Saturday, April 6, 2013







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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Project: Solitude - Premise and Novel Preview (Chapters 0 through 6)

Premise for My Novel: Project Solitude

What if you were stuck in a shelter for troubled youth and the only way that you could get out of it was to participate in an experiment of unconditional love…?

What if you met a person that believed love was unconditional…? 

A person that believed love could conquer anything and everything…?

Main setting: This story takes place at a university in the city, then the setting is at a shelter for troubled adolescents in the mountains, by a forest and a lake.

Theme(s): Love is unconditional and love can conquer anything…

Project: Solitude
A Novel
Written By
Bryanna M. Akins

Chapter 0: Prologue - It…Is Done
            It was a night of unspeakable horror. What she did was unforgivable. What he did to her was nothing less than scandalous. This was supposed to be the most wonderful night of her life. But no! This was a night of betrayal, heartbreak, revenge; it was a night of bloodshed. It was as if he ripped out her heart and stabbed it right in front of her…
            When the clear, glass elevator dinged and opened up, she sprinted, hurriedly, down the hallway until she came across the fourth corridor. Then, she made a hard right turn and raced down the hall until she came to the last door on the right. It had a prominent label in shiny golden lettering:
Room 41-D
            Room 41-D was her and her roommates’ dorm room at her college on campus…
She threw open the wooden door, entered the dorm room, and slammed it shut, locking it soon after. She was panting heavily, hands shaking nervously, sweat trickling down from her forehead, with her arms and legs, burning from running so quickly.
            But that was beside the point. She was also a filthy mess. Her clothes were torn and tattered and stained with dark red blood that wasn’t her own. Her arms and legs were covered with bloody gashes and purple bruises that throbbed with pain. She had a black eye on the left side of her face, and with it, she could barely see out of her left eye. There was only a little slit that she could see out of because her black eye was almost completely closed. Her eye was also numb and desensitized.
            Her smell was almost too horrible to bear. She smelled like a sweaty cross-country athlete that had run a marathon. But the smell of dried up blood overpowered that stench a million times over. With all the odors she possessed, she literally did smell like death, like someone was dying, and that smell lingered long after she got home from her rampage.
            Because she was beaten up and sexually assaulted by five drunk seniors that didn’t choose to go to the Grad Night Party on the yacht, she had the bad, salty, bitter, metallic taste of blood in her mouth. One of the guys punched her in the mouth, so her lips were bleeding a little. The blood, dripping from her lip, made her gag.
She was no longer an intelligent and attractive twenty-nine year-old girl. She now looked like one of the undead monsters from a zombie movie. She looked like a monster from your worst nightmare…
But she didn’t care whether she looked attractive or not. She was still trying to catch her breath after running across campus for over an hour and a half. She needed to rest for awhile; she took a real beating before she went out on a rampage.
She stared at the dark, sinister revolver in her right hand. It had a black, flexible, rubber handle and the rest of the gun was clad in lustrous silver. Its tip was slightly warm to the touch. She murdered several people with it, and she felt no regret, no guilt, nor any remorse for her multiple homicides.
It wasn’t a crime of passion, either. She thought about it, dreamed about it, and planned it out in an instant. She sat back all of her life, letting people push her around and exploit her innocence and childlike nature. At times, she would fight back, but not as much as she would like to.
But tonight, she unleashed her devilish wrath on each and every one of her helpless victims.
She used up all the bullets she brought with her. The bullets for her silver revolver were used for the people whom she didn’t know very well; it was used on her less-than-acquainted friends and enemies. Since her revolver had a built-in silencer, she was as quiet as death when she killed them.
Some of them were complete strangers; some of her victims knew her first name and nothing else.
She then looked at the bloody stiletto in her left hand. It had a solid, black handle and the last few inches on the blade end had a piece of shiny, silver metal, wrapped around it like a corkscrew. It had a thin, rectangle-shaped, metal piece at the end of the handle and there were two short, slender, black knobs on the left and right of the rectangular metal piece. The knobs were silver as well.
The first few inches of the blade looked like a set screw or drywall screw, and the rest of the blade was made out of lustrous, black onyx; it had a line in the middle of the blade on each side to add to the blade’s lustrous appearance. This was called a fuller, or cannelure, and it shined like a diamond under the light on her dorm room ceiling.
The blood of her victims trickled off the tip of the stiletto, drop by drop, staining the soft, absorbent, dark blue carpet. She was holding the stiletto by its dark, shiny, black handle, with her index and middle finger resting on the left knob and the other two fingers resting on the right knob. Her thumb was wrapped around the black handle.
It was as if she was holding a long, bloody, black needle in her right hand. She closed her eyes and sighed as she set both it and the revolver down on her roommates’ lower bunk bed. She walked tiredly to her bed by the window and sat down in the middle of her bed, holding her head in her hands with her elbows, resting on her muscular thighs to support the weight of her head.
She dragged her heavy feet with her shoulders slumped…she had the dead, soulless, black eyes of a great white shark. If her clothes weren’t ripped and bloodstained, you could see that she was wearing a white, stretchy shirt with a black mini-vest that went around her upper torso.
She was also wearing tight, shiny, leather gloves on her hands. Around her neck, she wore a silver necklace with a diamond heart pendant and a key next to it. She also wore dark blue jeans and a black, leather belt with a red heart buckle on it. Her black, leather belt also had two rows of small diamonds embedded into it.
Her shoes were made of black leather, with heels four inches high and they also came up just below her knees. She wore heels almost every day.
This woman’s name was Alexandra Haili Sillionne (sill-lee-ahn), and she was twenty-nine years old. She may have been hated at her college, but everyone admired her outer beauty and some learned to see past her tomboyish personality and make friends with her. She was one of the more decent and better-looking black girls that went to the college. Most of the college girls were white.
            Seeing Alexandra was like looking at Aphrodite in the flesh. Her hair was silky, glossy, and onyx-colored, and it was naturally straight, thanks to some of her mother’s genes. Her eyes were dark brown, but almost black, her nose turned up and flared out at times, and her lips were a wheat brown color. Her figure was slightly bulkier, but that was because she worked out most of the time, doing more masculine exercises like lifting weights or doing pull-ups rather than running.
Most of her muscle was in her torso, stomach, arms and her thighs. Her skin was medium brown in color, but when in the sunlight, she looked copper or bronze-colored. Her wiry arms and legs were two-toned. The top sides of her arms and legs were a copper color and the undersides were a light tawny shade of brown; she never used suntan lotion, so she was tanner in some places more than others.
The right side of her face was concealed under a white mask that extended to cover the skin around her left eye. To most of her friends, they nicknamed her “Erikka, the female Phantom of the Opera.” Her stepfather didn’t like the fact that Alexandra was so attractive, along with knowing that she wasn’t his “birth daughter”, so he burnt and gashed her face to the point where the right side of her face became almost corpselike in appearance.
After being given money from working at her stepparents’ job, she used her money to hire a sculptor to make a paper-thin face mask, painted white, to conceal her scars, made by her stepfather.
She also had identical tattoos of a locked up heart and key on her upper arms to symbolize her quiet and reserved nature, which was the result from so much domestic abuse and school abuse. She got the tattoos just a year before this night that she went berserk and killed her closest friends and worst enemies. Also, she had a calligraphic tattoo of her full name—Alexandra Haili Sillionne—just below her neck. She got that during her senior year of high school, which was one of the better years that she endured at her high school.
All in all, she was a gorgeous woman with a terrible past. She still bears the hideous mutilations and facial scars that her stepfather made. Aside from her face, she had several scratch-like scars that her stepfather made when she behaved inappropriately.
When she escaped her stepparents and ran away, just a year before she went to college, she moved into her own apartment. Her godfather and mother were reported missing several years ago and she was searching for them ever since then, so when she tried to look for them while she was in college, her search was in vain…again.
She was completely alone, but not completely free of her stepparents, who were still her legal guardians. Since her stepparents didn’t want to deal with her anymore, they left her to fend for herself on her own in her apartment when she started college. No parents, no legal guardians, she was a lone wolf for awhile…
She was running like hell was after her because she went on an emotional rampage and killed twenty-two people on campus at her college. She was trembling, looking as if she was having a panic attack. She was horrified, angry, scared, and guilty, all at once. All of the people at her college were on a yacht out at sea for Grad Night, so she knew that no one was going to call the cops until they got back the next morning, so she rested and cleaned herself up while she still could.
Alexandra took a long, warm bath and put her clothes in the washer in the lounge. She washed her hair of the dried, matted clumps of blood in her hair with shampoo and detangling conditioner. She combed it through when she was finished with taking her shower. She also washed off the stiletto and revolver to get rid of the blood.
She never was the kind of girl to be starting fights or hurting people, but when she is pushed over the edge, then she reveals the darker, more aggressive, more volatile side of her personality.
While she was in the shower, she took her time and thought about what she did in the last two hours. When her date left her stranded at the pre-graduation dance, five miles away from her college, she broke down and cried fervently, but not before one of her teachers helps comfort her and help her get to the college.
Luckily, one of her teachers went to the dance as one of the chaperones. It was her Zoology teacher, Professor Daniel Curtiss, who gave her a ride home. He knew her since her freshmen year and he helped her every step of the way, no matter what problem she had.
He seemed like a dad to her, considering her stepfather abused her in every way imaginable, along with her stepmother. He helped her study, helped her with her homework, and nurtured her when she was feeling down on herself, which was every day, including weekends.
When she got home, she knew right from the get-go that she wanted to get revenge. Besides, she found filmstrip pictures of her date’s other girlfriend two days before the dance. They looked like the kind that you would get when you went into a Photo Booth. She saw the last picture of them, making out. That was the straw that broke her camel’s back. She knew what she wanted to do…
After getting the pictures, she tore them up and got her stiletto that she made herself and the silver revolver she stole from her stepfather and set out on a mission to wreak her vengeance on every single person that had hurt her, intimidated her, made fun of her, cyber bullied her, and talked about her behind her back.
She used her revolver on the people that only mildly hurt her. This included her best friends (three), her date’s brother (one of her exes), her two roommates, and her date’s brother’s friends, whom of which were some of her exes (three), and all of her date’s exes (five). With a built-in silencer, she was as quiet as death when she killed her less-than-acquainted victims. Her date’s exes bullied her in college and on the Internet. Her best friends made fun of the fact that she had a mental handicap. Her date’s brother left her after seeing her pictures from a few years ago, when she was a little more obese. Her roommate’s made fun of her because she was a “teacher’s pet” and a coward. Her date’s brother’s friends made a cyber bullying website just to pick on her and make her life in college a living hell.
However, she used her black stiletto on the more heartless of victims, the people that were most responsible for ruining her college life.
This included her date, his other girlfriend, the drunk seniors that beat her up and sexually assaulted her, and Cassolynn, the Head Cheerleader, who used to be one her best friends, until she got elected to be the new Head Cheerleader. Cassolynn has hated her guts for three years and probably will still hate her (in the afterlife).
All in all, Alexandra had good reasons to kill her victims. The only thing that she was worried about was when the police were coming after her. She knew she would be caught sooner or later, and she promised herself that she would take full responsibility for her crimes, no matter how bad her sentence was going to be.
Suddenly, she started to think about her roommates, Nathan and Jasper, who were one of the very few guys that loved hanging out with her. They went with her to all of her previous dances. They were her boyfriends at one time or another. They protected her against the many cheerleaders that tagged her locker and harassed her in college.
She also thought about her best friend, Lila, and her other best friends, Jack and Zack—they were identical twins. Lila may have been a little abrasive at times, but at least she apologized for bullying her, unlike her roommates.
Aside from her teachers and her ex-boyfriends, her roommates and best friends were like family to her, and shockingly, she took them away from herself in a fit of rage…and jealousy.
Ironically, she blames everyone else for making her life hell on earth, but now, she has only herself to blame for murdering twenty-two of her friends and enemies alike. I hit rock bottom, she thought to herself, Can my life possibly get any worse…?
