First off: I apologise for not updating/starting anything for ages; one reason is writer's block and the other is a 'parody competition' which I have been working on...
For some reason I kept on looking back at chapter two of Shuffle and thinking 'I could probably make something out of that' and as my writer's block got worse the idea has developed to a stage where I had to either write it down or continue waiting for ideas for other FanFictions whilst watching Mock the Week and nurturing my farm on Farmville...yes, I'm that sad.
So apologies to JinxStar – who I originally said could write the spin-off to 'Young Forever' in Shuffle – and let's get on with it (disclaimers not necessary).
They were more like echoes really, roaring above her head, too loud, making her flinch. The noises rippled above her head merging together. One was solemn, tired, slightly pleading, official. She wasn't scared of that voice; that voice was kind and the arms were warm and gentle.
And suddenly they were gone and she was being held by something as stiff and cold as a wooden board. She stared up at a face above her, everything blurred apart from brilliant blue eyes that glared down at her like a snake's.
And a voice, deep and emotionless like the freezing ocean intoned, "I'm sorry, you've got it wrong. I'm not the father."
As scary as she found the second voice she felt an inexplicable connection with it and realised that if she let this stranger go everything would fall to pieces and it would be too late. Struggling weakly as she was handed back to arms that now felt too comforting to be true – ready to whisk her away – she opened her mouth to scream, but all that came out was a whimper as she was carried away from the man who may just be her only family –
Aria's eyes snapped open just as her steel alarm clock shrieked in her ear, coaxing a migraine out of hiding. She slammed her hand down on it and the tinny chiming stopped short. Sighing, she turned back over and –
"ARIA, GET UP!" A banging on the door – no, multiple bangs on the door – made her groan.
"Go away!" A motherly-looking woman bustled into the room, screams and shouts and thuds from the other occupants of the orphanage on the morning routines cut off when the door shut behind her. "Oi, don't come in!"
"Now, now, dear," Sue Collins clicked her tongue and whisked the covers off the teenager cured up in a foetal position under the covers in old black t-shirt and panties. "You've got to go to school."
"School sucks, now piss off and leave me alone." Sue sighed. Aria was by far the most difficult in all her time of caring for children, and she worried for her: if she didn't learn to look after herself, then who knows what could happen to her? Sue wasn't a parent but she reverently hoped that someone out there would see something good in Aria and take her in – although so far hope was slim.
"Aria," She said reproachfully. "Don't use that kind of language. And don't you want to see your friends?"
Aria snorted. If only she knew: the group of girls she'd thought had been her 'friends' had been bitching behind her back and she hadn't talked to them after the mayhem of what was now known as 'The Spaghetti Massacre'. Who cares if her lunch just 'happened' to go over Kerry Matthews's head as she'd just 'tripped' as she walked by their table? Not her. Not even in the half-hour detention afterwards.
Sue shook her head and walked out. "Well, Aria: school or no outings on Saturday, it's your choice."
"Oh, what a decision." Aria muttered as the door banged shut again. No-one ever wanted to go shopping or watch a film down at the cinema with her: she was just the freaky one with no friends and no family to boot. But she dragged herself out of bed and went through the normal routine of monopolising the bathroom and arguing with Liz over who had used up her best kohl eyeliner and pouring milk over Susan's head because of her spiteful comments aimed at her dress sense: black leather skirt, fluorescent thigh-highs, combat boots, black waistcoat and grey shirt with a male and female penguin on it with the faded slogan 'Melt hearts, not icebergs'.
"You're certainly not melting anyone's hearts today, Aria." Sue shook her head sadly as lead a sobbing Susan out of the 'dining room' to be mopped up.
"Are you in trouble again, 'Ria?" Xing-Yu looked up from her toast, butter staining her mouth as yellow as the t-shirt she was wearing. She was only five and couldn't pronounce Aria's name very well, but she adored her and toddled after her like a worshipper after her deity.
Aria smiled and sat in front of her, peeling a satsuma and double checking her eyeliner and thick mascara. "You've got it in one, kiddo."
"You won't get banned from Saturday outings, will you?" Xing-Yu asked blinking anxiously. "'Cos you promised you'd take me to see a movie."
Aria bit into a tiny segment, careful not to smudge her black lipstick, and ruffled Xing-Yu's tightly braided hair. "Don't worry kid, I won't let that happen. We're gonna have a good time on Saturday, don't think I've forgotten." She had. "So, how did you get those yellow beads in your hair?"
"Well, Daisy said..."
She let Xing-Yu's happy chatter flow over her head like a burbling river, like the voices in her dream last night. She frowned slightly as she finished one part of her satsuma and started on a second. It had seemed so real, almost as if it had not been a dream but a memory...
"'Ria!" A little daisy-patterned trainer kicked her hard in the shins and Aria was brought sharply back to the present and a pouting Xing-Yu. "You didn't listen!"
"Yes I did, Buttercup wanted to make you into her namesake didn't she?"
Xing-Yu nodded, abashed. "I'm sorry 'Ria, I didn't mean to get cross."
"That's ok kid."
"You won't pour milk over me like what you did to Sarah will you?"
Aria laughed. "Of course not!" She saw the time and yelped. "Kid, I've gotta run – catch you later!"
"Bye-bye 'Ria!" Aria was out the door and had snatched her school bag – covered in customary badges much under-appreciated by her school – barely before the words were out of the little girl's mouth, and she didn't even see her wave goodbye through the window. She sprinted down the path and jumped on the waiting school bus just before the doors swung closed.
