This is the Part... Where the Bread Crumbs Lead to Strange Places

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3 of This is the part... That took about as much as last time, but with all the dialouge it gives the illusion that this one is almost twice as long as the others. ;D I was too lazy to do anything more than spellcheck on word, so if you notice some errors let me know. Comments, favs, and reloading the page a hundred times so I think more people are viewing it are all appreciated. :D

Also, we can put cover drawings now?!? I will get to work on this soon! maybe.......


The first week was...difficult. I was grounded, though that word was never really used. I was told to come straight home after my class on Friday (I had to stay home on Thursday to let the unpleasantness pass) and to use the weekends to let the threads weaving through my torso help my skin to close up again. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I was told the same thing as Friday, and the next Thursday when I had attempted to ask for permission to leave the house I was quickly reminded that I was still healing. So basically grounded, just without the fancy label.

School work could only fill up so much time and basically being confined to my room left me with few alternatives. I read from my small book shelf at first, but reading about other people having adventures made the urge to get out of the house almost unbearable. Every now and then I watched television in the living room with my mother and sister. I listened to music on my laptop whenever my internet would connect. Max came over three times, first to help me catch up with math, then just to alleviate my boredom. But even with all that, I had hours where all I could really do was lie down and try to sleep.

Or look in the mirror.

The fur might never grow back. Those words echoed in my mind all week. The stitches would come out in time, as long as I didn't keep aggravating them. Permanent scarring should be minimal, which really just meant most of the skin would go back to being relatively smooth.That would be fine too. But the fur might never grow back. The tissue may have been too badly damaged.

On television shows, in drawings, in stories, scars are always romanticized. They come from epic battles or age old rivals or a close encounter with the forces of evil. And they make people look, for lack of a fancier word, cool. They don't come from stupidity, which in hindsight is the only thing I can attribute mine to. And the sight of them isn't supposed to make your stomach turn. My mind replayed that night over and over, thinking of all the things I might have been able to do to prevent myself from looking like Frankenstein's monster.

For example, not following a freakin' leaf into a dark alley at night.

For the first few days the stitches needed to be bandaged, but now they were well enough without. I stopped poking at them after the first day, since feeling them made me nauseous and was probably bad for them anyway. Instead I contented myself with obsessively checking on them, looking to see if they had started to look less off-putting since the last time I checked on them. And more importantly, if the fur around them had started to grow back. They shaved even more fur off for the stitches, so it was hard to tell early on. By now though that part was growing back, but the rest showed no signs of following suit.

"Just be glad it wasn't infected. It could have been so much worse." my mother told me. "It'll be fine. You'll see. At least the scars won't be all bulgy and weird, right?" said Max in an attempt to empathize. "You should be happy that whether or not your fur will grow back is one of the worst things you have to worry about." my dad stated, half consoling and half chastising. And they were all right. I know they were. By all accounts I got off lucky. But the one that really stuck with me was from my sister telling me that "It's your own fault." Because it really was. And I don't mean to sound vain, but I really was not looking forward to having theses long hairless stripes for the rest of my life. My looks were whatever at best and I had no personality to make up for it. This was like the final nail in the coffin for me. Now I would have to develop an eccentric hobby to carry me to old age when I could yell at kids to get off my lawn.

Back in my room I tried reading again when I got a text from Max. Having failed multiple attempts to get through a single paragraph, I was glad put the book down. He was asking if I was still grounded, so I replied probably. Ten seconds later my phone started ringing.

"Hey. What's up?" I answered.

"Hey, do you think you'll be able to go out tomorrow?" Max asked.

"Um...I honestly have no clue. I asked if I could go out yesterday but my mom dtold me I 'needed to heal.' Why, what's happening tomorrow?"

"It's Cynthia's birthday today, remember?" Cynthia was Max's Snow Leopard girlfriend. They had been together for two years, going on three, and I had absolutely forgotten about her birthday.

"Oh, yeah, right. Tell her I said happy birthday."

"Todd, you're the worst best man ever. You're supposed to know these things so that I don't forget and have to spend a week on the couch when we're married." They weren't actually getting married, but they were the kind of people that talked about it anyway.

"I thought I was going to be the flower girl."

"No, we're going to make her older brother do that now." Her older brother was massive, so the image it brought to mind was hilarious.

"Damn it, I already bought the dress."

"You can wear it tomorrow." he told me. "Ask your mom if you can go with us. Twenty is an important age in a young girl's life"

"Twenty?" I asked skeptically.

"It's her last year before she starts getting legally wasted." A grunt of pain let me know that Cynthia was probably there with him.

"Right. You haven't even told me where you're going." I reminded him.

"Uh...just tell her we're going to hang out at her house tomorrow night." His voice strongly implied that they were not in fact going to be at her house at all tomorrow night. He was telling me to lie to my mother. I'm not saying I was above that, but I knew it wouldn't work. If I thought I could successfully lie to my mother and not get caught, I would definitely try it more often. But my mother was a bloodhound for lies.

"Do you really think we'd get away with lying to my mother?"

"We've gotten away with it a few times before." he replied doubtfully.

"Barely." I told him. "In fact, most of those times she knew we were lying anyway. She's psychic, remember?"

"Damn it. Fine, tell her we're going to a club."

"A club?" I had never really been to a club before, but the impression I had gotten from stories I've read were that they were loud, filled with flashing lights, and crowded with dancing people. I didn't do so well in close crowds.

"Yeah, a friend of hers works there and she said she could get us in through the back. Cynthia said the place is really awesome."

"Yeah," I started, already planning to turn the offer down. "I'm not sure if that would be the best thing for me right now. Healing and all that junk, you know? Plus tomorrow is Saturday, won't it be really crowded?" I heard some noise on the other end, and suddenly Cynthia's voice replaced Max's.

"Todd, did you get me anything for my birthday?" she asked.

"Well...no"

"Even after I got you your favorite jacket for your last birthday?" I realized I hadn't told her that the jacket she was referring to was the one that had been thrown away after it had been cut up and bled on.

"Uh, I kind of forgot. What with the blood loss and all."

"Well then, don't you think that trying to participate in my birthday celebration is the least you could do?"

"...Yeah alright, I'll ask."

"Thanks Todd. Love you, bye." And with that she hung up. Great. Now I was obligated by friendship to try and get permission to a place I didn't' really want to go.

To make things worse, my mother was surprisingly quick to say yes. She felt bad for me, having been cooped up in my room for so long. "Just promise you'll be careful. Don't be on the dance floor if everyone starts getting crazy. You don't want someone accidentally running into you again."