Alexandra curled up on her bed, laid her head on her cloudlike pillow and sobbed fervently, wishing that she could turn back the hands of time and bring back her roommates and friends. But her wishful thinking was pointless. She killed all of her friends…and they were never, ever coming back. Her tears dropped down past her cheeks and mixed with the blood that trickled from the cuts on her face and made her tears turn red. Out of everything she had, she didn’t have a First Aid Kit, so her wounds continued to bleed out.
Her clothes that she was wearing when she murdered her friends were in a plastic basket at the foot of her bed and the stiletto and revolver were lying on top of them. Luckily, she had an extra identical set of clothes in her closet; she put those clothes on after she got out of the shower an hour or so ago. Suddenly, she heard someone knock at her dorm room door.
The police, they’re here.
Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock!
“It’s the police,” the two police officers said. “Open this door NOW!!!”
Alexandra was feeling lightheaded from losing blood over the past few hours, but she still managed to get up and stand, but when her lightheaded feeling got stronger and stronger, she dropped on to her hands and knees and her eyes started to close more and more, until she finally fainted and passed out on the floor, next to her basket with her torn clothes and weapons in it…
The cops, Captain James Glasse and his partner, Lieutenant Edward Johnson, kicked the door open, guns loaded and ready. But when they saw Alexandra, passed out on the floor, they put their guns back on their belts, along with their pepper spray and nightsticks.
Captain James Glasse was a little rough-looking, but he still managed to attract attention from the women that would see him. He was just under six feet tall, with dull brown hair and a five o’clock shadow that was prominent under the light in the dorm room. His eyes were darkly colored and he was slightly more muscular than his partner. Since he had two daughters at home, he was more understanding and had a calmer temperament than his more adamant counterpart.
On the other hand, Lieutenant Edward Johnson was like a mountain in every way. He was inflexible, insensitive, quick to fight, and didn’t show a lot of sympathy for civilians like Captain Glasse did. Johnson was slightly shorter than his partner, with his face, showing a darker five o’clock shadow. His head was shaved, but not to the point where his crown would have the textured feeling of sandpaper. His eyes, a dark brown color, were almost an onyx color. He was equally muscular, but most of the muscle was in his shoulders and torso. Glasse and Johnson had known each other for well over five years, so he had grown accustomed to his sympathetic nature. He had a son and daughter on the way, so he was trying to change his impulsive, overprotective and volatile nature, one day at a time.
They both knelt and turned her over on her back and examined her. When they saw that she was unconscious and severely injured, Glasse’s face softened for a brief moment.
“Check her, Lieutenant,” Glasse said.
Slightly glaring at his higher-ranked counterpart, he nodded once and gave her a once-over, searching her body carefully, checking for any concealed weapons of any kind.
Glasse lifted her head up by putting his hand behind her neck and elevating it a few inches. Johnson put his index and middle finger to her neck and held them there for a few seconds.
 “I think she’s gone,” Johnson said.
Suddenly, Alexandra woke up momentarily and realized that the police were here and her eyes bulged out and she froze while Captain James was still holding her head and upper body upright.
She gasped silently. “W-who are you two…?”
“I’m Captain Glasse and this is Lieutenant Johnson. We got a call, saying that someone has been murdering students here on this college campus…” Alexandra stayed calm and tranquil.
“Would you happen to know anything about the multiple homicides, ma’am?” Lieutenant Johnson asked her firmly.
“Yes, I do, Captain,” Alexandra said to them in a flat and sincere tone of voice. “I was beaten and raped and left behind by my date for his other girlfriend. I killed twenty-two people on this campus. If I have to go to prison, I will go with you without a fight. I won’t hurt you two men, I’ve just been through a lot tonight. And I’m…sorry.”
The two police officers helped her to her feet assuring her that nothing else would happen to her tonight. Clearly, they could understand that she has had a rough night and spoke to her calmly.
“Let’s take you to the hospital, miss. We’ll deal with this issue later, all right?” Captain Glasse said to her, supporting her left side while his partner supported her right side.
“All right, let’s go…”
They made a fool of me and no one does this without paying the price. I’ll just relax while I can and deal with these two later, she thought to herself as she went into the clear, glass elevator. Her mind went blank after that.
At this point, Alexandra was in her own world, letting her mind wander aimlessly through her labyrinthine mind. She didn’t care where she was going at this point because she zoned out after she left her quiet dorm room.
      Project: Solitude
     Part One:
Rippled Waters
    Project: Solitude)      

 Chapter 1: The Interrogation
            Sixty minutes…that’s how long she had to wait until she would be interrogated by a profiler and the two cops that found her the previous night.
They had to do a background check on Alexandra, interview the cops, Captain Glasse and Lieutenant Johnson, and they had to try to figure out, in their own opinion, why she would want to kill twenty-two people in less than two hours time.
Luckily, the hour went by fast. She didn’t feel like a trapped animal in the interrogation room. He didn’t intend to feel trapped; she didn’t want to. When she learned that she was going to be asked a few questions, she knew, instantaneously, that she was going to take part in a police interrogation.
She had to be prepared to control her body’s reactions when they questioned her. She had to know the ins and outs of an interrogation, what the police can and can’t do, and what they will try to do to make her feel a certain way.
So, to prepare for the session, she researched everything related to an interrogation on her Iphone. What the police want you to feel, what the police will do to get you to confess, the Reid Technique, the seven steps in an interrogation, you name it. By the time it was five to eleven o’clock, she had become almost a mute robot, a zombie, a beautiful, motionless statue, basically.
The interrogation room was somewhat spacious and more modern-looking than the one that she had seen on TV shows like Criminal Minds, CSI, Law and Order, and Lie to Me.
She was sitting in skinny, gray chair that had a blue, cotton, fabricated seat. Three identical chairs were to the left and right of her as well as straight across from her. The table had a solid wood top and the legs were made of shiny, gray, reinforced aluminum. The floor was made of white tiles and the floors were of the same design, but the tiles were a cerulean blue color. There was a fresh scent in the air, along with Alexandra’s perfume scent.
Alexandra didn’t stay like a statue for long; her eyes wandered to the payphone to the left of the hardwood door, which had an On/Off switch connected to an Exit sign above the door. There was a glass mirror just behind her where the police and interrogators could see her, but when she tried to look over her shoulder at them, all she was saw was a gorgeous reflection of herself. She wasn’t quite sure how mirrors could create this illusion or phenomenon, but it didn’t matter. She needed to concentrate on the task at hand: outsmarting the cops and the profiler, who looked a little like Brad Pitt to her, except the profiler wasn’t as good-looking as the man she thought he looked like.
Next to the mirror, Alexandra gazed, not at the filing cabinets, but at the Arrowhead Water Dispenser next to it that was closer to the glass mirror. She was thoroughly parched and she needed a drink and it seemed to her that she wouldn’t get in trouble if she just got up to get a drink of water. So she turned her chair to the left, wincing at the terrible screeching the chair’s legs made on the floor, and got up out of her chair.
Suddenly, the silver doorknob started to jiggle and the lock in the center of it turned and unlocked. Alexandra hurried to the water jug, got a plastic cup, pushed the water lever down, got her water, and sat back in her seat just as the door swung open.
She put on her “poker face” as Captain Glasse and Lieutenant Johnson, along with the interrogator, sauntered into the tiled room and took a seat. Glasse sat on the left seat, Johnson on the right seat, and the interrogator got the remaining seat and sat across from her. She sighed, and finally spoke.
“It’s about freakin’ time.” The cops glared.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Alexandra.” The interrogator said apologetically.
“You guys can call me Xandra, Alex, Alexa, or Allie…if it’s easier for you,” She said flatly. “I actually enjoyed the wait. Gave me time to relax…”
After a moderately short pause, the calm interrogator responded to her.
“My name’s Miles Darren,” He said. “You’re not a suspect. We are just investigating this crime. Help us understand what happened a few nights ago and then we’ll release you, okay?”
Ugh, here we go, she thought, rolling her eyes. If I talk too much, then I become more of a suspect. I did my research; I’m not a freakin’ idiot…
“Fine, let’s get it over with.” She growled.
“So what do you know so far?” Allie asked, bellowing and talking in a masculine manner. “From the background check and the police’s discussion you just did for an hour?” Miles answered instantly.
“We know that on June 20, at 10:35 p.m., someone, who shall remain nameless, called 911, and said that they needed medical help and that someone murdered his brother and girlfriend…”
Allie nodded once and sat back in her chair.
“Now, you told Glasse and Johnson that you were beaten and raped that same night,” Miles said. “Who did this to you…?”
“Five seniors. They were drunk. I didn’t know any of them,” she said tranquilly. “One of them said that I looked pretty fine, and then one of them said that I’d look better naked, then some o’ the guys agreed, and then, it happened.
“After that, since I tried to push them away, they “punished” me by punching, kicking, cutting, slapping…They reminded me of…of him.”
“Your stepfather?” Miles asked.
She hung her head down and nodded. “He abused me and he is the reason why I wear this white mask on my face.”
“Did he burn your face?”
“Mm-hmm. Burnt it, cut it, bruised it, you name it. I hated him and my stepmother for making my life a living hell.” Allie lifted her head up.
“What else do you know?” She asked.
“You also admitted that you killed twenty-two individuals that night as well…” Her head snapped up, she regained her “poker face” and lay back in her seat once more.
“I don’t deny that, Miles. I did do it,” Allie said, adding a drop of venom to each word, each syllable, and every letter. “I wanted to do it. It wasn’t premeditated. I knew all the faces of the people that hurt me, so I killed them based off of my memories.
“They all hurt me, each and every one of them. You can throw me into the stony lonesome, to be really honest here; I don’t give a damn about prison, college, my broken family…nothing else matters to me. All I care about is just getting on with my life, no matter where I am.” She had the dead, black eyes of a great white shark.
Allie looked up at the light on the ceiling and closed her eyes, letting her big teardrops drip from the outer corners of her eyes and down her cheeks.
The only thing I regret is school and my stepparents, I’m grateful for everything else, Xandra thought to herself, whimpering sadly and forlornly.
 Glasse glanced at Johnson. He wiped a tear from his left eye and sighed.
“All right…Xandra,” Miles said. “Since you’ve clearly stated that you don’t care of you get convicted or not, all you have to do is answer our remaining questions and then, we can get back to the courtroom to finish your case. Can you do that for us?” She nodded once—finally, I can get out.
“We already know when and where this crime took place. We know who called,” Miles said. “We can clearly see that you only did this out of impulse; it was just a one-time thing, right? You only did it because you were hurt, physically and emotionally?”
“That’s right. Go on.”
“When did you first go out to kill these people, Xandra?” He asked. “What time?”
“I left at a quarter to nine. I came home at a quarter to eleven.”
“Could you give us a small list of who you killed that night?” Glasse asked.
“I killed my date, his brother, three of his friends, the guys that raped me, my date’s girlfriend, my date’s exes, and a few other people.” She said.
“Did anyone help you?”
“No,” she said. “Most of them were on a yacht. It was Grad Night that night.”
“You used a stiletto and revolver, correct?” Miles asked her intelligently.
“The gun was used for the unfamiliar ones. The knife I used on the ones that hurt me the most. I made the knife myself. The gun was…a gift from my stepfather.” I stole it from him, the lazy-ass jerk.
“What preceded your multiple homicides?”
“My date left me at the dance for his other girlfriend that he was dating. I had to get a ride from my professor, do I could get home.”
“Did anyone see you kill them?”
“No,” she said. “No one was following me. I checked.” Miles glanced down, assuming he was looking at a videotape recorder, and looked back up at her. She looked at her Iphone and saw that it was almost 11:30. Time flew by fast, she thought. Dammit.
“Captain Johnson, may I see you for a minute?” Miles asked. Then, to Glasse, he said, “Keep Allie company. I need to talk to Lieutenant and wrap this up. I’ll be back.”
