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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 earned small sum. It was his third child’s idea, Alexis. 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 saw through his heart, which were powerful enough to warm it. Her dark bronze skin was the same shade color as his but more beautiful, thank 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, 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 was 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. Everybody 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 when 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 laughed and snuggled on him. The boy giggled.

“Have 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 tied his brows. “She came early. I remembered that it took 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 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 (new)

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 (new)

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.