Really, I couldn't help but think that I wouldn't mind having someone else like sunshine eyes running into me. Then I mentally kicked myself for thinking that. She was fine after I assured her I probably wouldn't even set foot on the dance floor even if they were playing lullabies.

After letting Max know I had got the affirmative I stretch out on my bed again. Clubs were the places of legend, weren't they? How many stories had I read that took place in clubs? How many times did chance encounters lead to nights of passion and romances? Catch the eye of someone, meet up on the dance floor, and before you know it you're waking up the next morning with their arms around you. Of course, in real life I know that it's not that simple, and that those nights tended to include doing it, but even without doing it there must be some truth to that almost unavoidable attraction thing, right? So maybe going to a club wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, even if I couldn't dance to save my life.

Now I just had to wait for tomorrow. I picked up the book again, hoping for more success this time. I was turning pages for a few hours but I don't think I was actually reading. Just words filling the spaces in my head. Why did time always stand still when all you had to do was wait? Hours ticking, minutes ticking, seconds ticking, don't be late, important date. But late to what...

_ _

**********

...where was I? Was it raining? I could feel my heart racing in my chest, my arms and legs driving me forward. So cold. So unforgivably cold. Why was I still running? I could just collapse right here. Fall down onto the bed of leaves on the floor. Why couldn't I? What was I so afraid of? Afraid. I was so desperately afraid. But...something was not right. The fear wasn't behind me. I wasn't running from it. I was running towards it...

_ _

**********

As soon as my eyes opened I knew what was about to happen, so I ran to the bathroom and threw up into the toilet. My body was shaking, and after probably way too much mouth wash I trembled my way back under the covers of my bed. Thankfully my room and the bath room were right next to each other so it wasn't much of a walk.

Even under the covers I was still shaking. As I shifted under the sheets, the rustling sounded so much like leaves that I had to lift them to make sure that I was imagining it. I felt my stomach drop. There were no leaves, but my fur was soaked through. It took a few moments to realize it was because of sweat, not rain. Breathe, I reminded myself. It was just a dream. Hell it was hardly a dream at all. So why was I reacting so horribly to it? Why did it feel so real? So damn real I nearly had a heart attack because I thought there were leaves in my bed. I really hate leaves.

But with a bad dream what can you do but shake it off? So that's what I did (after a solid 20 minutes of trying not to hyperventilate anyway). I fought the urge to double check my sheets for foliage before I made my way back to the bathroom.

The scars were just as disfigured as ever. Keeping my shirt lifted I took a step back from the mirror. My long hair was tangled and sticking out everywhere. My fur was disheveled and the same washed out orange color it was yesterday and the day before that and so on as far back as I can remember. My eyes, too, were still an almost unnaturally dark shade of brown bordering on black. I was always a little happy that at least my white fur was a bright, clean white, but I had recently lost my taste for white. Well, I thought to myself, at least the stitches ruined that too.

This is the part where someone comes up behind me and wraps me in their arms, my shirt falling back into place as I put my arms over theirs.

"You're beautiful." they tell me. "No matter how many scars you have. You'll always be, to me." And as we look into each other's reflections I can almost feel the skin mending and my fur growing back. My fur suddenly becomes vibrant and shinning, like my mothers, and my eyes glow a deep golden brown. And just like that I really do become beautiful. This must be the way someone sees me. No matter how bruised up and battered I get, this must be how I will always look to them. My fears and anxiety are erased and I let myself get caught up in the warmth of the moment.

This is the part where no one comes to make me feel better, so instead I tell myself to suck it up. So you're not pretty. Boo Hoo. Get over it. At least that way if someone does love me one day I'll now it's not for my appearance, right? Then again, it sure as hell isn't going to be for my personality. So maybe yeah, Boo Hoo.

Maybe I should get hairless cats to bypass some of the health issues.

My stomached growled viciously at me, and I quickly made my way to the kitchen before I started to connect it to all the energy I used up running in my dream. My sister Leah was sleeping on the couch so I didn't want to make much noise. I put two slices of bread into the toaster to make a sandwich. The morning was quiet and in the silence I stared off into space.

It was almost definitely raining in my dream. But just like every other aspect about it, something was off. It was cold, colder than I could ever actually remember being. Yet I couldn't shake off the notion of warmth too. Almost imperceptible at the time, but in hindsight it was one of the most evident parts of the dream. In the freezing air it was almost burning. So why didn't I notice it at the time? What was it?

The toaster popped, making me jump. I decided I was too lazy to make a sandwich so I just grabbed one and started nibbling at it. As I turned to face the living room I became very aware of how bright the light from outside was coming in from the window. It seemed early for it to be that bright out. I walked over and pulled back the white lacy curtains. Instantly the light seemed to fade, so maybe it was just the brightness of the curtains that made it look brighter outside. The street was covered in the pale blue-purple glow of the morning, the sun not yet cresting over the four story buildings on either side. Someone was coming out of the apartments across the street.

This is the part where I look closer and realize that the person coming out of the building is none other than sunshine eyes himself. He looks over and sees me staring from my pseudo-balcony. After a moment of surprise he smiles and waves. I wave back and then he motions for me to come outside. Light-hearted romance ensues, I guess.

This is the part where my mind is drawn away from the Bear across the street to a snow white Ermine walking on my side. The curtain falls from my hand but catches on my shoulder, still leaving me completely exposed to Arnold as his gaze is drawn to the movement in the window.

Our eyes lock.

After a moment of surprise, his face changes. For I don't know how long, he just stands there watching me with that terrible look in his eyes. I had almost completely let the Ermine slip into the recesses of my mind, just a bad memory, but apparently he wasn't done with me yet. And now he knew where I lived.

I stepped back from the curtain, finally letting it cover the street up again. My hand had instinctively clutched at my ruined right side, the forgotten piece of toast lying on the floor. I looked down at it and there was a vague inkling that crumbs shouldn't be on the carpet. As I reached down to pick it up I felt my stomach roll with nausea. My knees crumpled and left me sitting with my back against the wall.

What do I do now? Was it safe to leave the house or would I always need someone with me? Would that matter? Would he get some of his friends and attack anyone that was with me too? My friends, my family. Were they safe? My mother had told the doctors the she was not really sure how I had got cut, which was true enough, and I stuck with my gate story. But apparently doctors are actually sort of smart and could guess well enough on their own where the cuts had come from. They advised talking to the police, but when my mother asked me about it I refused. Really, I wouldn't know what to tell them. Well officer, it happened when I followed a white leaf, which was really weird because there were no white leaves around you see, into a dark alley at night. There I ran into a group of people who really liked cursing and one of them just kind of spontaneously attacked me with a knife. No officer, I'm sure he could have killed me if he wanted too, but instead he just decided to cut lines on me in front of a huge group of witnesses. Then I walked the rest of the way home. And maybe it wasn't too farfetched to not be taken seriously, but even then it just seemed like such an isolated event. His friends seemed surprised by his actions so it probably wasn't normal for him. I just wanted to move on.