Miles left the recorder, still rolling on the table. He wanted to see if she would talk with the more sympathetic Captain Glasse while he was away. While Miles and Johnson talked outside, Allie told the cop about her mental disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and how it affected the way she communicated with people. She also told him about her godfather and her mother. Temperamental, but lovable, she described them sincerely. He smiled when she described them in those few words.
He asked her about the things she enjoyed. Allie’s mouth was off like a marathon runner. She talked about books, which ones were her favorite, what movies she liked, some of her high school crushes, her skills, her talents, her grades, her knowledge of dinosaurs, her most embarrassing experiences, you name it.
They laughed, they smiled, they cried, they giggled…they really hit it off. Xandra began to feel comfortable, she was perfectly at ease. She may have stuttered, but she recovered quickly. Before they knew it, it was almost noon. But then, Glasse asked her about her mask. I think I’m gonna be sick, she thought, gripping her stomach in an awkward way.
She tensed up almost automatically when he broached the delicate subject. She never told anyone about her mask, unless she knew she was never going to run into that same person again, such as people you meet on a bus or while waiting for your train to arrive. Other than that, she avoided talking about her mask and her abuse by any and all means.
“You said that your stepfather did that to you, right?” Glasse asked. She nodded once.
“How did you keep your face hidden?” Glasse said to her intuitively.
“Right after he scarred my face, I made my own mask by sculpting it out of durable clay. I have extra masks like this; some are clay, some are made of metal, some are made of leather or papier-mâché. I used my own money to make them.” She said.
“Which one is your oldest mask?”
“This one,” she said, pointing to the right side of her face. “The one I’m wearing was the first one I ever made.” Glasse could almost see the black ribbon that held the mask into place.
“Allie, I was wondering…” Glasse said, being very gentle in the way he spoke to her. “Since you’re probably not going to see us again after this, do you mind if I—” Her head snapped up immediately.
“You want to look at my face…?” She asked.
Without the mask on it.” Xandra’s stomach tied itself in a thousand knots when he emphasized the word “without” and reached behind her head where her ribbons were tied into a bow in the back.
With two pulls, the ribbons fell and rested on her cheeks as she held the mask with her hands…and slowly took it off of her face. Glasse was almost sorry that he even asked. Miles and Johnson were watching as well behind the glass.
Alexandra’s face looked rotten and almost zombielike in appearance. The right side of her face looked almost like a corpse; it was worse than Glasse expected it to be.
Her face was covered in dark, burnt blotches and there were darker blotches inside the blotches and these darker blotches were burnt and branded more. Her right eye was brunt all around the border with smaller, darker burns inside of it.
Her nose was the same way, and it also had a few burns as well. Her right side of her face—it looked like the left side when Glasse was facing her—was more than just burnt. Some parts were so burnt that when she touched her face at times, her fingers would be covered in dark, black soot. Her face smelled almost like charcoal.
She also had large scars from where her stepfather gashed her face. She had two parallel, slightly wavy, dark red gashes on her right eye that stretched from her chin to her forehead; they went straight through her eyebrow, too. This made part of her eyebrow appear “bald.”
She had two smaller scars on her lips that looked like crescent moons; they were reflections of each other and looked like the astrological sign for Pisces, the two fish tied together, but swimming away from each other.
But the most apparent thing that indicated her stepfather’s abuse was that her forehead outline, her right ear, and her jaw line were burnt to the point where they were almost misshapen, as if some parts of her forehead, ear and jaw line were cut off or missing. Alexandra could barely see out of her right eye until she got surgery a year before she went to college. Alexandra had a look on her face that seemed to say, “I told you it was bad.”
He inched closer to her and she became wary of what he was going to do next. He brushed her bangs back and caressed her face delicately, feeling the spine-tingling texture of her burns and scars.
Alexandra started to cry, closing her eyes and letting several tears drop down her face and over her scars. He then pulled her close to him and held her close; she, in turn, buried her face into his chest.
When Miles and Lieutenant Johnson came in, she glowered at them and broke free of Glasse’s warming embrace; she then got up and just stood with her face to them. She sighed heavily, feeling a little relieved that Glasse empathized with her for only a little time. Glasse got up, grabbed her mask, and tapped her on the shoulder with his free hand. She turned around to face him and looked down at her mask. She lightly took it and tied it back to her face. Miles finally spoke to her.
“Come on, Allie. We need to get back to the courtroom.” Oh, damn, I forgot I was still on trial. 
She almost forgot that her trial was still going on due to the fact that she was talking so much to Miles and the two cops. The judge empathized with her as well even before she was interrogated, so she tried not to feel too terrified of what her sentence was going to be. Maybe, just maybe she would get parole or something that wasn’t too harsh for her.
Chapter 2: The Ultimatum
            Police Captain Glasse and Lieutenant Johnson stood to the left of Alexandra while Miles and her lawyer stood to the right of her.
Xandra sat, hunched over in her seat, playing Angry Birds on her Iphone. She also had some court papers and documents in her leather Mulberry satchel bag. Her little Iphone kept her busy, except everyone, observing behind her, was talking so loud that it drowned out her Iphone, even with her earphones in. She just couldn’t tune out the clamor of the spectators behind her.
The judge was discussing with some of his associates whether to send her to prison or give her parole; they were discussing this matter for well over a half hour…UGH, when is the judge coming already?, Xandra thought angrily.
Even though she didn’t want to think about it at this point, her mind began to wander and soon, she was thinking about the night that she killed her closest friends and worst enemies at her college.
Xandra got her stiletto and revolver from out of her closet briefcase and left the house. She knew what she wanted to do and she wanted to do it now. Nothing was going to stop her.
Almost everyone that she targeted was alone on campus that night. With her revolver muffler, she was like a silent assassin, eliminating each and every one of her victims. Weirdly, almost all her victims were in quiet, secluded locations, such as the library, the track, the locker rooms (for P.E. classes), or in their dorms. She was going to take out the acquaintances first with her deadly and silent gun First, she went after three of her brother’s friends. They were hanging out around the locker rooms.
So she first turned off the lights to confuse them and scare them a bit. Due to her sight being weakened, her senses of smell, touch, and hearing were heightened tenfold.
So, she hunted down the three boys by using her sense of hearing and smell to indicate if they were close by or not; and she used her sense of touch to paint a picture, so to speak, of the locker rooms and located where the lockers and walls were. She killed them in less than fifteen minutes.
Her next targets: her date’s five exes. Hale, Kira, Candy, Anetta, and Terra. They were all in their dorms. Hale was on the first floor of the girls’ dorms, Anetta was on the fifth floor, and the rest were on Xandra’s floor: the third one. Hale and Candy were in the lounge, Anetta was in her dorm, and Kira and Terra were in the bathroom and laundry room. She ambushed Hale and Candy; they were wimpy and naturally skittish, so they were easily scared. Then, she went after Kira and Terra; she killed Kira by killing her from under the bathroom stalls and she killed Terra by getting into one of the dryers and shooting her between her eyes. Then, she finally went after Anetta. Her door was open, so she peaked in and shot her in her neck, knowing that the human spinal cord was located there; with one shot, all brain function ceased.
Her roommates were next and they were walking through Central Campus. They would have never lasted if they chose to be undercover spies. Rule number one in the Spy Handbook is never being a “creature of habit.” In layman’s terms, never live by a daily routine and don’t visit the same place more than once. Even if they were aware of her presence, they were still sitting ducks to her.
So, being stealthy, she hid behind one of the flower bushed and waited until they passed her and went down the steps. Then she shot them in the backs of their heads; they dropped dead like trees that were just cut by chainsaws. These were the last of her revolver victims. The rest of her victims would be killed by her onyx stiletto. Her boots were flat and this also increased her overall stealth.
First up, her best friends; they were located in the library. They always came by the library to study late, and always at the same time every night: 10:10 p.m. So she got there at 10 o’clock and stabbed them all while they were reading, on the computer, or looking for a book…five times. In the throat and/or chest. She was taking her precious time, so that there would be no witnesses of any kind. She also wore leather gloves to keep fingerprints off.
Next on the list was her date’s brother, one of her many exes. He was in his dorm with the Head Cheerleader, who was actually born a man; she used estrogen pills and powder to make her breasts get a cup size bigger and to also make her voice seem more ladylike as well as her body.
Xandra knocked on their door; when her date’s brother answered, she plunged the stiletto through his forehead…down to the handle. Then, she yanked it out as quickly as she forced it in.
All she did was use him as a diversion, so the Head Cheerleader would be lured within range of her black dagger. Of course, her back towards Xandra, so she crept up behind her, knelt down and forced the dagger through her neck vertebrae.
It was nearly 10:30 at night, so she hurried to her date’s dorm room, where he usually was, sleeping with his other girlfriend.
A vegan animal cruelty fighter was college talk for, “I’m easy and cheap. You like?”
She wasn’t making things up; her date’s brother was always locked out due to their “activities.” He also put a tied sock on the door; this usually he indicated he was “sexiled.” It’s when two people are doing the horizontal tango and they lock their roommate out of their own dorm room for the entire night or longer…Due to the “sexilings”, her date’s brother had to stay at my dorm for awhile.
While they were sleeping, Xandra, with her stiletto, slowly stabbed her date’s girlfriend in the throat; she didn’t care if his girlfriend would wake up because she was a heavy sleeper. Then, she forced the dagger through his chest and ran away in a hurry, closing the door behind her.
Now, the only people left were her assaulters. They were drunk still and they were just behind her dorm. Perfect, she thought to herself.
She walked out through the back door of her apartment and just before she went out, she put the stiletto in a leather strip on the inside of her jacket; it was adjustable and it was usually used for holding her drinks (Gatorade, water, Apple Juice).
Remembering the men’s behavior from her last uncomfortably horrible encounter with them, she concluded that the blonde one was dumb as hell, the one with the brown ponytail was muscular, but a little bit nervous, the bald one was their “leader,” and the two black guys with cornrows were the “assistants” to everyone in the group.
“Revenge…thy name is Xandra,” I growled as I sauntered over to them who were by a fountain in a large pool about five feet deep and fifteen to twenty feet wide. Too easy for me, she thought to herself, feeling overly confident about killing the five boozehounds.
As Xandra drew nearer, one of them spoke.
“Well, well, well; looks like someone came back for seconds, huh?” It was the “leader.”
“She came back more.” The blonde one said.
“She came for another beatdown.” The bald one said to the black twins.
“I didn’t come to fight you,” She snarled venomously. “I don’t intend to. If you would go on back to your dorms, quietly, I won’t turn you in for assaulting me, in every sense of the word.”
They all laughed haughtily and pompously.
“I don’t think so, lady.” The “leader” said, stepping closer to her and more in her face. She held back a scared scream and it came out as a cowardly squeak. He towered over her like a giant.
“Get the hell out of my face, baldy.” She said in a low growl, pushing him back.
“Over our dead, drunk bodies…” He barked, grabbing her throat and lifting her up six inches off the ground. She kept herself calm and prepared to kill them with her onyx stiletto.
She closed her eyes, smirked smugly, and narrowed her black eyes that shined under the light of the full moon and she used her free hand—her other one was on his forearm—and pulled out her stiletto. She stabbed his forearm and he let out a bloodcurdling scream, releasing his grip on Xandra’s neck; she hit the ground with an awkward thud.
“What the hell was that?” He said, cursing at me and she just shook my head evilly.
“It’s called payback, revenge, comeuppance. Pick up a book sometime.” She held her stiletto with the point of the blade, facing the ground.
“What are you doin’ just standin’ there? Get her, punch her, do something!” His minions surrounded her around the fountain and got ready to pounce on her as if they were wolves.
When they all lunged at her, she did a one-handed cartwheel and swung out of their way. Those gymnastic lessons paid off, she thought to herself as she prepared to take punches, kicks, and much more.
The “leader” got in front and threw a punch at her with his uninjured hand, but she grabbed his oncoming forelimb, pulled him towards her, forced her dagger through his throat and shoved him carelessly aside.
