beat me. I love my face. I love my body. I love them to be pretty. And I’m sure you want me to be pretty. You can call me anytime you want. Just don’t beat me and her.”

“If we didn’t chain her, she’ll kill us. Don’t worry. She totally bored me,” Cameron eyed at her with eager interest. “Prove your words. See? I’m bare hands.”

“She wants us to fuck her…together” Bruce left Sonya alone. His face could not hide the thrill but Cameron did not buy this idea.

“No, I don’t like that.” So he approached and pulled Alexis’s hair, keeping the new fresh victim with himself. The girl struggled on the ground, moaning in pain, yet he still pulled her hair roughly. Cameron’s eyes revealed all the dirty thoughts inside that ugly head. His sweat slightly dropped on the floor, excited to abuse another weaker. When he saw she was unmoved, he said, “You said you know how to please men. Prove it. But you must prove it to me first until I’m satisfied then you can prove yourself to him.”

Her eyes fixed on the walkie-talkie behind him. Her face rose up, “Sit sir. I assure my words.” Cameron smiled and sat. Alexis slowly moved her hand to his leg and his abs. She exercised all her tolerance to endure this disgusting creature. “Smile.” She obeyed and smiled without the heart in it.

“Little whore.” 

As she saw Bruce turned back to Sonya and Cameron lowered his head to kiss her, she let him kissed her hair, touching her face as he wanted. Seeing the opportunity, the girl bumped her head to his head, grabbed the walkie-talkie while he got dizzy, and slammed the device on Cameron's head without saving her force.

He howled with cursing.

Alexis smashed his head again and he fell on the chair. Meanwhile, Bruce turned and aimed the gun at her. Alexis abruptly stopped her move but Bruce did not shoot. The girl understood immediately that he dared not make any sound. Therefore, Alexis already turned on the device and shouted, “HELP, STORAGE ROOM, HELP!”

“Bitch!”

Alexis tossed the device to Bruce. He drew back letting the gun down. Being the crème student was not about luck; with the chair that once had supported Cameron’s nasty ass, she used all her strength hitting the ugly monster who was moaning on the floor several times and hit the other man who came to stop her. It was fast. Only a second she saw the chance to flee. Every second meant her life and Alexis made a great effort not to lose any second; she raced to the door still shouting out for help. Her hand grabbed the doorknob, turned around…screamed

It was too late. Both were not ordinary men but a villain in disguise of good police. The strong hands seized her small ankle and dragged her to him. It was Cameron. Alexis lost her balance and fell to the ground again. This time, the chin got hurt and she tasted the blood inside her mouth. Cameron was frustrated, very. Every beat of his bat was heavy and totally hurt to the bone. Alexis used her arms to defend the hit without thinking of surrender. She smelt his sweat and at last, he was on her body with his hands going under her bra. The girl could not scream anymore when he covered her mouth. Cameron spent a few time to cease his action just to listen for any strange sound before continuing the abuse.

“Cameron, I think they heard.”

“Shut up, coward. Go out and check them. I have to teach this little slut.” 

You guys must hear something! She hoped that some cops heard and noticed the ugly crime was occurring inside the legal office. It was just a desperate hope.

Or they let this thing happened?

Her heart nearly burst when he whispered dirty words. She could not listen to those horrible things he planned to do to her. The girl thought of her family and cried with tears pouring on the monster’s hand. When he started messing her jeans, thankfully, it was the skinny jeans which forbade him to undress the owner too easily. “Don’t’ wear skinny jeans, it’s unhealthy!” One column in the newspaper had warned the girls. But it can protect you from being raped. If she could survive this, Alexis swore to be loyal to Lexy brand for all her life.

Her injured arms forcefully resisted his. Cameron continued beating and slapping.

“She’ll be dead!” Bruce warned.

“I fuck her corpse!”

“Stop it, Cameron.”

“They come?”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“Go fuck that girl!” 

Like a slave in thousands of years ago, she was. The authority did not only destroy her life but also the power users degraded how Alexis was…a human being. How many victims had been treated like a waste toy like them?

“I won’t fuck the corpse,” Bruce stopped Cameron. They left Alexis breathing hard. The pain was all over her body. They were arguing.

“We must take her back. If they see what we’re doing, we’re doomed.”

How the hell places on earth? Alexis tried to move away.

“Not quick, bitch.” He jerked her hair. “Help me take off the bloody jeans!”

“No! Cameron. Joseph and Helga may not hear it. But Silas and Roger may do!”

Bang! A light of miracle glowed into the room where the beast Cameron flew to the wall by a fly-kick. Everything stopped dead.

Bruce drew back.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Alexis heard Joseph’s voice but she could not see him. “Help…” She cried.

“Man, calm down. We can talk. You can play with two girls!” It was Cameron who tried to negotiate with Joseph.

“What—are—you—fucking—doing!” It was not the question. Alexis gradually sat with her back leaning on the table’s leg.