But now he could find me, and he looked like he was more than ready to take another literal stab at me. But my family? I looked over at my sister, still asleep on the couch. The thought of anyone trying to hurt her made me want to take a few swings with a knife myself. No. I needed this over with as soon as possible. I looked over at the clock on the DVD player. I had been sitting on the floor for fifteen minutes. I needed to hurry, so I rushed to my room and threw on my shoes.

It was cold outside this early in the morning, but a few really early risers were already starting to dot the street. I looked the way the Ermine had gone but saw no one. I hurried down the street, glancing into alleyways for flashes of white. At the end of the block I was about to cross to the street when a car flew by right in front of me. I stopped and realized he could just have as easily gone left or right as forward. But I had seen something, a glimpse of sunlight maybe, in the reflective surface of the car. I took it as a sign to follow the car right. My right side was the ruined one so maybe it was symbolic for something, right?

When I reached the next corner I started to think about what getting this over with might actually mean. Not to mention that I had no idea which way he might have gone by now. Every step at this point could be counterproductive. As the last of my resolve withered away I turned around and started to walk home. About halfway back up the block I saw a piece of bread on the floor. Not a whole slice, just a very small piece. It was against the building, away from the street and out of the way of pedestrians. It was completely inconspicuous, and I would have ignored it completely if I hadn't seen another. And another. And three more until I was back at the corner. I looked down my street but there were no more pieces of bread that way. Then I got an idea and followed them back down the block. Near the end they lead into a really long and narrow alleyway.

This is the part where I have grown as a character and have learned from my past mistakes. Seeing that the alley was a dead end and poorly lit, I resolutely turned away and made my way back home.

Um...yeah. This is the part where I apparently learned nothing and curiosity overrides all sense of self-preservation. Last time I tried to defend my actions. This time, however, I admit there is no real excuse. I took a step in.

There was a fire escape on the right side, and a really tall dumpster on the left. If I stood in the middle and stretched my arms out I would be less than half a foot away from touching either wall. The bread bits went through the narrow space between the dumpster and the wall. I looked through and saw that they led to a door behind the dumpster that I hadn't seen before. The door had a window but most of it was obscured by paper taped from the inside, and the few spaces that were not were covered with dust instead. I eased through slowly between the wall and the dumpster, trying not to touch either surface. Neither one seemed very sanitary. But just as my arm reached the other side I was yanked forward, scraping against the corner of the dumpster. I was spun into the opposite wall and was faced with Arnold as he held me to the wall with his right forearm. In his other was the all too familiar knife held against my cheek.

"Scream and your dead," he whispered angrily. The dumpster blocked us from the view of anyone who might be passing by on the street, and thus from any hope that someone might be able to help me. Arnold was staring at me intently, and I realized he was waiting for an answer.

I only had one. He was touching me.

"Let go!" I shouted. Maybe it was the urgency in my voice, or the way I said it, but he did. He released me from the wall and backed up, blocking the only exit unless I intended to climb over the dumpster. Which wouldn't have been too difficult actually since the sides of it were ridged, providing foot holes. But that would guarantee a knife in my back, which I was actually hoping to avoid (even if my actions didn't seem to reflect that).

We just stood there for a while, staring at each other. I touched the place where his arm had been, feeling the ghost of heat. The Ermine's face had an expression I couldn't quite read, other than the obvious revulsion towards me anyway. The knife was still clutched in his hands and I didn't really feel safe breaking the silence, so I just decided to wait for him to speak first.

"Who are you?" he asked.

Well, that wasn't what I expected. For a moment I thought he might actually be completely insane. Did he really not remember me and was just waiting in the alley at the off chance someone decided to go in? Who was I...wait...wait wait oh crap who the hell was I? I couldn't remember the name I had told him last time.

"I told you last time," I responded, hoping to avoid answering the question.

He rushed towards me. In the small space all I could think of to do was hold my breath as my arms instinctively lifted in front of me. Instead of horrible pain, I felt only a slight pinprick on my chest. Arnold was standing less than a foot away from me and holding the knife to my chest, only an inch or so away from the stitches. "I said, who the fuck ARE you?"

It was something with a J! Jerry? It was too hard to think with a knife pointed at me. Jason? Jeff? I had to take a shot in the dark. "Jack," I guessed. He grabbed the front of my shirt and pushed me into the wall.

"Bullshit!" he growled. "You said your fucking name was Jason." Jason! Damn it all I had it. I knew it was two syllables.

He was too close now, the knife just breaking the skin under my shirt. His fist was a ball of fire on my chest but there was no way to get him off without provoking him. My heart was starting to pump erratically and I was sure he could feel it. "I'm going to ask-" he started to say. Then he felt the scar, the one that had stretched up to my chest. Slight recognition seemed to register on his face and before I knew it he pulled up on the hem of my shirt, exposing the stitches to the air.

It was one step too far. Before I could help it I pushed him roughly away and backed further into the alley. Once the initial shock passed he let out a little surprised laugh. "Holy shit. I didn't think I cut you that bad."

I was starting to feel claustrophobic and, oddly enough, not like explaining to him how the stitches came about. Somehow pushing him gave me a backbone. "What do you want from me?" I asked him.

His smile vanished. He opened his mouth to speak, but for some reason faltered for a moment. Did he even know what he wanted with me? Maybe he really was crazy, not that I was one to talk. "Who are you?" he asked again. His tone implied that I better have a good answer. For a moment I considered giving him a right one.

"Alex." I told him, trying to sound resigned.

"Alex?" he repeated, mouth contorting as if he didn't like the taste of it on his tongue. "You're Alex?"

"Yeah, what's wrong with it?" I replied. First the Wolf and now him. And again I shouldn't really be offended, but I felt I needed to be on behalf of all the Alex's in the world.

The Ermine just stared at me again. He hesitated again before asking "Do I know you?"

Yes, I decided, he was completely insane. He was insane and holding a knife and had me cornered in an alley. My newly acquired backbone was starting to turn brittle. For a moment I considered trying the door but it was probably locked anyway. "Last time..." I tried, "...in the alley."

"Before that!" he shouted, slightly lifting the knife. All I could bring myself to do was shake my head. He walked up to me. My hand felt for the wall, but to my surprise I stood my ground. His hand came up to grab at my shirt again, but again I pushed it away.