The blonde one tried to kick her and the ponytailed one tried to punch her, but she countered both by taking the blonde’s leg and stabbing him in the thigh and dragging it down to sever his femoral artery, making him bleed out instantaneously.
Then she took the other guy’s arm, pulled him in, hooked him with her elbow, and sliced her dagger through his neck, forcing him to bleed out also. She was panting moderately heavy and she glowered at the black twins, who pulled out two pistols. She wasn’t entirely prepared for this, but she knew a way to avoid them.
When they started shooting, she performed a front flip and jumped from the fountain and down to the foot of the stairs, putting her dagger in a scabbard on her belt.
As soon as she heard the bullets, being fired at her, she performed a handspring and kept flipping until she got to the taller black twin with the black bandana on; she took his arm and pointed it at his twin with her right hand, forcing him to shoot the other twin until he was dead and/or out of bullets. Then she took her left hand, which was free, and pulled her stiletto out, stabbing the bandana twin in one deadly, graceful, fluid movement.
Her work there was done. She killed twenty-two people in less than two hours. She ran across campus at lightning speed, killed several people with a knife and gun, feeling more relieved with each murder. But she didn’t just kill them all in cold blood without a second thought or opinion.
She showed respect for the dead by kneeling down by her victim, closing their eyes with her hand, if they died with their eyes open, and said, “Rest in peace, my friend”; if their eyes were closed, she laid a hand on her victims’ chest and said the words, “Rest in peace, my friend,” drawing a cross/crucifix on their chest with her hand as well.
After she murdered her assaulters, she sighed; feeling relieved, she went back inside her dormitory and took the elevator back up to her room.                                                        
She spent nearly ten minutes, thinking about the murders and how she felt that night, trying to process her emotions, like her real parents kept telling her to do. By the end of her reminiscence, her eyes glowered, her lips formed a curve, and her hands were balled up into fists on the table, shaking like a washing machine; the veins in her forehead, cheeks, and neck were bulging out, becoming more noticeable. Her cheeks and neck also flushed deep red from all the built-up anger she endured while she was remembering the murders.
After she was done, recollecting her traumatizing memories of the murders, she took out her Iphone and played Angry Birds until the judge came back. She had to wait another fifteen minutes. Her lawyer, Claire Bolt, came in from the entrance/exit doors in the back of the courtroom and sat down next to her and put her black briefcase on the wooden desk in front of her.
“The judge just called me,” Claire said. “The judge said he would be here any minute now.” Claire said.
“Where was he? Do you know?”
“He just parked his convertible,” She said. “So I guess he’ll be here in a few minutes—“
Before Claire could finish the last word, the judge came running into the courtroom and sat down at his desk. Claire was slightly taken aback.
“…Or now,” Claire said, feeling a little startled.
The judge was a little muscular was rough-looking, with dark, black hair, brown eyes, a tall figure, and one side of his face looked like it was slightly mutilated. But he only had minor scars, unlike Xandra.
 “Good morning, everyone. Sorry I was late. Morning traffic was hell. If everyone will please take your seats, we can finish this case.”
“That is Judge Matthew Samson,” Claire told her. “Try not to talk too much; he’s a little temperamental.”
Samson organized her portfolio for her case and stared blankly at Xandra. Poker face, she thought nervously to herself as he spoke loudly.
“Alexandra Sill-lee-ahn, please rise,” Samson said, struggling to pronounce her last name correctly.
            Xandra stood up slowly and set her Iphone on the table. She also straightened out her dark grey business dress and took a calm, deep breath.
            “Alexandra, I have read over your case, your backstory, and the evidence from the murders,” Samson said. “Don’t be too nervous about all this. Maybe you’ll get probation or parole. But it’s up to the jury to decide. Have you reached a verdict?”
            All twelve men and women stood up and the black-haired man in top left hand corner spoke.
            “We have, your Honor,” He said. “We find Alexandra Sillionne guilty as charged.”
            Her eyes widened and she got a lump in her throat, causing her to gulp. Her heart sank and she started to whimper quietly. A single tear trickled down from her right eye as she tried to hold them back.
            “Now, listen to me Alexandra,” Samson said, “I think what you have done is inexcusable and evil in nature. I don’t mind sending you to prison for a few decades. I wouldn’t lose one minute of sleep over that.”
            She hung her head down and simply said,
            “I know, your Honor. I’m sorry.”
            “However, I will give you another alternative to your life sentence.” He said, enlighteningly.
            Alternative? What is it, parole? Probation? Clemency? Will he let me go? Alexandra’s mind was overflowing with a variety of questions about her “alternative” that Judge Samson was going to tell her.
            “I have just been informed that there is a vacancy at Rippled Waters Youth Sanctuary. Each person is given their own personal team of scientists and counselors that will help them overcome their wrongs and problems. They also teach you essential social skills so that you will be prepared to start anew when you are released.”
            Alexandra’s interest was piqued. In a good way. Her mom and godfather knew she had Asperger’s Syndrome and they both told her, time and time again, that she needed to grow up and learn to live life as an adult. She was still a little kid inside, but she was almost over it. At times, she felt like she wanted to stay a kid forever, but she hated the way her mom nagged her to grow up. So she started to ditch her childish habits and become an adult, however, she still kept some of her naïveté inside her subconsciousness. What was on her mind now was Rippled Waters Youth Sanctuary. She had never heard of it. Not on TV, radio, not even from her family or friends. Maybe this was going to be good for her. She hated prison and jail. She would be happy if she got a sentence that didn’t involve her, going to prison.
            “It’s located in the mountains, it has the biggest collection of stores and businesses in the United States, and it also has living accommodations onsite…”
            She had a fascinated look, plastered on her face as she nodded her head slowly.
            “Since your backstory isn’t the most pleasing, I will overrule the verdict and leave the decision to you, Miss Sillionne.” Samson said. “What will you choose? Rippled Waters…or a life sentence in prison?”
            She stopped zoning out and spoke into her microphone that was on her desk.
            “Your Honor, I think that…going to the ‘Rippled Waters Youth thing’ sounds like a pretty good idea.”
            Surprisingly, Samson got a smile on his face and nodded approvingly.
            “Then it’s settled, Alexandra.” He said. “Twenty-two months at Rippled Waters…The jury is excused at this point in time and the charges against Alexandra Haili Sillionne are hereby dropped.”
            Without further ado, he picked up his solid, heavy, wooden gavel and hammered it three times on his gavel sound block. Her lawyer escorted her outside and left her to go home and prepare to go to the Rippled Waters safe haven in four weeks time.
  Chapter 3: The Long Drive
            It was Saturday afternoon, and Xandra had finished packing up everything, except for her bed and other items that she couldn’t take to Rippled Waters. It was July the twenty-eighth, and for the last month, her now enthusiastic stepparents helped her packed up and get ready to leave. They wanted her gone as soon as they could; she heard them last night upstairs while she was sleeping on the bottom floor. She heard her stepdad say, “It’s about that time that maggot’s leaving the nest!” She covered her face with her pillow and screamed. A few minutes after, she heard her stepmom say, “Thank God she’s leaving. Now we can have our very own theatre room again!” She cried herself to sleep that night. When she woke up, her eyes were almost bloodshot. She was crying throughout most of the night; she awoke at about five a.m. and cried some more. She lay back down for several more hours since it was only five a.m.
            When she got up at around ten in the morning, she took a shower, combed and brushed her silky, black hair, brushed her teeth, put on deodorant, and got dressed. After that she cooked herself some breakfast; her stepparents never cooked anything for her, she had to learn how to cook food herself.
She made pancakes with bacon, hash browns, a peeled banana, and a glass of peach juice. She also got a rose and put in a vase with water to brighten up the living room. She was feeling somewhat happy because she would never have to see her cruel and wicked stepparents again.
She had to be hasty because her lawyer, some assistants, and the two policemen would arrive at exactly two p.m. All of her stuff was in a U-Haul outside her house in front of the garage.
After she got dressed, she took her toiletries and the rest of her belongings to the U-Haul and watched some TV while waiting for them to come.
But as she watched TV, she noticed a few things on the table by the front door: an envelope with red heart wax seal, a softball-sized, brilliant cut crystal paperweight, a black box, and her Iphone she left the night before. She turned off the TV, got up, and walked over to the small, wooden table. She opened the envelope that said “Alexandra” in calligraphy on the back of the sealed envelope.
 She unfolded the note that was inside and ignored the rest of its contents until after she read the note her stepparents left for her.
Their note sounded nicer than the way they normally wrote stuff to her. Usually, their notes were almost all insulting. But this goodbye note actually made the evilest people that Xandra knew seem like normal human beings.
She found seven cards in the envelope, along with the note, and a slender jewelry box, which jingled as if something—maybe a necklace or charm bracelet—was inside of the black box.
Her stepparents gave her their last paychecks they owed her, since they were about to go to work, anyway. She got fifty-six hundred from her stepmom and forty-seven hundred from her abusive stepdad. They left it on the side table by the door at around eight twenty-five, with a quickly scribbled note from them in their typically curly and unique handwriting:
            To Alexandra,
     We were called in to work on something. We left you a sack lunch on the table by the door. Since we know you are leaving, we left you debit cards with money on them and two little gifts. Goodbye, Xandra. Have fun, and good luck.
Your Stepparents,
Areeda and Daymon Dahmyr
P.S. Be safe. XOXO
            “Wow” was the only word that drifted past her teeth and lips as she read the words, “P.S. Be Safe.” Maybe they do have a little bit of decency and kindness in them after all. She knew they only wrote kind words because she was about to leave at two p.m.
She then picked up the paperweight and looked through it, seeing several reflected versions of herself inside it. It felt considerably heavy for its size. At first, she thought it was diamond, but, from her experience after working at her stepfather’s job for awhile, she knew that it wasn’t real. Then her eyes shifted towards the Visa debit cards. She didn’t know how much was on each card, but they did have her name, card number, and birthdates on them.
Since her stepparents never taught her anything, she got all her knowledge from her Dell laptop, Windows PC, and from her massive collection of books. She had so many books that she needed her own separate library room to house them all. Aside from that, she also saw the velvet-covered black box by the envelope she opened a little while ago.
When she picked it up, she shook it gently and listened to it jingle and jangle before she opened it up. She saw a silver chain necklace with a diamond-encrusted heart lock and key. On the back of the heart lock, it had her name engraved in a calligraphic style. She undid the ringlet and put on the necklace; it coincidentally matched her silver hoop earrings she was wearing.
She felt as if she had real parents again..until her Iphone rang. She tapped the button on the touch screen that had a green phone on it and accepted her call.
“Hey, Xandra. We’re outside your house. It’s time to go!” It was her lawyer, Claire.
“O.K. I have to get the last of my stuff here. Then I’ll be right out.”
“Hurry up; we need to be there by five!”
Claire Bolt, her lawyer, told her the afternoon before that getting from her stepparents’ mansion in Crystal, Montana to the Rippled Waters Youth Sanctuary—in the Condorre Mountains—would take almost three hours if they didn’t buckle up and hustle. Condorre (town), in Alberta, Canada, was a moderately small town twenty miles from the youth rehabilitation shelter known as Rippled Waters. It was kind of like a cross between suburbs and the country, from what her lawyer said. Her interest was especially piqued when she learned that Rippled Waters had the largest collection of stores and shops in North America and that they had superb condominiums and apartments. Claire had given Xandra a layout of the Rippled Waters campus grounds the afternoon before to look at.
Rippled Waters was on top of an enormous hill with parking lots in the front of it. The left one was for visitors and the right was for the people that were at the shelter. In the center, there was the road to Rippled Waters, which had a steel lichgate. Visitors had to pay three dollars and fifty cents to get in; people at Rippled Waters needed to swipe their card key through the small slit in the card key access system box to go in and out. If they are staff of Rippled Waters, they needed to swipe their R.W. ID card the same way.