“If you don’t understand, don’t mad at me.” Cameron reached the gun. Too slow, Joseph fired a shot at his arm. The naked man collapsed on the ground, howling like an injured dog. Bruce, the coward, surrendered, raising both of his hands in the air. “This bastard forced me!” But Joseph did not buy it. The gunshot resounded again and Bruce fell on Cameron. The rescuer hit his colleagues several times until the blood of Bruce and Cameron spilled all over him. The icy blue in those eyes, at that right moment, melt into the ocean fire.

“You—have—to—pro—tect—them—not—des—troy—them! How—can—you—do—this—to—them!”

The beating stopped, he abandoned the nearly dead Bruce and Cameron and turned to the young victim with his face painted by the splash of red blood. Alexis was watching the hitting scene all the time. Still frightened, the girl crept under the table, violently trembling in fear, fearing him too.

“What happened?” His buddy ran inside and covered her mouth when she saw Bruce and Cameron lied in the pool of their own blood.

“Helga, they tried to…” His eyes avoided the girl. “You see.”

“Damn! What’s on their mind?” Helga cursed and offered her hand to Alexis who hid under the table. Seeing her kind gesture, Alexis got out of the temporary shelter. Helga wrapped her arms around the girl in a protective manner. “It’s alright. It’s alright.” The first gentleness she showed to the prisoner. Alexis slightly glanced at the rescuer but he avoided her eyes all the time, the way he often did to all of them. At that moment, she realized why he had never looked into their eyes, why Joseph pretended to have the face of a dead man.

To protect not to destroy.

“I’ll unchain you but promise me not to do anything harmful to us. I’ll send you to the hospital. Your family will be with your side. Okay?” He made the deal with Sonya.

“Seph, she’s dangerous,” Helga objected.

“They hurt her. You know what I mean. I shouldn’t let them guard the girl…if I knew they’re evil monsters.”

Alexis saw him mildly unchained the girl. Sonya fell into his arms. She could not stand. When Joseph unfolded her eyes and mouth, Sonya looked around as if she was searching for something until she saw Alexis with Helga.

“Are you alright?” Her voice was very low like whispering.

Alexis nodded, silently weeping.

“I heard…you tried…to save me…”

“Don’t talk, girl. I will send you to the doctor. Don’t be afraid. They can’t harm you anymore.”

The girl laughed crying in her throat then she looked at the light bulbs. 

“Seph, No!” Helga pressed Alexis’s head on her chest and everything turned silent. The heat licked up her arms. She heard the scream of pain. It took a few minutes that the policewoman allowed her to see what happened. Two bulbs were broken. Helga’s both arms were red as if she got sunburnt. When Alexis looked at Joseph, one side of his cheeks was red too. And Sonya in his red arms lied dead with her face burning. No one got serious wounds or hurt, except Joseph who might get the intermediate injury. Alexis did not know how Sonya did it but she perceived her power.

“Oh God. Seph? Are you alright?”

He shook his head. “She killed herself.” They looked at each other. Both were speechless. “You reported our boss. I’ll call Silas and Roger to help me with these two. You take the girl back to the cell.” 

“She’s injured.”

“Do what you have to. Oh…Helga, you have to contact the Romuller family as well and the Davis.”

“No!”

“What?”

“They're worried enough.”

Helga shook her head. “They’ll know anyway. Come with me, Ms. Davis.” 

Alexis was so tired even to cry. The tears still slowly poured down on her cheeks. Sonya…killed herself. It was the rage inside her heart. Many “why?” questions battled in her mind. In the deeper sense, the girl understood why Sonya had made this final decision. The way they did to the dead girl while she had been chained, unable to resist, was terrible, she knew what they did to her. Alexis felt like she wanted to vomit.

Helga took her to the infirmary room. There were a lot of bruised from the hit and small fresh wounds on her arms. The policewoman thought about sending her to the hospital and decided not to do so. Alexis regarded herself in the mirror. The girl inside was not Alexis anymore. She was a broken girl, physically and mentally.

“God! What’s going on?” Oslo asked at once as he saw her came back. Wade and Belinda woke up and they gasped.

“Why you tortured her?” Her athletic friend showed his fits to Helga. “Why you have to do this?”

“Not her,” Alexis corrected.

Helga was tired of Wade’s condemnation so she walked away as Alexis stayed inside the cell. Wade embraced her carefully as if she was porcelain. “Are you alright? Why didn’t they send you to the hospital?”

“Just bruises. She said if I don’t feel alright, tell her.” Alexis showed her arms, “You’re not alone, Wade.”

“Is him?” Oslo tied his brows. “Bruce?”

Alexis nodded. “Sonya is dead. They chained her in the storage room with a guard and Bruce and they…” Alexis stopped. She did not want to talk about it.

“How can they let it happens? Alex…did they?”

“They just beat me. Can I tell you later? I’m so tired.”

Wade and Oslo nodded. “As you wish…” Two boys helped her sat on the ground. Perceiving their concern, she was really grateful.     

“I slept enough. You can sleep on my laps better than sleeping on the floor,” Wade suggested.

“I’m alright.”

“No, no. I agree with him. You’re hurt badly.”

“Okay. Thanks, you two.”

Just when she closed her eyes, Alexis recognized the voices she heard during the yesterday’s night.

“Don’t even touch them.”

“So you’ll come with me?”

It was Bruce and Mrs. Dobies.