"I don't like being touched," I told him flatly.

But that was an understatement.

In reply he brought the knife up and pressed the serrated blade against my cheek. Thankfully he didn't use it, just held it there in warning.

"What kind of idiot follows freaking breadcrumbs into a dead end alley. Didn't you learn anything last time?"

"Not really, I guess." I was slightly relieved to know that he actually had left the bread crumbs and I had not just imagined them. "What made you think I would follow you?"

"I don't know," It sounded completely genuine. He really didn't seem to know. Then after a pause he said, "I saw you eating bread and I guess you just looked like that kind of idiot."

"Yeah, I get that a lot." Which I really had. Max alone had said things to that same effect more times than I could count.

More staring.

"I hate you," he growled at me.

Yeah, I had gathered that much. "Why?" I asked him.

The Ermine's expression changed. Still angry, but in a different way. He lowered his knife and took a step away from me. "...I don't fucking know," he said finally. He turned around and starting walking away.

"Wait!" For the record, when you've been pretty much held hostage by someone who is carrying a weapon, especially someone who has used a weapon on you before, and then they decide to leave without hurting you, don't tell them to wait. Just let them leave. They may have simply forgotten to hurt you and telling them to wait will give them time to realize their mistake. And once they've gone, call the police. Police are usually your friends.

Arnold stopped and turned to look at me again, waiting for me to speak.

"...My family," I started, for some reason not entirely sure how to word it. "...leave them alone okay?"

Arnold looked down at his knife like he had just realized it was there. For a half second I thought I might have made a mistake stopping him from leaving, but then he quickly flipped it down and put in his pocket. His gaze moved to my shoes. "Did you call the police?" he asked me, still not meeting my eyes.

I considered pointing that I might have, decided against it. "No," I answered honestly.

He looked at me for a second before looking at the air beside me. "I don't care about your stupid family."

"Okay," I said quietly. We had an agreement then. I don't call the cops; he doesn't mess with my family.

He looked at me one more time before leaving. "Better watch your back."

And then he left, and I realized I had no idea what just happened.

After waiting a few minutes to get back my bearings, I started making my way back home. I walked back up the block to my street corner. I looked around for any signs of the Ermine but he was nowhere to be seen. A pigeon I hadn't noticed cooed from the side walk. I looked to wear it was standing and there, on the floor, was a corner piece of bread pointing me home. I was tired and had no problem taking advice from pigeons.

My mother had been worried when she found out I had left, but I was not gone long so she didn't make a big deal about it. I buried myself under the covers of my bed, more than ready for this day to be over. I was tired and confused and if I was being honest with myself, still a little shaken. No, I was certain I had never seen Arnold before in my life. But he had hated me the moment he saw me. That could have meant that he thought I was someone else, except he had specifically stated that he didn't know why he hated me either.

However, he still had every intention of continuing to hate me. So was he just crazy? It was getting harder and harder to open my eyes with each blink. I could think about it later. Just then all I wanted to do was lose consciousness.

**********

"What's wrong with dressing normally?" I asked Cynthia.

She was rummaging through my closet looking for clothes that were "club-worthy" and clearly having very little success. Max was sitting on the bed next to me, smiling and probably enjoying Cynthia's love of mixing and matching clothes being used on someone else for once. In her defense though, ever since they started dating, Max really had starting looking well dressed.

"Because we're getting in through the back, for one thing, so we can't be conspicuously under dressed." Of course Max at least had usable clothes to begin with. "Is this really all you have?" cried the Snow Leopard as she dug her way to the back of my closet.

"Afraid so," I told her. I had slept in and my hair was still a little wet from the last minute shower I had taken, partly to wake myself up and partly to get rid of the lingering dumpster smell that was still in my nose when I woke up. Afterwards I just threw on a pair of jeans and a black long-sleeved T-shirt.

"I give up," Cynthia said at last. "You two wait here, I'll go see if I left anything in the trunk for you to wear. And tie your hair up."

They had come in Max's car. Alyssa, a Husky, and a Golden Retriever whose name I think was Sam were waiting in the car with Cynthia's brother Kenneth, a Badger. The reason being, according to Max, was that my room was way too puny to hold all of us in at once. Of course in actual volume it could, just not comfortably. I took a hair band out of my pocket and barely combed my hair with my hands before putting it on. "How do I look?" I asked Max. "Sexy right?"

"Oh yeah," Max laughed. "If you had come out to me before I met Cynthia, I would have made you fool around with me all the time."

"Made me?" I asked with feigned indignity. "What kind of person do you take me for? I am way too classy for that."

"Please, one look at this," Max lifted his shirt to show off his worked-out body, "and you would have been putty in my hands."

"Whatever." Maybe, if physical contact weren't an issue. "Anyway, I never 'came out' to you. Cynthia just made comments here and there and eventually we both stopped pretending that you didn't know and that I didn't know that you knew. You can pull your shirt down now."

"Too hot for you?" he joked as he covered himself up again. "I rest my case."

"Anyway, now that I got you to myself for a moment..."

"Hey, I'm a taken man Todd."

"Don't need you anymore," I told him, falling back onto the bed. "I ran into my secret admirer again."

"Who, that Wolf you met at the park?"

I absolutely forbade myself from feeling crest fallen. "No, the one that gave me my three beautiful parting gifts."

"The Ermine?" he asked, shocked.

"Yeah. His name's Arnold." I rubbed at my eyes, trying to wipe ofg the stress already accumulating just thinking about it. "I ran into him in another alley and he-"

"Hold on. Another alley?" His voice was borderline upset and I couldn't bring myself to look at him. "Todd, you have too...I mean don't you get that you can die from all these things you do?"

We can't afford all your mishaps forever you know. I remembered my dad's words from the first night this all started happening. He wasn't just talking about money I realized. Sooner or later one of these mishaps wasn't going to miss. And now even Max was starting to fear for me.

"I know," I said weakly. "I don't...mean to."

He just sighed and fell back next to me. "So what happened?"

"Nevermind, I'll tell you later. Today is supposed to be a fun day, remember?" We just laid there in silence for a while, waiting for Cynthia to come back. "Weee, fuunn." I said lamely and we both laughed a little.

Eventually Cynthia came back with a fancy dark blue shirt. I put it on in the bathroom and presented myself for her approval. "It'll have to do, I guess," she said with an exaggerated sigh. "Wish it were a little brighter though, for the theme."

I asked her what she meant. "Of the club," she explained.

"I didn't know clubs had themes."

"You should wear you special necklace," Max offered."It would go with it pretty well."