In the front, when you entered the shelter, there was a long, wide fountain. It had two stone, serpentine dragons, crossing and overlapping each other, forming an “X” in the center of the fountain. The stone dragons looped around and came forward with an open mouth that had daggerlike teeth and ram’s horns. The water from the fountain flowed out of their mouths and back into the fountain pool.  There was a cobblestone path, wrapping around the fountain and there were benches built into the fountain pool’s rim, so people could sit down. On the sides of the massive fountain, there were two semi-circle rose bushes with a small cobblestone path between the roses and the fountain.
There were some stone stairs that went up for a few feet and they led to Rippled Waters. The shelter was made of bricks and there were three separate entrances with dual glass doors. The middle column of the shelter had seven floors and the ones on the side had three. On the sides, there were walkways that led to the Rippled Waters Mega-Mall, which had the largest collection of flower shops, game shops, clothing stores, grocery stores, you name it. They had a lot of stores because the people that came here were mostly teens and young adults, and they had to learn how to shop, manage a budget, and pay bills just like a responsible adult would.
Behind the Mega-Mall was nothing more than spectacular. Winding hills, beautiful trees of every kind and a forest with a large lake, it was the pride and joy of Rippled Waters, next to the Mega-Mall.
On the right side of the shelter, there were three more pairs of dual glass doors that led to separate walkways. These walkways led to an upward hill with a gazebo and two rose bushes at the top. The gazebo’s rear had a metal fence, going all around the hill’s border so people could get a beautiful view of the lake and two isles (the left one was for vacation/personal use and the right one was a wildlife reserve).
To the right of the gazebo hill, there were stone stairs that led down to the beach; the back of the beach was cut off by a rock wall, which was the massive hill where the gazebo was.
The wildlife reserve was large and had many different habitats on it. The isle itself was about ten miles away from the beach.
On the left of the gazebo hill, it was the same structure as the right side, except there was a small cluster of isles with a large, main isle in the center. The isles had stone beam bridges that all led to the main island. There were a few separate houses, each with different number rooms and each had their own accommodations. The main one had an underground garage and a large patio. These houses all had patios and they were surrounded by the island forest. The houses were all on the edge between the beach and forest.
After looking at all of what this place had to offer, Xandra was pretty psyched, considering her stepparents’ cruelty and neglect and apathy. It was time to leave her horrible past behind her and look ahead to the bright future ahead of her. Rippled Waters was the start of a new life for Alexandra Sillionne.
Xandra rode a 2012 Audi TT Coupe convertible and she also had a Can Am Spyder Roadster, a Huffy Nel Lusso Beach Cruiser, and a Schwinn mountain bike. Her stepparents had a lot of money to spare, so they were happy with paying her car off. One of her teachers taught her how to drive a few summers ago.
Her roadster was inside the U-Haul and so were her bikes. The three assistants rode in the U-Haul, her lawyer rode with her in her Audi, and the policemen rode in their own car. They were her escorts. She also remembered to bring her CD’s to make sure she wouldn’t get bored while driving.
Today, she was wearing a red, buttoned, silk blouse with golden hearts on her right pocket, her left side, on the cuffs of the sleeves, and on the back of her blouse’s collar. She wore black corduroy shorts that came up five inches above her knees. Her shoes were black Converse ankle sneakers, or high-tops, and her covered socks were black. Her hair was put in a high ponytail; she almost never put her hair up. If anything, she always wore her hair down, in a ponytail, or braids.
She was also wearing a rose barrette made of rubies on the left side of her head. It was about the size of her palm. The only other things she wore were her blue Rolex watch, her golden bangle bracelets, her brown aviator sunglasses, and her silver hoop earrings.
It took them a half hour just to get into the mountains because there were a lot of steep hills on the way. After that, they had to go up and down hills for most of the road trip. Since it was going to be about three hours, she and her lawyer talked back and forth for awhile to pass the time. Her lawyer, Claire, asked her a question that she thought would never get broached.
“Allie, I have a question for you: how did you end up, living with your cruel stepparents…?”
Out of all the questions she could’ve asked me first, it just HAD to be THAT one…
“Hmph, I thought you’d never ask,” Xandra said, sounding somewhat surprised. “Well, first, lemme tell you how I lost my parents in the first place…
“My mom was spending the afternoon with me. I was…hmm, about twelve, and my mom and I were sitting on a bench in a park. My mom told me to wait on the bench; she was going to get us some cinnamon pretzels. So, I waited…and I waited…and I waited—“
“How long did you wait for her?”
“About a half hour. I waited another half hour until I finally called 9-1-1 and said that my mother was missing and that she was gone for a whole hour.
“So I went home and waited for the police to call my house. She was gone for over a year…even t’day, they can’t find her anywhere. She just…disappeared,” Xandra said, crying pinhead-sized tears of sorrow.
“So, I lived with my grandmother and my great-aunt for the time being. They were the most loving out of all my older relatives. Then, four years later, they died of cancer and pneumonia. So, I tried to fend for myself for the remainder of my days.
“I also tried to get a hold of my godfather. But it had been a few years since I last talked to him. His phone number had changed and his address changed, too. I was alone for awhile. Until…Until…” She sighed in a hesitant way; Claire spoke after awhile.
“Until you what?” She asked.
“I then got a call from my uncle’s wife that her sister and her husband could take care of her in their mansion in Montana. So I packed up and they picked me up so I could go home.
“Everything was fine for awhile until they saw what I looked like. In the past and in the present.”
“Were you a nerd or a goth or something?” Claire asked, feeling interested when I left her hanging with my story that I was telling.
“No, I was two hundred five pounds and my disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, was ‘in full bloom’ and no one really liked me. I am still plump, but that’s because I was working out for awhile in school. But NO, they still didn’t like me. Just when I thought they were going to be nice…they turned on me.”
“They turned evil.” Claire said.
“They were so evil that the Devil would be scared of them if they ever met. Even though they gave me jobs, kept me fed, and gave me a place to stay and stuff, they wanted to make my life hell on earth.
“Areeda yelled and nagged and told me over and over about how everything was wrong with me. She slapped me, pulled my hair, ugh, it was horrible. But Daymon was the worst.”
“What did HE DO?” Claire asked.
“He beat me, punched me, kicked me…he abused me both emotionally, physically, and sexually. On a daily basis. But then there came the day that he decided that what he was doing wasn’t enough. He wanted to leave his mark on me to never be removed or forgotten…”
“He screwed up your face.”
“Him and Areeda. Right after I got my diploma and graduated high school, they took me home and at ten o’clock, they took me into the basement, cornered me, and came at me with daggers and misshapen branding irons. They shackled me to the ground, held me down, and slashed at my face. By the time, they were done, my face was almost a grayish purple color. All the blood drained out of my face.
“Oh my God.” Claire was pale white in the face.
“After that, they branded me with the misshapen branding irons they made. They burned my face so much that there were smaller burnt patches of skin inside the bigger ones. I was screaming so loud that people down the street could hear the echo.
“Then, they took turns, doing whatever they wanted. Areeda slapped me and poured citrus juice on my face, making my face hurt even more. Daymon beat me and raped me for an hour. But by the time they tore my branded a “D” and an “A” on my upper arms, I had already given up on myself. I just lay in a dark red pool of blood that drained from my face.”
Claire was in tears by the time she stopped, Xandra was in tears as well.
“I slept, unconscious, for almost three days. Areeda and Daymon had left me to go party, drink, and gamble. Luckily, one of the neighbors that loved me to death, called 9-1-1 and had them get me out.
“I couldn’t tell them what happened. My throat was so sore I couldn’t talk. They thought I was a mute. So they just fixed me up and took care of me while my stepparents were away for the week. I got my voice back after four days and I finally told the doctors what happened and who did it. My story was on the news and they were in for a rude awakening when they got home. Everyone hated on them. People swarmed their mansion and protested about their cruelty.”
“Things got better, though, right?” Claire asked.
“Mmhmm. They were somewhat nicer to me. They didn’t ever beat me at all after what they already did. So, they just gave me whatever I wanted so that I wouldn’t tell on them again. I had all the money I needed, so I kept myself busy. But I used some of my money to get my first face mask.
“I hired my own sculptor to make my masks and he made me over twenty different masks. Some were the same as the one I’m wearing now, but most of them were different. After I had killed those people at my college, I went to the hospital, then to court, and home again. Now here I am, finally moving away from my stepparents and into Rippled Waters.”
“Don’t worry, Xandra. You’ll like this place a lot. I guarantee it.” When I looked at my Rolex watch, it had already been two hours almost.
“So, your parents paid for everything you wanted?” Claire asked.
“Yeah. They were more than happy to.”
“Who taught you how to drive?” She asked.
“My music professor, Eric Solea (soh-lay-yuh) James. He was five years older than me. He’s also the neighbor that called the cops to come and help me. We were going out for awhile, but we decided to stay friends after he wanted to take it to the next level. He was like a father to me after we broke up. He helped me whenever I needed it. He was a tall man with blond hair, white skin, he played guitar and piano…
“He was one of my closer friends I had at the college. Other than me, running into his mailbox, I learned how to drive pretty fast. But I was nervous as hell, so he gave me some advice…”
“Which was…?”
“To treat driving as if it was one of my video games I always played. And that being careful and making it to my destination was the same as ‘winning’ the game. It actually worked. I got my license in six months and one week.” When Xandra told Claire this, she was no longer crying. It kept her mind off of things.
“Wow, that’s very impressive. But what about your exes in college?”
“Mmm, most of them were nice, but there were a few that just wanted to hit and quit it. My best was my prom date’s brother. He was so caring until his brother got beat up because he was seeing the unpopular girl. We were together for about a year.”
Claire nodded her head, but paused and got a confused look on her face after a few seconds.
“But something still doesn’t add up. Why would your mean-ass stepparents pay your car in full when they were the ones that abused?”
“It was a part of our deal. They are nice parents or I turn them in for more abuse. It was a ‘give me what I want or else’ deal, so to speak.”
Xandra was getting pretty exhausted from talking too much, so she decided to take a break for awhile. Claire graduated from law school two years early. She also has an “adjustable pay” option. So people can pay anywhere from one hundred to one thousand dollars an hour for her services. Her richer clients paid her very good because of how smart she was.
For the next forty-five minutes, they listened to her music and enjoyed the magnificent landscape. There were lush, green, rolling hills and vast grasslands on their sides, followed by the Condorre Mountains that stretched for thousands of miles.
By the time it was 4:45 p.m. the Captain Glass and Lieutenant Johnson were on our RELM walkie talkie we had so we could keep in touch.
“Xandra, come in, Xandra. You there?” Captain Glasse asked over the wireless walkie talkie.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“D’you see that big hill, coming up ahead?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“That’s the hill that Rippled Waters is on top of. We’ll be there in about ten minutes.”
“Okay, thanks.”
They made it to Rippled Waters at last. But now, they had to be careful because they had a U-Haul and they had to be careful not to push the engines too far or else they’ll go tumbling backwards. So, they all went—slowly, but surely—up the hill; this took about fifteen minutes almost. Xandra’s Audi TT Coupe had a relatively large engine compared to other models, so it was able to handle going uphill without overheating and overworking the engine.
Xandra only talked to people she was close to or to people who she knew for sure she would never see again. She poured her whole heart out to her lawyer just so she could pass the time.
After her lawyer and the two policemen left, she made a promise to herself to be reserved for awhile. A promise that would change her, mentally, and this promise was not like other promises she made before.
She didn’t make this promise consciously. Her past experiences had a bigger effect on her now that she was going to be around people again. Even after her stepparents abused her, she remained mute, reserved, quiet, only talking when it was necessary. Her horrible memories were going to turn her from a human being into nothing more than a person that eats, drinks, walks and produces waste. No more emotions. No more thinking. Her normal behavior would soon become absent. She was going to become…in layman’s terms, an animal…an enigmatic, dangerous, wild animal…
By the time they made it up the hill, they had to drive one more quarter mile before coming to a soft stop at the Rippled Waters Youth Sanctuary gate. Claire gave the guard her R.W. Staff ID and opened the gates for them. She parked her car, along with Glasse, Johnson and the assistants.
Alexandra was astonished by how much bigger Rippled Waters was up close.