"Way to leave it 'till late, House." The driver remarked sarcastically as he pulled away. Aria gave him a hard look before making her way up the bus to find her seat. Whispers and sniggers followed her, and when she reached her seat she found it taken by none other than Kerry Matthews. The girl in question – who had, in the last few days, dyed her usually brunette hair a brilliant crimson and was wearing the sluttiest outfit ever invented – looked up from her conversation with her best friend Jezebel and favoured her with a scornful smirk.
"Move." Aria told her.
"Sorry, seat's taken." Kerry said sweetly.
"This isn't your bus."
"Oh, it isn't?"
"You've taken my seat."
"I have?" Kerry eyes widened in mock horror, a hand pressed comically to her blood red lips. "Oh no, what shall we do? Never mind, you can always walk: it'll help burn some of those rolls you've put on."
Aria didn't so much as blink as Jezebel dissolved into pig-like snorts of laughter quite unattractive for a blond floozy of her age. She was well used to bitchy comments such as this and she wasn't hardcore for show: she had a hard core inside as well, and she wasn't going to let Kerry get to her, not now.
"Move, bitch, or I'll make you."
"How?" Kerry's mouth curved in a mocking smile. "Are you going to make me drop dead just like your mother?"
She didn't realise she'd slapped Kerry until the crack rang out and the bus went very quiet. Kerry raised a hand dramatically to her face.
"Do that again," She whispered. "I dare you." Aria did, with a vague satisfaction this time at seeing Kerry's head roll back over the chair. She wanted to knock it right off, but then Kerry was out of her chair and onto her, her hands buried in her hair. The bus braked and they rolled down the aisle, cheers and boos coming from either side as they fought. Aria knelt on Kerry's ribcage and scrabbled at her eyes, but then she was hoisted off her and pushed through the open doors of the bus, landing with a bump on the kerb.
"I will not tolerate that kind of behaviour on this bus!" The driver screamed down at her. "You can walk it!"
Ignoring the jeering faces pressed against the glass as the bus roared off, Aria stood up and started to make her way down to the school. She couldn't stick Kerry Matthews: just because her dad was a prime detective in the police department she thought it gave her the right to swank around like she owned the place and bitch about who she liked. Aria's sentiments were in the minority though; Kerry was nominated for everything from president of the school council to the lead of the new drama production. Aria liked to think that it was mainly due to shady deals and a hell of a lot of fixing on other opponents: just like her dad Eric, but, if possible, even better.
Arriving at school late, as per usual, Aria was screamed at by the teacher at the late desk, then frogmarched to the headmaster's office and screamed at some more for the 'incident' on the bus. "I don't know what to do with you, Aria." He finished helplessly, sinking down behind his desk. He waited for her to say something but Aria said nothing, her coal black eyes practically smouldering a hole through his shirt. Shaking his head sadly, he stood again and opened the door. "Stay out of trouble." He called after her feebly, before sighing and going back into his office.
The rest of the day went uneventfully – and monotonously – by. Aria sat on her own in lessons, at lunch, not even bothering to socialise. No-one here particularly cared; they'd given up on her a long time ago, both teachers and students, and she's done the same. She hummed along to the songs on her iPod, tapping out the rhythm, lost in music.
That was what kept her together: music. It was something that soothed and comforted, that could understand her and care – something that nothing else could do, no living thing at least. When she was on her own, she filled her lungs and sang to the melody, letting go of everything else. She could never do that in front of anyone – they'd just laugh, she was sure of that. But sometimes she'd watch the stupid reality TV shows like The X Factor along with all the other children on a Saturday evening and just think, 'I could do better than that, I know I could.'
She had a detention after school for not doing some bit of homework or other and she watched everyone else board the buses in torrents, then streams, then just a small trickle out of the school doors, rain dripping in time to the drumbeat filling her ears with wonderful, glorious noise, shutting out the real world. When the teacher tapped her on the shoulder to tell her she could go, Aria nearly jumped out of her skin. Walking home was slow and tedious, with no umbrella to shield her. But then again, it had never been a home – she'd been dumped there in the end, with nowhere to go, and certainly no-one to care about her. Kerry's gloating eyes floated in front of her and she shivered: they suddenly seemed like the same cold blue eyes from her dream, but that was impossible – they weren't as calculating and (now she thought about it) cruel. Pushing the thoughts to the back of her mind, she fitted her key in the lock – all the older ones got a key so they could get in and out, the smaller ones were chaperoned by Sue and the other helpers – and stepped inside. She hadn't even dumped her soaked bag down on the floor before Liz wobbled into the hall on her too-high high heels.
"Sue wants to see you," She smirked unpleasantly, teetering in the doorway. "Dear oh dear, Aria House, what have you done now?"
"Never you mind." Aria spat. She hated it when people used her last name, and right now she was livid enough without Liz taking the piss. The head must have called to tell her about Kerry, she thought bitterly, knocking on Sue's office door. Great.
"Aria? Come in dear!" Sue called cheerfully. "I thought I heard you come in.
Aria thought it was odd that Sue sounded so cheerful if she'd had a phone call telling her that Aria had started yet another fight – oh no, this wasn't the first! – but she knew from experience that appearances were deceiving. She went in, steeling herself for a tirade – and stopped dead.
Sue wasn't alone. There was a young-ish man with dark brown hair and a suit sitting in a chair on the other side of Sue's desk, looking at her with interest.
A man with icy blue eyes.
Sorry for lack of Saw-ness in the chapter – hoping you can guess who the man is! 'Aria' is a name, but here it's an acronym for my name and the three other people who have helped me most through my year-and-a-bit of FanFiction writing: Ricky, Izzy and Allana. Love all of you guys – this proves it! Next chapter coming soon!