The necklace he was referring to was one that I never wore because I was too afraid to lose it. I pulled a box out from the bottom of my closet and opened it. Most of the boxes were filled with school stuff like papers and pencils and erasers. A few had photos and knick-knacks and other paraphernalia I had accumulated over the years. The one I pulled out was a fancy wooden one designed to look like an old book. Inside were a few pictures I had taken over the years, mostly of me with either Max or Leah. I piled them outside of the box and pulled out the false bottom.

"A little obsessive, isn't it," Cynthia joked.

I shrugged. "I'm paranoid about it."

The chain itself was a little thick, but seemed to be made of a few thinner, almost black metal wires weaving around each other. It didn't have a clasp; instead the chain was long enough to just be slipped over someone's head. The charm (is that what it's called?) was a red half sphere, the top of which was capped off with a gold that molded into the hoop for the lace to thread through. The entire bottom of the half sphere was jagged, covered in spikes and crevices. One spike in particular stood out. It was longer than the others and dripped down from the middle, twirling slightly. A similar hole could be found at the base of it, and in the right light you could see that it also twirled up into the sphere. As far as I could tell, it was probably made out of glass or maybe even crystal. Sometimes though, when I looked into the deep redness of it, I pretended it was made out of a ruby. Either way, it was my special treasure.

I pulled out of the box and showed it to Cynthia. "Well?" I asked. "What do you think?"

"It's great, like red rock candy," she said, taking it and admiring the complexity of the bottom while ignoring my questioning look. "You know...you could still get me a present."

"I'm throwing myself into what will probably end up being a pit of bodies meshing around together, isn't that enough?" I finished putting the pictures back in the box and slid it back into the closet.

"I guess," she sighed exaggeratedly again. "Thanks again for coming Todd. It really does mean a lot."

"Anything for you Cynthia," I told her, rolling my eyes a little. She laughed, and if I were different we might have hugged. Then I saw her finger moving and before I could stop her she touched the tip of the large spike.

"OW!"

She brought the pad of her finger to her mouth as her other hand carefully held the necklace by the chain.

Another reason I didn't like to wear it out was because it was ridiculously sharp. When I was younger I used to think that it had been dropped and shattered at some point, but as I got older I realized that the jagged surface was way too complicated for that to have been the cause. "Sorry about that," I told her.

"You okay babe?" Max asked, sitting up.

"It's not bleeding, does that count?"

"Yeah," I said, taking it away from her and placing it around my neck. "That's why it usually stays in the box. So are we good to go?"

Cynthia stepped away and looked me over with an appraising eye. "Yeah, you look great. Doesn't he Max?"

"Good enough anyway," he said as he rose. "Let's go."

Outside Cynthia and I squeezed into the back with Alyssa and Sam while Max took the wheel. Kenneth, seemingly just one giant muscle, was designated to sit in the passenger's seat. Cynthia let me have the window seat and nonchalantly placed her own jacket between our arms and Max's jackets between our legs. She smiled slightly at me like it was no big deal, and I smiled back trying to not to think about my dysfunction. Our elbows brushed every now and then, but I knew Cynthia well enough that I could force myself to just breathe through it without letting her know. Otherwise, the car ride was actually fun. People talked about what they were going to do when we got there and we joked about what would happen if we got caught or if the staff had a cheesy version of Happy Birthday we could make Cynthia sit through.

Eventually I realized that the club we were going to was not in town but the next one over. The buildings here were taller with just about every one being between two and four stories.

The car parked down the street from the line of people waiting outside. "Ladies and Gentlemen, and Alyssa, we have reached our destination. Thank you for choosing Max as your form of transportation."

I looked out the window to see a plain dark brown building. Above tall brown wooden doors were pink letters, electrically glittering subtly in the street lights. In the day time the letters would hardly have been noticeable. The entire building, in fact, would be completely unassuming. "Kandy House?" I read aloud, and suddenly the brown color of the walls and the design on the doors made sense. It was supposed to look like chocolate. "Kind of gimmicky for a club isn't it?"

"Wait till you see the inside," Cynthia told me. She then pointed down an alleyway two buildings over. "This way guys."

It took a moment for it to register with us; sneaking in meant not going in the front door. Though the line was facing away from us, we walked in groups of three to be less conspicuous. Cynthia went with her brother and Alyssa, leaving me with Max and Sam. When we came up to the alley I hesitated for a moment, making Max laugh.

"Still a little gun-shy?" he asked.

"After two near misses, third time could be the charm," I laughed nervously, looking into the alley that curved turned a corner near the end.

"No way, you guys got me to protect you."

"Now I'm a little worried too," joked Sam.

"Well my arms may not be as manly as Alyssa's, but I'm sure she and Kenneth will clear the path for us anyway."

"I'm going to tell her you said that," Sam said as we started walking.

"Well great, now were all worried."

When we turned the corner we could see the others already nearing the brown build and picked up our pace. They alley ran the length of all the building on this side of the street, and thankfully it appeared empty at the moment.

We waited at the back door for a minute while Cynthia sent her friend a message. When the door opened it was by a Lioness, accompanied by the music from within. Being no exception to her species, she stood regally and moved with a special kind of grace. "Hey Cynthia. Happy Birthday."

"Thanks Kat, can we go in?"

"One at a time. First person goes left second person goes right and so on. You can meet up after, got that?"

We all affirmed, and she pulled Cynthia in first, then Alyssa, Max, and Sam. Then it was my turn, leaving Kenneth, the most conspicuous, for last. I walked through a white corridor that I assumed was for the employees. It turned left to a mostly unlit hallway, then right to a door that was propped open by a weight. I went through and my senses were assaulted by the main room of the building.

The room was dimly lit by what at first looked like glowing blobs of color. As my eyes focused I saw that the blobs were shaped like bumpy crystals, sticking out of the walls and ceiling and acting as lamps for the seating areas in other parts of the room. They were glowing pink and purple and blue and every other bright color that could be found in a box of crayons. Suddenly Cynthia's rock candy comment made sense. There were also a few columns that glowed with neon red and white stripes spiraling around them like candy canes. The walls had drawings of lollipops and other confectioneries made up of swirling lines that had similar glitter effects like the letters outside. Despite all the bodies that were probably sweating it up on the dance floor, the entire room smelled like gingerbread. Looking closely, I also noticed that apart from a liquor bar, there was a candy bar that had enough candy to satisfy any sweet tooth.

I remembered I was supposed to be moving, but I was supposed to go left and to my left was the stage where the DJ was. The door was slightly tucked away from the rest of the room, hidden behind the speakers. I walked forward and went right slightly to go around the dance floor before turning left. Thankfully I saw Cynthia near the candy bar and walked over to her.

"Pretty awesome right?" she shouted above the music.