“Don’t worry; the assistants will move all your stuff in. Let’s go in so you can meet your ‘team’…” 
Chapter 4: Getting Settled In
Xandra and Claire walked up the stairs together, watching all of Rippled Waters’ inhabitants roam around. Xandra noticed that there were all kinds of people at this institution. White people, black people, brown people, cute people, ugly people and much more. There was more diversity, more people of different races and ethnicities here. The schools that she went to had mostly white people, black people or Mexican people. She was the oddball at her old schools and college. But she had a feeling that she would fit in quite nicely here.
When she walked in, she realized that she was entering a waiting room. It kind of looked like a doctor’s waiting room. Not a lot of people were waiting. There was a couple, reading their books, a younger little toddler, playing with some cars and blocks, and a girl in a short, silk skirt, texting on her cell phone.
Claire and Xandra walked silently to the receptionist’s counter, with Claire’s high heels clicking on the hardwood floors. The receptionist was petite in appearance with light, blue eyes, bright, red lips and straight, short hair that curled around her ears. She was wearing a thin, cotton, grey jacket with grey pants and black heels that were about five inches tall. She also wore a black undershirt and a nametag with engraved lettering:
Receptionist Leila Danielle
Excuse me, Miss Danielle,” Claire said, making Leila stop typing on her computer and look up to see us. She smiled at Xandra, but, for some reason, glared at Claire. Xandra didn’t know why she did this until Claire and Leila exchanged greetings.
“Hello…Claire,” Leila said through her pearly white teeth. “I see my stepsister is still out there, making money, being a lawyer. My daddy always liked you better because you chose to go to law school.
“So…what can I do for you and your friend?” Leila asked, adjusting her demeanor.
“My client here needs to see where she’ll be staying for the next two years.” Claire said.
“All right, last name, please?”
“Sillionne,” Xandra replied.
“S-I-L-L-I-O-N-N-E,” Claire said, spelling it out.
“First name?” Leila asked.
“Alexandra,” Xandra said.
After she typed her name, Leila moved her mouse and clicked it twice. After looking at her screen, she moved her mouse again and clicked it once as a receipt was printed out for her:
Rippled Waters Youth Sanctuary Apartment Slip
Date: July 28
Name: Alexandra Haili Sillionne
Age: 26
Height: 5’5”
Weight: 165 lbs.
Rippled Waters ID Numbers
07-2-A (record)
176-9709 (personal)
Location: West Wing - Third Floor
Apartment Number: 329-B
            Along with her receipt, she got a complete layout of her condominium and all of its components, including the attic, extra storage room, basement, etc.
Xandra could tell that both the West and East Wing had three floors and that each had fifty apartments/condos and two main corridors, so each corridor had twenty-five condos each. For example, on the first floor, the first one was 101-A and the last one was 150-B (then second floor: 201-A and 250-B; third floor: 301-A and 350-B). Xandra was in the second corridor in the second condo on the right.
            Her receipt was printed out on wafer-thin thermal paper. It was the kind they used to print out receipts at grocery stores. Claire got a copy of hers, too.
            “All you have to do is go through this door on my left into the cafeteria, make a left and take the elevator up three floors. Your condo will be down the second corridor and it’s two doors down on your right.”
            Xandra absorbed information like a sponge, so she could follow directions on the first try. Claire glanced at the little slip of paper, and then at her client.
            “C’mon, Xandra. I’ll show you to your condo. This place has dozens of people, moving your stuff there right now. Let’s go.”
            Xandra and Claire walked, in a moderate hurry, to the left door and she opened it with haste. Without warning, a thousand eyes all rested, not on Claire, but on her client, Xandra. The huge cafeteria room was deathly silent until she walked towards the West Wing’s glass doors. The corridors were moderately short, about fifty or sixty feet in length.
            Claire and Xandra took the elevator up and walked down to the last wide corridor she came across and walked about five or ten yards before taking notice that the second door on the right—next to a jail cell—was wide open. But it was the design of the jail—and how it was connected to the apartment—that caught her utmost attention first. It was unlike any that she ever saw.
            This jail cell, connected to the apartment like all the others in the Condominium Wings, was modernized so that the cells didn’t look so bleak and miserable. Of course, the cell was made from iron and steel; the lock for the cell itself needed a card key like the one Claire used to help her get through the gates. There was also a door next to the cell’s door for the solitary confinement part of the cell. The S.C. part of the cell had nothing but a chair for the prisoner and a bunch of bars, separating her from the rest of her cell and the outside world.
            When you entered the cell—it was already open—you could see a small table connected to the concrete floor, along with the two stone stools. To the right was the S.C. part of the cell. To the left was a pair of glass windows, looking into the “first half” of the cell bathroom. The “first half” had a cupboard, a shower, a counter and a sink. The door was steel and it had a shiny handlebar for opening and closing.
            When she viewed the bathroom from the table and looked to her right, she saw a smooth, concrete block with granite top on it. It also had a small mattress packed with thick, fleecy cotton with a black bed sheet. It had a thin, red fleece blanket folded at the foot of the bed and the pillow was in the shape of a Tootsie Roll and it had small air beads in it.
            There was a bed table on the right side of the bed; it was also made of stone. Next to it was an immovable concrete desk (it was basically a trapezoid-shaped piece of rock, jutting out from the wall) and cylinder stool. Above the “desk” in the top right hand corner, on an immovable desk, was a small plasma screen TV that could swivel around three hundred sixty degrees and tilt up, down, left and right; it could also be adjusted so that the height of the TV could be short or tall, depending on if you were on the bed or in the desk.
            Finally, next to the two immovable stone stools, was the door to the “second half” of the bathroom. Inside of it was a three-in-one toilet, sink, and water fountain. The door in the right corner finally led to her condominium where she would be staying. She went through the “second half” of the bathroom and entered her condo, cautiously.
            Looking at her condo’s layouts, there was a long hallway that made a right turn and led into the living room. It was spacious and lively, unlike Xandra, naturally, and that was what attracted her to her new condo. Straight ahead, beyond the living room was the kitchen. Very modernized as well with a counter that had a granite top, a large, long table for a large group dining and a vast expansion of everything you could ever find in a kitchen. Looking into the kitchen, to the left in the corner was a door that led to another hallway with two fireplaces, three doors on her right and one door on her right. The door on her right led to her bedroom, which was already unpacked and ready to go, along with the living room and kitchen she just went through.
            The third door down was the full bathroom, the second door led to a laundry room/storage room and the first door was a two-person bedroom with two, full-sized beds. At the far end was a door, leading to a pair of helical, or spiral, staircases with a large, wooden pillars, holding the staircases in place. On the outside of the staircases were slides connected to them for speedier stair travel. That is beyond awesome, Xandra thought to herself as she ran up the left staircase as fast as she could, almost tripping on one of them.
            When she got to the top, she turned around and faced the stairs. She looked to her right and saw the slide. She stepped down into the slide part of the stairs, sat down, and pushed herself and yelled like a giddy elementary kid as she slid down the stairs to the bottom.
            She then looked at the “Staircase Room.” There was a soft rug, running down the small hallway and one the left were the “Up” stairs and on the right were the down stairs that led to the basement. Since she didn’t want to go up the stairs again, she took the stairs that went down to the basement. These stairs had a slide connected to it, too. So you actually had a choice of going down the stairs or taking the slide down.
            Down in the basement, there was a bar with three TV’s, for those sports fans that wanted to watch. There was also a fridge, a drink/snack storage room, a TV in the left corner with a dartboard and supplies, a piano and some sheet music/CD’s for it and the Jukebox in the center of the room, which had two reclining chairs on its sides. On the left side of the stairs was a plasma screen on the wall with two loveseats, a couch, and a glass coffee table. Next to the couch and loveseats was a ping-pong table, a huge shelf full of her DVD’s and a small shelf with the ping-pong supplies.
            Looks like all of her stuff was already taken care of. Everything was unpacked, in the right places, neat and organized. She knew that there was going to be a team of moving guys on each floor in every room of the house, ready to unpack her stuff.
            She didn’t have a lot of furniture; Claire had told her that the condo was already furnished. All she needed to bring was all of her belongings and her bedroom mattress and furniture.
            To the right of the stairs was a billiards table—the pool was hers—and next to it were MORE TV’s, pool balls, cues and other billiards supplies.
            After looking at the basement—it looked more like an entertainment room—she went up the “Down” staircase and went up the other flight of stairs to the extra storage room—it was the attic for the last person that lived in this condo.
            I know for a fact that they couldn’t have finished unpacking all my books. I have enough books to make a library, Xandra thought to herself.
            When she finally got up to the extra storage room, she was astonished, blown away, flabbergasted. They were almost done, getting all of her books unpacked. They had about three-quarters of them put up on the shelf, which wasn’t that difficult because she arranged them by alphabetical order (one box was for the last names that begin with “A”, then “B”, etc.). They only needed four more boxes unpacked—those ones were the boxes labeled “W”, “X”, “Y” and “Z”.
            In the center of her new library room was a large sofa, two side tables, two reclining chairs, a wooden table with her sculpted bust of her head that her sculptor made, two loveseats with side tables and a really long fireplace with the fireplace tools on the sides.
            On the left side of the stairs was an enormous bronze sculpture of the Chinese dragon of fire and volcanoes, Futs-Lung. With horns like a stag beetle, the claws of a tiger, the lengthy, scalloped dorsal fin of a fish, the long tail of a snake and scales of a carp, it was a true sight to behold. This dragon was known for having the pearl of wisdom under its chin. Futs-Lung’s face was bumpy and scaly like a reptile and its teeth were white with a slight, yellow tint in them. With large nostrils, its tongue was long and thick like an anteater’s. This dragon, like all Chinese dragons were very old. Futs-Lung didn’t reach adulthood until it was three thousand years old. Its eyes were shiny and almost looked like rubies than eyes.
One the right side was the Chinese dragon of weather, Shen-Lung. In real-life, Futs-Lung was orange and red; Shen-Lung was a dark, navy-blue color. This dragon was larger than its volcanic counterpart and had long, smooth, anemone-like tentacles all around its long camel-like head. With a forehead that was round and sleek, this dragon also had long, black teeth and a bright, red tongue. Its paws had claws of an eagle and the tops were bumpy and scaly like a reptile’s skin. Unlike its fiery opposite dragon, Shen-Lung’s dorsal fin was much longer. Futs-Lung’s dorsal fin stopped at the base of its tail, but Shen-Lung’s tail went all the way to its tail’s tip. Shen-Lung’s nostrils were nothing more than large, black pits and its two canine teeth stuck out of its long mouth like a vampire’s teeth. Its eyes were like two black, solid gems with two small diamonds where fro pupils.
Aside from their obvious differences, they were a lot alike. They were both gods and revered; if they were angered, their wrath would tear apart the earth and either set it on fire or summon floods to ruin the lush landscape. Chinese dragon eggs were laid one at a time and took one millennia to hatch. They both had five toes on their feet and they could both shape-shift into any form they desired. All Chinese dragons had nine body parts in common. They had the head of a camel, ears of a bull, scales of a carp, horns of a stag (deer), eyes of a bunny, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, paws of a tiger and the claws of a bird of prey (eagle).
On the right side of the Futs-Lung statue was a trapdoor. One of her busts that she had could have its head tilted forward to open up the trapdoor—that bust was the one on the table, but she did have three other regular ones as well. She tilted the head forward so that it was nearly headless and the twin trapdoors pulled apart like two stage curtains and she saw a flight of stairs. She quickly went down and checked on her collection of gemstones and minerals that she had been collecting ever since she moved in with her stepparents.
Her mom ran a jewelry store and a salon; her dad ran a haberdashery, or men’s warehouse, along with his mines that had could be excavated to uncover rocks, minerals, gems and other natural treasures. She got paid pretty well, considering how her stepparents treated her.
She got to keep her treasures she dug up, but when she dug up more than two of something, she would sell it and get more money on top of what he stepparents paid her.