"Yes actually. Still kind of gimmicky though." She laughed and shrugged her shoulders. "Where's Max?" I asked.

"Buying us candy."

I looked over and was surprised to see that the candy bar actually seemed to be attracting more people than the traditional one. Around the room I actually saw a few people putting candy in there drinks. I'd only ever drunk (sipped at if you feel like being technical) alcohol three times in my life, four if you count when I drank a beer by mistake, but the combination didn't seem all that appealing to me. Alyssa and Sam found us, and then we all found Kenneth and waved him over. Max came back with a giant bag of candy and we all stood around and ate while admiring the scenery. Eventually everyone was ready to dance except me, so I offered to hold onto the candy bag.

"Just don't eat them all," called out Max as he was pulled away by Cynthia. "They're expensive."

Most of the candy was free floating, but there were various trash bins hidden throughout the room for the few that had wrappers. I pulled out a lollipop and discarded the wrapper. It was strawberry, red like my necklace. I hung back against a wall and just listened to the music while taking in how big the space actually was. The dance floor alone looked like it was almost twice the size of my entire house. The floor of it looked like a square bar of chocolate with other pieces of candy on it here and there. The rest of floor, upon further inspection, had shiny flecks that resembled the shape of candies too.

For a few hours members of our group would come back and take more candy out of the bag. Sam even encouraged me to try dancing, but I was content just marveling at the detail put into this place. From the speakers I heard the intro to I Don't Wanna Be In Love by Good Charlotte. I noticed a red speckle that shined in the corner of my eye. I turned to my left, and saw it on the floor, completely unremarkable. The only noticeable thing about it was a crumb from a brownie lying right next to it.

I had no problem ignoring it, but the place was big and I decided why not take a stroll? When I reached the crumb another red fleck caught my eye, so I kept going. I swear they were practically arranged in a line, a trail of red flecks that weaved around the room leading to someone I had seen before.

This is the part where his yellow eyes look up and meet mine. There's not even a hint of surprise as he smiles at me. His predatory gaze freezes me to the ground as he starts to make his way over. His body moves with the beat of the music, and everyone else in the room blends together so that it becomes just me, him, and a nameless mass of movement.

He reaches me but it's too loud to talk this close to the dance floor, so instead he takes my hand and pulls me onto it. At first I just stand there, awkward and unsure of what to do, but his hands start leading me and before I know it I'm dancing just as well as everybody else. Ironically, the chorus was singing the hook "I don't wanna be in love". My heart begins to race when I realize why I think it's ironic. His eyes stay locked on mine, making it impossible for me to look away as our bodies sway and I just let myself get lost in the music.

This is the part where his grey eyes look up and meet mine. There's a hint of slow recognition in his eyes as he sees me. I look away, but keep walking in his general direction. Then I felt a hand touch my shoulder and in a second I was standing face to face with the Otter from the bus. I pretended that the recoil from his touch was just because he surprised me, and luckily he seemed to believe it.

"Sorry," he said, "Didn't mean to freak you out." His voice was younger than I had expected, but up close I realized that he was probably my age. He was dressed in black jeans and a black button up shirt with the top buttons open to reveal a white undershirt.

"No, yeah, it's fine," I tell him. "I was just kind of spacing out."

He nodded in understand. "I'm Roy, nice to meet you." He held out his hand for me to shake.

I tiny pinprick of panic set in. I could do this. This was a basic form of greeting that people encountered all their lives, and I had done it a hundred times with Max to practice. I reached out and let our hands grasp each other. The practice had sort of paid off. The pain was manageable, but it still clouded my head. "I'm Alex," I said without thinking. I hoped I didn't let go too quickly.

"Nice to meet you. Pretty cool place, huh?" I agreed with him. "So what brings you here? You a party guy or are you just here for the candy?"

Talking to strangers was usually hard for me, but something about the Otter was making him really easy to talk to. I pulled another empty lollipop stick out of my mouth and grabbed a small hunk of peanut brittle. "The candy, definitely. You want some?" I offered him the bag. He said "sure" and took out a blue gummy-shark. "So what about you?" I asked him as he popped the candy into his mouth. "Are you just here for the Candy?"

He smiled sheepishly at me. "Yeah, actually. I mean the room and everything is cool but, I don't know man, something about this candy is just too good." I laughed and his smile grew bigger. My heart rate picked up a little. Was this...

"Yeah," I replied. "But we're probably going to have to brush our teeth for like an hour when we get home." This time I made him laugh. "I'm actually here because it's my friend's birthday," I told him, glad we could have a conversation despite the volume of the music.

"Yeah? Where are they?"

"In there somewhere," I indicated the dance floor.

"What's wrong, don't like dancing?"

"Or crowds," I explained. "I designated myself as the candy bag holder."

"Oh, that sucks."

"It has its benefits," I said as I took another piece of peanut brittle in my mouth.

"Heh, I guess," I offered him another piece of candy and then we both just fell into a comfortable silence. I noticed him starring at a group of girls and sighed internally. Oh, no, this wasn't...

Still, I thought, at least I was making a new friend. And with the Otter, for whatever reason, that felt like the right way to go. I looked into the crowd to see if I could find anyone from my group, but somehow even Kenneth had vanished in the throng of people. "Hey," he started again but then paused for a moment. I waited patiently for him to speak up again. Eventually he asked, "Do I know you?"

My mind flashed white for a moment in alarm, before I remembered that yes, he had seen me before, and yes in a way that would leave him unsure whether or not he actually had.

"The bus," I clarified for him. "I see you sometimes on the late bus after leaving the park."

"Yeah, yeah that's right," he said, seeming oddly relieved. "I think we've waited at the bus stop together a few times, right?"

"Yup," I affirmed. I left out that the reason I remembered was because he was kind of easy to look at.

"Cool," he smiled. "Well now maybe we can talk to each other while we wait."

"Yeah, that'd be cool," I replied. Maybe the third time down an alleyway really was the charm. Or that at any moment Arnold was going to pop out of an obscure crevice in the wall and knife me. At least I made a new friend.

"Yeah it was crazy. When I saw you coming I just had this crazy feeling like I had seen you before. I was just gonna ignore it, but, when you got close I thought my head was gonna explode trying to remember." From the speakers I heard a new song start and instantly recognized it as Somebody Told Me by the Killers.

"Wow," I said, "That would have been a...mood killer?"

A black Cat woman had suddenly appeared in front of us. She was taller than either of us with long blonde hair that showed white at the roots, and was dressed in an elaborate outfit that, surprisingly, looked like it was made out of candy. Without so much as saying hello she grabbed at my necklace and leaned in close to look at it.