All in all, she was extremely satisfied with her accommodations. Claire gave her some info about everything there was and she felt at home already. Claire and Xandra were sitting on the couch in the living room until Claire’s LG Xenon slider phone rang and Claire promptly answered it.
“Hello…Yeah, she loves the condo…what time is it?...Oh, it is?...Okay, we’ll be there in a little bit. Bye.”
“Who was that?”
“Your Head Counselor, Ruben. It’s time for you to meet your personal team.”
“What do they do?”
“They will help you learn interpersonal skills, life skills, and personal skills so that when you leave in a few years, you’ll be prepared to live on your own.”
“Oh, cool. So when do we go?”
“Now. We have to hurry or we’ll be late!”
“All right, let’s go, then!”
Xandra had a therapist once when she was fifteen and she had her therapist, Dr. Sana Valencia, for four years. When she went to college, she still kept in touch with her because they were the best of friends after a year and a half of talking for two hours every Friday. Now she was going to be getting a new one. She felt sure that her therapist was going to be a woman because a man wouldn’t understand her problems as much as a woman would.

 Chapter 5: Meeting the Team
          After getting the urgent call on Claire’s phone, she and Xandra hurried to the elevator, went two floors down and to the West Wing door. They weaved and zigzagged through hustling and bustling cafeteria and went to the two doors in the back. They went through the heavy, solid wooden doors and sprinted to the office at the end of the hall.
            The middle column of the youth shelter was mainly full of offices where the staff of Rippled Waters and the Chairwoman of the institution.
            The office that Xandra and Claire were running towards was right by the elevator that could take you up to any of the other six floors that personal use facilities like an orchestra room, a dance room, a workout room, a room where dog and cat owners could bring their pets for socialization, etc.
            Rippled Waters had a lot more people than most people thought. There were about ten thousand people, including the staff, and most of the people there were only visitors because the Mega-Mall was like a “Shopping Mecca” for men and women alike. But they usually came late at night, so the stores were half-full for most of the day. Xandra decided that she would go on a shopping spree for the first three weeks and give herself a grand tour of the vast institution.
            We got to his office in less than ten minutes, but the downside was that we were both a little sweaty. Thankfully, Claire told me that there was air conditioning in his office. Claire opened the door and we walked into his office. There were two black desks and they were both facing the four glass windows on the far side of the room. They each had a lamp, but one had three hardcover books and the other had a small globe.
            “Mr. Crosse, we’re here,” Claire said.
            “It sure is nice n’ cool in here,” Xandra said, looking at the thermostat, reading that it was sixty-five degrees inside the office, but I knew that it was about eighty-nine degrees outside the building.
            The man and woman who were sitting at the desks turned in their chairs to face us. The man had very white skin with dark brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. He was also wearing a black suit with a red shirt and black tie. Xandra also noticed that he was wearing silver cuff links. The woman had the same skin color, but her hair was a reddish brown color, but she had the same eyes as him. She was wearing a grey businesswoman’s dress with black high-heeled shoes and a black, leather folder in her left arm. The man took off his glasses, the woman set her folder down and they both walked in unison towards Xandra.
            “Ah, yes,” the man said. “It’s an honor to finally meet you. I just got through reading your background check. It’s very impressive, indeed, with you having degrees in four subjects…”
            She had Doctorate’s Degrees in all of her majors. She started going to college when she was twenty, due to her stepparents’ abuses, holding her back. But she wanted to be the best at what she was already excellent at, so, after getting financial aid and grants, she was able to obtain Doctorate’s Degrees in all of her three majors.
            “So, you must be Alexandra, right?” The woman asked her in a polite voice.
            “Yes,” she said, shaking their hands. “But you can call me Xandra, Alex or Allie, if it’s easier to remember.”
            “I’m Angela Rose, and this is Dr. Ruben Crosse. He is your Head Counselor and I am his assistant.”
            “Again, it’s nice to meet you both.”
            “So, I take it that you found your condo to your liking?” Ruben asked.
            “Yes, but I never thought it was going to be so big. Who used to live there?”
            “One of our other patients. He had a bunch of friends and he threw parties every weekend. He renovated most of the rooms in that condo.” Ruben said.
            “Why don’t we all sit down and go over your counseling plan, shall we?” Angela said.
            Their office had a large, cocoa butter-colored couch and two chairs with wooden frames and plush cushions. They also had a shelf full of psychology books, biology books, business books, etc. In between the chairs and couch was a black table with a bouquet of assorted flowers, a small stack of books and a bowl of various fruits, such as bananas, apples, mangoes, strawberries, etc. There was also a door by the bookshelf; where it led to was a mystery to Xandra.
            As soon as Xandra, Claire, Angela and Ruben sat down, they began the meeting.
            “So, Xandra,” Ruben said to her. “To start this consultation, why don’t you tell me some things about you that I may not know already?”
            “Oooh, uummm, let’s see,” Xandra said, thinking moderately hard to answer his question. “I can sing, dance, draw, paint, sketch, cook just about anything you give me and—Ooh! I can snap with my ring fingers and my middle fingers.” Xandra said, demonstrating her snapping skills by snapping both fingers on both hands twice. “I can also run for five miles without stopping.”
            “…Really?” Ruben, Angela and Claire said in unison, then looking at each other with mild amazement.
            “I have trained for four years in the arts of both kickboxing and Krav Maga.”
            “What’s Krav Maga?” Ruben asked, saying the Israeli fighting style with short A’s instead of pronouncing them the same way you would say the word, “Ah” and this made Xandra almost laugh in a mocking way.
“Kr-AH-v M-UH-GAH,” said Xandra, pronouncing the two words the right way, “…is an Israeli fighting style. This was first used for soldiers that had no experience in combat. It’s basically all made up of street fighting moves. I’m now a master in it and kickboxing.”
            “Impressive. Do you have any hobbies?” Angela asked, getting her pen and notepad ready.
            “Oh, I collect books of all kinds. That’s why I asked for a condo with an attic or extra room. I also collect rocks, minerals, and gems.”
            “Where do you get these gems and rocks?” Ruben asked her curiously.
            “Daymon and Areeda had a mining business, men’s warehouse and jewelry store, so I started working in the mines. I collected gems and rocks for myself and if I found more than two of something, I gave it to my stepmother’s job to polish, cut and sell.”
            “So that’s how you could afford all your books?”
            “Yeah. I mostly bought video games, DVD’s, music and books. I didn’t really get a lot of clothes until after two years of Krav Maga and kickboxing when I slimmed down and grew out of my old clothes. I used to be obese, but I ain’t now. After four years, I am now fit, toned and feeling better than ever. I alsooo—uh…” Ruben was staring at my mask for about two minutes until I snapped my fingers loudly. He blinked as if he were out of a trance and I spoke to him.
            “You’re staring at my mask…aren’t you?”
            “Is it really that bad?” He asked. She nodded and pulled the mask’s ribbon until the bow was undone and let the mask fall into her hands.
            Ruben and Angela gasped. Angela clung to Ruben’s arm in fright and stifled a scream, but Claire was unfazed. Xandra eyed Ruben’s movements as he got up and took a step at a time towards her, watching her reactions as he got close and knelt down to her level. She hung her head and turned away when he tried to touch her scarred complexion. She muttered only one word, almost in a hushed whisper.
            “Monster.” A tear crawled down her scarred face, making some of her scars shine in the sunlight. Ruben just shook his head as if he was answering a question she didn’t yet ask him.
            “You’re not scary to me. You’re beautiful.”
            Slowly, she turned her head in his direction and sighed. Shen then proceeded to tell Ruben more about herself. She was only about fifteen minutes into their consultation and she barely told them anything.
            “Was there anything that you did like about your schools and college?” Ruben asked.
            “Mmm, actually, yes.”
            The only thing that she did like was the libraries and the restaurants they had on her college campus. Other than that, there was nothing real spectacular about her schools and college.
            “Why did you decide to get a degree in Biology, Veterinary Science and Creative Writing?”
            “Oh, that was simple. I loved animals and writing. I was also as worker in the bookstore and an assistant in the library and laptop room.”
            Since they already did a background check on her stepparents and knew everything there was to know about them, they asked her about something touchy.
            “Did you have any pets when you were younger?” Ruben asked her. Her eyes bulged and she started to breathe faster than she already was.
            “I got a Labrador puppy named Sunny,” she replied. “We had him for about three or four years until he slipped into some thin ice. We couldn’t hear him outside we saw him, curled up under our tree. We thought he was asleep, but he was actually dead. I cried for about a month after he passed away.”
            “When did you get him?”
            “Christmas,” She said in a flat tone. “I was eight or nine years old. The one thing I can’t stand about parents is just when you think you find the light at the end of the tunnel…they take it away. My mom took away the one thing that gave my life meaning at that time. He was my closest friend, since no one barely talked to me when I was little.”
            “Why did she have to take him away?”
            “He was getting too big. He was causing too much trouble, digging up my mom’s flowers and since we didn’t have the time to potty-train him, he left little surprises in the living room.”
            After a while, Ruben and Angela moved on to another topic of discussion.
            “Were you involved in anything in college and high school?”
            “Yes, I was in the Library Club in high school and I was a part of the Masseuse Club in college. I actually got paid for massaging people when I was in that club.”
            After taking down what she said, Ruben asked little questions here and there.
            “Do you prefer to be alone?”
            “Yeah, but I do like some visitors,” Xandra said, emphasizing the word “some” because she doesn’t really like people coming over every single day.
            “How many jobs do you want and how many days a week do you want to work?” Ruben asked.
            “Three jobs and if you can, I’d like them to be all in the same place.”
            “Do you want to be in any clubs and how many?” Angela asked.
            “Mmm, no thanks.” Ruben and his assistant took down what she said again and looked over their notes, which took up two pages and one half of the next page.
            “All right. Wait just outside our office and we’ll be right back with your consultation plan.”
            So for the next ten minutes or so, Xandra sat on a bench outside the office door, reflecting on her own consultation and her counselors, Ruben and Angela.
            Xandra’s massive brain was being flooded by her own thoughts, along with some questions that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.
            Angela’s a nice woman, she didn’t seem appalled by my face. Ruben’s pretty good-looking for his age. But Ruben was interested in me, I could tell because he was brave enough to get close enough to see my face in all its horror. I could see in his eyes that he wanted to help me, in more ways than one. It almost seemed like he wanted to get to know me more. Did he want to go out with me? See a movie? Go to dinner, maybe? He didn’t have a ring on his fingers, so he’s probably not married. Angela was wearing one, so I’m guessing she’s married to someone.
            There is one thing that I didn’t try out because of my stepparents. I have this watch that one of my smarter friends gave me. It was really wide and had a considerably large screen on it with a whole bunch of buttons on its sides and the strap that went around my wrist that didn’t have my regular watch on it. He said that one of his older friends that went to MIT was working on it with some of his Brainiac friends in the Tech Club. He said that it not only had the internet, a phone and a TV in it, but it also had supernatural properties that they didn’t even bother to try out.
            I had a booklet of instructions to the watch, but it was packed away somewhere in one of my backpacks. I hope I get a job with animals or books; it’ll keep me busy.
It sure is getting dark out. From out of the windows, I could see the crescent moon, shining on me from outside. A whole bunch of people were walking around with a whole bunch of shopping bags from different stores like Forever 21, The Gap, Gamestop, Victoria’s Secret, Tilly’s, Next Accessories, See’s Candies and more. One thing I am gonna do is I’m going shopping for the next few weeks to see how much money I got on these cards that my stepparents gave me.
 I wonder if I can ask them for a—
            Then, in mid-thought, Ruben came out and invited her back in and she automatically sat on the couch liker she did before.
            “O.K. Here’s the deal,” Ruben said. “There is an opening for a vet, cashier, and animal caretaker at the Rippled Waters Animal Supercenter. It has a pet hospital, pet store and animal shelter. We have set you up for an interview there on Monday, at 10:30 in the morning.”
            “Ruben will also be coming by on Mondays, Fridays and the weekends to make sure you’re making progress and also to check up on you and see how you’re doing,” Angela said. “Your goals this week are to just settle in, get your place up and running and to get/use a credit and debit card.”
            “I have taken the liberty of setting you up with one of each to start out with.” Ruben said. “Your paychecks each week will be automatically sent to your debit card. Use your credit card only when you run out of money because they do charge interest on your card.”
            Ruben gave her a Blue Card American Express credit card and a Visa debit card.
            “All right,” Ruben said. “We’ll make our first stop by your place on Monday at six p.m. and we’ll see you in a few days…all right?”
            “Okay, I’ll see you two then.” Xandra said, shaking both of their hands and walking out with Claire after she shook their hands.
*At Chili’s Restaurant*
Xandra invited Claire to stay the night and come with her to eat at one of the restaurants in the Mega-Mall and she said that she would love to spend the night. Since they have never gone to Rippled Waters before, they chose a place at random; they just happened to be outside the restaurant called Chili’s.
For appetizers, Xandra had mozzarella cheese sticks with marinara sauce and Claire had tostada chips with some red salsa. After they ate their appetizers, Xandra ate a Fajita Trio, which was just steak, chicken and grilled shrimp with corn tortillas and peppers to give the meat and shrimp its taste. Claire had a Custom Combo (garlic and lime shrimp with classic sirloin). Xandra was drinking a lemonade and Claire had a glass of Pepsi.
After an hour of eating, talking and watching TV, they had dessert. Xandra had New York style Cheesecake and Claire had a Molten Chocolate Cake.
Since they left Ruben and Angela’s office at 6:05, it was now 7:15. So both Claire and Xandra went back to her place to hang out and watch TV.
They watched a scary movie called The Woman in Black. Throughout the movie, they were under a large blanket with some popcorn and bottles of cold water. They were holding each other for dear life and screaming so loud it echoed off the walls.
As the movie ended and went to the end credits, Xandra used her controller to turn off the TV and DVD player. They both gave a big, relieved sigh.
“Claire, you wanna see something cool?” Xandra asked. Claire looked in her direction curiously.
“Sure, what is it?”
“This watch was a gift from one of my older friends from MIT. He worked on it with his friends in the Tech Club and they said it had extra properties that they didn’t even bother to try.”
“Oh, why didn’t they test them out?”
“Too scared, I guess. Now let me see here…”
Xandra pressed any button at random and a hologram of a screen came up. It had a variety of different pictures of animals, real and made-up. So, just for the hell of it, she treated the hologram screen as if it were a touchscreen and tapped on a picture of a German Shepherd dog; instantly, the hologram screen closed and a thick, black tarlike substance started to creep up and around her brown skin. It started to completely cover her entire body and Claire noticed that as the substance covered her, it changed color and shape as well as thickness. Her arms turned into legs with paws, the substance extended outwards on her rear and formed a furry brown tail, and her face became covered with the black substance. She got down on her hands and knees; soon, the black substance turned black and brown, dissolved and became very thin.
In less than a minute, she was transformed into the picture of the animal she selected: a German Shepherd dog. She was still wearing her rose barrette, her Rolex and special watch, her golden bangles and her silver necklace with amethyst crystal pendant.
“So, Claire,” she said. “Any change?”
“Let’s just say things just got…hairy,” Claire said nervously. “…If you know what I mean.”
Xandra tried to say, “What’re you saying?” But all that came out was a couple of barking noises.
“What’re you—“ What the hell was that? A bark? I can’t talk! What did that watch do to me?
In the living room, there was a pair of square, tilting, full-size stand-up mirrors on the sides of the plasma screen TV. So, to see what was wrong, I walked over, pushed on the bottom of the left mirror, tilting it down and I exploded in my head with a enormous wail that almost broke the mirrors.
To Claire, Xandra’s scream sounded like a howl mixed with a bark, followed by a bunch of excited barks after that. Xandra looked at her hands, which were now golf ball-sized paws; she looked in the mirror at her face which was now a black and brown muzzle with brown eyes, large, batlike ears and a long, pink, smooth tongue.
“Xandra, try to change yourself back somehow!”
And how do you think I am s’posed to do that? In Claire’s eyes, Xandra tilted her head to the side in puzzlement and made a sound as if to ask her, “What?”
She looked at the watch on her right wrist and saw two buttons: one red, circular button that said, “Back” and a square, green button that said, “Forth”. She pushed her nose against the “Back” button and her disguise began to change back into the thick, black “tar” that covered her during her transformation. Then Xandra got up off her paws and stood upright as the thick, black “tar” dissolved and melted off of her skin and changed her back into her normal, human self.
“Oh, my God. This watch can do that…?”
“Mmhmm. Wonder what else it can do.” Claire said flatly, but still sounding amused.
“Well, well, well…Claire, I think it’s about time we turn in to bed, huh?”
“I agree. But I’ve got to get back home before it gets too late. Here’s my card…in case you need someone to talk to, okay?” Claire gave me her business card.
Claire Malaya Bolt – Attorney at Law
Cell: 1-714-904-8743
Business: 1-949-677-9066
Home: 1-714-472-8657
“Talk to you later, Claire; thank you so much.” Xandra said, giving her a nice, tight hug.
“Anytime. Take care of yourself. Be safe.” She started for the door and opened it, but first, she turned around to look at me.
“Bye, Xandra.”
“Bye, Claire. See you later.”
After she left, Xandra’s Iphone rang. An unidentified phone number came up; even though she didn’t know who it was, she answered it anyway.
“Hey, Allie.” It was Areeda and Daymon.
“You two? Why did you call?”
“We just wanted to say that we’re sorry for everything. I know we treated you like shit, but it’s not easy for us to be loving and caring to others.”
“What do you mean?”
“Some people just aren’t good parents. We just wanted to clear things up now that you’ve gone.”
“Hmph, very big of you to apologize. I respect that. Oh, I was just wondering…how much money did you leave me on those five cards…?”
“About…ten or so.”
“Oh, c’mon,” Xandra said pleadingly. “Why won’t you tell me how much you gave me?”
“It’s…a surprise,” Daymon replied. “Well, we gotta go to bed pretty soon.”
“Good night, you guys.”
“Good night, Xandra,” They said in unison into their phone, hanging up soon after.
How much did they give me?, she thought to herself impatiently. I’ll find out when I go shopping tomorrow since my interview isn’t until Monday, anyway…
She hung up her Iphone and, completely at a loss for any words of any kind, went to her bedroom to put on her PJ’s, brush her teeth and get a good night’s sleep in her new condo. The end of the first day of her new life at Rippled Waters Youth Sanctuary.

Chapter 6: The First Three Weeks
            Xandra made it clear to herself that she would give herself a tour of the Mega-Mall and the institution itself, since she was going to be there for awhile.
In the morning, she took a tour of everything that was on the outside of the institution. This included the Gazebo Hill and the Front Fountain; she made sure to go early in the morning (6:30-7:30 a.m.) so that the tenants wouldn’t bother her as much. Besides that, she naturally woke up that early due to the fact that she was so used to waking up at six in the morning for school; she even woke up at six when she was in college, where she scheduled her classes at six or seven at night.
            On the left side of the Front Fountain there was a large, shiny, granite circle that had four, granite benches, surrounding a glorious, black statue of the Founder of Rippled Waters, Doctor/PhD Sydney Van Robinson. This magnificent, slightly older man was standing next to his muscular horse with his arm wrapped around the horse’s neck with a confident smile on his face.
            After reading The Great Gatsby on the left bench, surrounding the statue—she had a photographic memory and she could read at a surprisingly fast pace—she decided to take her debit cards that her apologetic stepparents gave her. They gave her five of them and they were all identical, so she couldn’t really guess how much was on each card.
            Then, there came the moment of truth when she went to one of the many “bank booths” outside in the Mega-Mall’s hallways. They were used for withdrawing, and depositing money on your bank cards. They were also used for other bank purposes. When she slid one of her cards, the screen read: “Amount on Card: 1 million”, then the next one read, “Amount on Card: 2 million”, and so on. After she did the math—one million plus two million plus three million plus four million plus five million—she realized that they gave her ten million dollars! I’m going to be busy for awhile, she thought to herself.
            That day, she decided to expand her hobby circle and try something new: art. She went to Michael’s Art Supplies every day for the next week and bought, but not limited to, three sketchbooks, wooden canvases, pens (all kinds), pencils, charcoal, paper (all kinds), envelopes, sealing wax, envelope seals, a mannequin art model and stuff to do calligraphy.
            After her interview with her soon-to-be bosses, Tracie Gilson and Jack Camille, she was notified within two days that she got the job(s)! Her soon-to-be co-workers liked her resume and her background check and they were eager to work with her, so she started immediately the following day.
            Tracie was a young, compassionate boss that understood people inside and out. He knew how animals in the supercenter behaved and he could translate their body language into language that we human could understand. He was a bit taller than she was, with alabaster white skin, golden-colored hair, medium blue eyes, and a very warming voice.
            Jack Camille was the same way, except he was more of a technical man that Tracie was; he knew the hard facts about cats, dogs and other creatures, but his co-manager knew just facts about animal behavior. He was two inches taller than Tracie, with dark brown hair, solid grey eyes, wiry figure, and a deeper, masculine voice that softened up when he was around his workers and the customers. He was like a rough working dog: tough when at work, but soft at heart when it comes to people he knows are close to him.
            Her co-workers—Jesse Hille, Thomas Klaus, Mark Royce—were a comical bunch of people that she grew attached to after a few days. Jesse, Tom and Mark were all around six feet tall. They were all white, with strong builds and long legs.
Tom had dark brown hair with a five o’clock shadow, dark grey, bold eyes and a straight, cleft nose.
Jesse had a buzz cut with black hair that was about as long as one third of your pinky finger, square-shaped group of short hairs under his chin, dark eyes and pink lips that seemed to have Chapstick Lip Balm on them.
Mark’s voice was what made him stand out to me. Mark’s eyes were light blue; his shave was extremely close, clean and perfect. His hair was the same color and cut the same way. He also had very white skin, but his voice sounded very teenagerlike. Out of all of them, she liked Mark the most.
            After her first day on the job, Tracie, Jack, Jesse, Mark and Thomas took her out to Olive Garden to welcome her into their working group. It was fabulous; they all told her about themselves, how they started out, what they liked, what they didn’t like, etc. Aside from the breadsticks, she had Shrimp Scampi Fritta with a glass of red wine in a champagne flute. With the mall, her new job and her lovely condo, she seemed to completely forget about her memories from college and her bad dreams seemed to vanish on their own…
            After she tried out her art stuff, she put them in her storage room and decided to buy more things to keep her busy. She bought every kind of DVD, video game, music CD, record, and sheet music she could think of. She was the kind of person that needed to be occupied almost a hundred percent of the time with something. She already knew how to play piano, guitar, some flutes, clarinet, bongo drums, the harp, you name it. She could pretty much play a little of everything, but she was almost a master at guitar and piano. She bought this kind of stuff over the next week.
            Aside from the fifty books she bought over the third week, she bought a small fridge to put in her bedroom for her own personal snacks she would get from the grocery store that was in the Mega-Mall Shopping Center. The only other things that she bought were five flash drives for her computer and laptop files and two Ipod Classics (silver and black).
For most of the day, she was either shopping or inside her condominium, immersing herself in the arts, her music, her videos, her TV; she just wanted to keep herself busy and not really speak to anyone.
After the two-faced friends she had at the college, she was cautiously on the alert if anyone tried to make friends with her, which didn’t really happen that often, to her relief. She did like her co-workers and job; while she was working, she was spending most of her time with Mark, she didn’t really get to work with Jesse or Tom that often. Jesse, Thomas, Mark, her bosses and her counselors were the only people she knew.
Could anyone help her see past the worst in the people that she meets and bring her to life? Could anyone  help her molt her shell of confinement and solitude and expose the fresh flesh of happiness, joy, trust and love that she once had shown off back in the “good ol’ days”? Who was going to help her transform?