"My," she said with the hint of an accent, "such a beautiful necklace."

"T-Thanks. Careful it's sh-"

"Oh!" She cried out and withdrew her hand. The necklace fell back against me with a surprisingly hard thud, and I felt a sudden sensation to step back away from her.

"...Sharp, sorry about that."

She rubbed the bead of blood that had formed on her skin between her thumb and finger. "Yes, well, true beauty always has an element of danger to it. Still, it is so very exquisite...I don't suppose you'd be willing to part with it?"

The question caught me a little off guard. I tried laughing a little to defuse the awkward tension I felt. "Sorry, it was a gift," I lied.

"Are you certain? I have collected many beautiful things throughout my lifetime, but this," she said, indicating my necklace. "Such simplicity, yet such complexity. And the way it sparkles, I simply must have it. How much would you like for it? Believe me when I say money is no object." Was she being serious?

"Sorry, I can't. My best friend gave it to me. He'd be really upset with me if I sold it."

Her faced showed that she was getting annoyed. "Now there's no need to be difficult. I can pay whatever you'd like. Now how much do you want for it?" Before I could deny her again Roy spoke up for me.

"Ma'am, he already said no." She looked at him like she had just noticed he was there, and now I was starting to get annoyed.

"Do you two not know who I am?" When we didn't answer she went on. "I am Reina Bayaga, owner of this establishment of raw desire and immaculate taste." Well, I guess that explained the outfit, and the eccentricity. "And believe me when I tell you that this is but one piece of my empire. Now I ask you again young man, now that you know how much I have to offer, how much would it take for you to part with your piece of jewelry. Or if you prefer, I could call security and have you removed for sneaking in through the back entrance."

Crudge. So I really had lingered too long in the doorway. I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider just selling it for a moment. But the necklace felt warm around me and suddenly the thought of giving away my childhood treasure was completely unbearable.

I had to try to be nice now, otherwise she could probably have us both kicked out. "I'm really sorry," I began, "but I can't. My friend gave it to me before he moved away. I could never sell it."

She didn't look impressed.

"Well then," she said as she lifted her hand above her head and made a swirling motion. From either end of the room we saw two security guards, one a Hyena and the other a Panther like Max, practically materialize out of the air and start making their way toward us. Instantly Roy grabbed my arm and literally pushed the Cat woman out of the way as he pulled me toward the dance floor. The touch of his hand and the impending crowd were too much and I wrenched my arm away from him at the last minute.

He looked back and seemed to get half of it. "You really don't like crowds, huh?"

Run.

The guards were getting closer. I took a deep breathe. Getting kicked out would be a crappy birthday surprise for Cynthia. And something about that woman sent off alarm bells in my head. "Let's go," I told him. We plunged into the swarming mass of people.

Though it would have been cool if the lyrics fit with the situation, I was familiar with the song and that was enough. I could sway on beat with the rest of the crowd. Looking behind us I saw the security guards hurrying after us onto the dance floor. I followed Roy as we weaved and twisted our way through and around people, sometimes losing sight of each other. Yet somehow I would still know exactly where he was, just as without ever saying it we both knew where we were going.

The doors to the bathrooms were hidden behind the speakers, just like the back door on the other side of the stage. For one chance second I see Max dancing with Cynthia, and in a random stroke of luck we made eye-contact before he was swallowed up by the crowd again. I didn't bother taking a look behind us to see if we had lost the guards or, if not, how close they were.

Run.

No problem. I couldn't see Roy, but I knew he was there as, finally, I escaped the crowed and pushed the door to the bathroom open. His footsteps were right behind me as we pushed forward and, mercifully, past the only other person in the men's room as he was making his way out. Still without needing to talk we headed for the giant stall at the very end of the restroom. But just as we reached it we heard the door open again and I felt my heart jump into my throat.

"Max!" I cried with relief when I saw my friend instead of the security guards.

"Get on top of the toilet," he told us quickly as he followed us into the stall. We both immediately did as he said and hopped up on either side of it in a crouch. Just as Max slid the lock in place we heard the door rush open, and we all knew it had to be at least one of the security guards. Roy and I grabbed onto each other's shoulders for support as, to my horror, Max undid his pants and slid them down to his ankles.

At least he left his boxers in place. We adjusted ourselves as quietly as possible as he proceeded to sit on the toilet, using our shoes as cushions. He raised his arms up so that we could use him as an anchor to help steady ourselves, thankfully causing Roy to let go of one of my shoulders. All of this seemed to go by so slowly but in reality was probably only about three seconds. After that I think I just stopped breathing as we listened to footsteps and a few stalls being opened. The footsteps indicated that only one of the guards had come in, which was good because that probably meant they weren't even sure if we were in here or not. I noticed Max making a show of swishing his tail around the bottom of the stall to let the guard now that he wasn't a Fox or an Otter. Still, I had to give the guy some credit for not letting that completely deter him. We heard him shift and I guessed that he had bent over to try and peek under that stall.

"What the hell?!" Max cried out with the indignation of someone who was actually using the toilet getting peeked at. We heard him straighten up again, apparently satisfied there were no extra pair of legs standing on the floor.

"Anyone in there with you?" the security guard asked in a deep voice.

"What, seriously?" Max asked, his voice unbelievably steady despite our three person balancing act.

"Seen anyone else come in here?"

"No, do you mind?"

"Have a nice day," he told us. Well, one of us. And with that the footsteps retreated and the door opened and closed. After waiting a beat longer just in case, we awkwardly loosened ourselves from our positions and Max pulled his pants back up.

"Thanks." I quickly made my way out of the stall and went to a sink.

"Yeah man, we owe you one," Roy said.

"No problem. You okay Todd?" He called over to me. I had splashed my face with water and was now washing my hands all the way up to my elbows to bring down the heat I felt. I had suddenly become aware of the dull burns from the people I had come in contact with while we were running. By now I hardly felt them and it more just the memory than anything. Except for my shoulder's, which still felt freshly singed.

"Yeah just...the crowd."

"Wow, you weren't kidding about not liking crowds," Roy said,with just the slightest bit of laugh to lighten the mood. He really did seem like he was trying not to make me feel like a weirdo. Plus he had tried to help me, just like the Wolf had. And hopefully I could be nicer to him about it than I was to sunshine eyes. On a separate note, I really needed to stop thinking about him.

"It's not as bad as it seems," I told him. Was it though? Right now I really wasn't so sure.

Max sure seemed surprised anyway. "I never thought I'd see you on a dance floor."

"Me neither," I told him. "But, it's like I hardly noticed it."

"Really? Hey, awesome. Who knows, maybe there's hope for you after all," he laughed. Without meaning to I looked down at my arms, then back at Max. "You never know," he shrugged, and this time his voice was more serious. But we were in mixed company and I didn't want to start getting too emotional.

"Great," I said, "all I need is a few more people to come after me and I'm set."

"Well hey, if you ever need an escape buddy let me know," said Roy. And how I hated Max for what he said next.

"Geez Todd, adding a third guy to your list of admirers."

Hated him with a red, burning sensation like the one on my cheeks.

"Third?" laughed Roy. "Wow."

Wait, he laughed. What did that mean?

"Yup, you got your work cut out for you man. Anyway, I need to get back to Cynthia. You two have fun."

Work cut out for you? Have fun?

If I had a gun, I honestly think I might have shot him. In the leg probably, but still. It was a wonder I was still alive, because I could have sworn all my blood had flew to my face. I didn't dare look Roy in the eye.

This is the part where the Otter says "So, I'm in third place huh?" Then he smiles at me and winks before saying "Well, just to let you know, I'm a pretty fast runner." My heart beats as his words register in my brain. Suddenly he is standing right in front of me, barely an inch of space between. "So what do you think?" he asks in my ear. "Do I have a shot at winning?" He reaches into the forgotten candy bag and pulls out another piece of peanut brittle. He holds it between his teeth and then leans forward, offering for me to take a bite...

This is the part where I realize I must have let go of the candy bag while we were escaping. And also that my brain has no shame. "So," began the Otter, "he seems nice."

Despite myself I let out a quick laugh. All I could manage in a reply was a "Hmmmmm."

"Hey, Alex, Todd. I, really don't mind." When I still couldn't say anything he kept going. "I...have an uncle who's gay. It really isn't a big deal to me."

"Thanks," I say finally. "Just...you know."

"Yeah." We were quiet for a moment and I was worried that he really did mind a little. "So, I mean, I don't mean this to sound rude or anything you know. I'm not, you know, but...were you, maybe, interested in me?"

I couldn't help myself, I laughed. "Really? You're asking me that?"

"Hey," he smiled, seemingly glad to have defused the tension, "I just want to know, you know, whether or not I'm interesting."

"I am not answering that," I said, still laughing.

"Come on!" he pretended to groan.

"Nope. Absolutely not."

"Fine." He mock sighed. After our laughter died down a bit he spoke again. "So we're good?" he asked.

"Yeah." I told him. "We're...don't worry about it." Outside we could hear the pounding of the base of whatever song was playing at this point. "You made up the Uncle thing, didn't you?"

He laughed in guilty surprise. "Yeah," he nodded. "Speaking of lies, why did you tell me your name was Alex?" Damn that name. It was becoming my permanent alter ego.

"Uhh..." I didn't really want to tell him more about how crazy I was, but he seemed fine with it so far so I thought what the hell. "I just sort of do that sometimes." I said honestly. "I don't really like saying my name."

"Todd? I like it. Better than Roy anyway."

"What? I like Roy."

"And I like Todd." Then we both heard what we said and smiled. "The name, I mean."

"No yeah, that's what I meant too."

He scratched the back of his neck and I drummed my fingers exaggeratedly on the sink as we both pretended to feel a huge awkwardness that, amazingly, really wasn't there.

"So you want to head out?" asked Roy as he motioned to the door.

"I'll leave in while. We should probably leave one at a time anyway, attract less attention," I explained.

"Yeah, that's true. And keep that necklace out of sight; don't want that crazy lady to find you again."

"Right," I replied. Instinctively I lifted it up and looked at it. When I looked back up at Roy he was staring at it too, and it took him a while to notice I was looking at him. When he did he kind of laughed like he was embarrassed.

"It really is pretty cool," he said. I smiled and agreed with him. "See you around, Alex," he laughed.

"Yeah, bye." After the door closed I looked down at my necklace again.

There was no blood from the Cat woman, so she must have bled after it pricked her. It was wickedly sharp, but somehow I always seemed to manage to avoid getting the worst of its sharp edges.

My stitches.

I opened up the buttons of the shirt, fearing that all the moving around might have damaged them. I looked them over in the mirror, but thankfully they were fine. As fine as sutures can be anyway. I closed the shirt back up, but this time I took off my necklace and hid it away in my pocket. "This is why I don't let you out," I told it.

I left the restroom and found my way back to Kenneth and Alyssa, who seemed either intoxicated or just friendly with each other, or both. Eventually the rest of the group left the dance floor and, ready for our night to be over, we made our way out the front door to the car, leaving the Kandy House behind.

"Had fun?" Cynthia asked me in the car.

"I'll say," Max replied for me. "He made a new friend." Everyone in the car oohed and I remembered I hated Max.

"Alyssa, did Sam tell you that Max called your arms manly?"

For the rest of the ride I looked at the window as the other's enjoyed Max's groans of pain. I thought about what he had said in the restroom, about maybe there being hope for me.

I was just so focused when Roy and I were moving together that without noticing, I suppressed all the pain I should have felt every time I rubbed up against someone. Even when we were hiding in the bathroom, Roy grabbing onto my shoulder didn't bother me as much as I knew that it should have. It wasn't until after the danger had passed that I remembered to feel pain. So was it curable after all? Just mind over matter?

I thought about the possibility of getting better, of being able to hug my family, shake hands with new people, sit next to my friends in a car without having to jam clothes between us, and maybe, one day if I could get better and not be such a weirdo, hold someone's hand for a while. And just the thought of it, that I could be cured, filled me with absolute terror. Terror of false hope, of reaching out for a cure only to have it torn away from me just as my fingers brushed it.

Anyway, I had no actual way to go about testing it. The closest I had ever gotten was hand shaking, and even that could become too much if I held it for longer than a very few seconds. So instead I contented myself with thinking about my new friend Roy.

Max I had known from childhood, and since then he had kind of acted as a buffer, easing people into getting to know me and all my extra baggage. But Roy was new, and even without Max he didn't seem to mind all my weirdness. So at least, if nothing else, I could still make new friends. And for now that could be enough for me.

I leaned my head against the window and let myself fall into a light doze as my tongue danced around in my mouth to enjoy the leftover taste of candy.

***~

Did you like it? I don't know what kind of music those places actually use so I just used two that I thought were "dancy" cause I had no intention of letting an opportunity like that get by. XD Also, it all somehow feels both too drawn out and rushed at the same time, so I am not sure. What do you guys think? And are the characters likeable and stuff? Kay, thanks for reading, Love you as much as I can without being weird about it (Maybe a little weird about it). Until next chapter. Away! ~=~=~ >----/O: