Disclaimer: I do not own the things I do not own.
Chapter 14: A Most Dreadful Experience
Stephany lay on the cushioned mattress of her recently made bed. The bed sheets were the same ones from her pleasant and comforting room in Washington, and reminded her of her previous life. Stephany closed her eyes and blankly ran the activities of roughly an hour ago through her mind.
Stephany stormed into her packed up bedroom, slamming the peeled-paint door behind her. She heard raised voices through the thin walls of the apartment as she pulled herself onto her made bed. She quickly let out a breath and pushed her legs against her chest, wrapping one arm around her folded knees and grabbing a worn pillow with the other, stuffing her hot face into it. A heartening and reassuring scent enveloped the black haired girl as she stilled her mind and slowed her racing pulse.
Footsteps pounded, the sound increased in volume, and the door flew open. Lynn charged in, her rage evident through the expression on her face, which could hardly be seen through the blond hair that was obscuring her eyes.
"I cannot believe that woman! To talk to you and me in such a way! Urgh! Why does she do this all the time? It's like she doesn't-" Lynn raged on, expressing her obvious distaste in Mrs. Andrew's parenting styles. However, she was brought to an abrupt halt when she registered the tears cascading over Stephany's cheeks and rolling down her slightly pointed chin, dyeing navy drops on her light blue t-shirt as they fell. "Steph, honey." Lynn's voice was gentle, for she was unwilling to provoke more tears from her sister.
"No. Don't say what you don't mean," said Stephany as she kept her eyes trained steadily on the plain white pillow that she had cradled in her lap. She raised her trembling hand to wipe her eyes and nose. "I know you love Mom."
Lynn narrowed her eyes as she comprehended her younger sister's words. "You aren't mad at Mom, are you?", implored Lynn.
Stephany shook her head; Lynn was right. She knew Stephany that well.
"Then what is it, sweetie?" Lynn asked as she advanced toward Steph's bed.
The black-haired girl sniffed. "Don't call me 'sweetie'." A little bit of Steph's customary strict tone sounded through her pain. "And….and….I-I just….MISS them. I miss HIM." And with her announcement, the façade she had used to mask her pain crumbled. She wept as Lynn sat down and took her into her arms.
"I know, I know baby girl. I know. So do I. I miss them too." Lynn comforted her younger sibling.
Thomas released from his throat a horrible screeching call, tears draining from his eyes and coating his cheeks with a clear coat of sorrow. As the young boy was tormented by a nightmare, only his insomniac sister knew of his troubles and acted upon them when she heard him call out.
Stephany shoved her thick and slightly worn-out covers off of her long, plaid pajama bottom clad legs and swiftly tore her gaze from the brightly flashing lights that were shining through the uncovered window. She did not stumble once as she planted her feet on the thinly carpeted floor. Using one hand to wretch open the door from her shared room into the hallway, she absentmindedly pushed her thick black hair from her eyes and, with long strides, paraded down the hall to his room, which shared a left wall with her own.
Steph knocked lightly, mumbling through the slightly ajar door, "It's me. I'm coming in."
Immediately, Thomas began to weep. His loud sobs woke the rest of the family in a startling moment. Lynn burst through the door, her too long pajama bottoms causing her to slip slightly on the wood floor. She caught her balance on the door frame.
"Tom, Tom! Are you okay?" Lynn asked, almost pleading, as she hurried to join Stephany, who was hugging Thomas tightly.
Their brother was clearly shaken-up; his startlingly blue eyes produced tears at an uncommon speed, his nose was running, and the normally tan face of the young boy was bright red. Steph glanced beseechingly to Lynn who came over and took her 10 year old brother in her arms. She spoke in a soft voice as Stephany continued to caress his dark hair off his forehead. A shadow overlapped her empathy for Tom as her mother strode to the door entry.
"Yes, Mother?" Stephany spoke, her voice tight and calm, deadly. She narrowed her eyes in distrust as Mrs. Andrews' jaw snapped open in a way that could be only described in this phrase: Young-Lady-This-Is-your-mother-you-are-speaking-to -so-you-better-as-hell-watch-your-language-and-ton e-because-I-surely-do-not-appreciate-it.
"What are you girls doing out of bed?" Mrs. Andrews' dark black hair was pulled back in a sleep ruined ponytail, but she had taken the time to wrap a fleece blanket around her shoulders before responding to her son's agonized screams.
"Mom," Lynn broke in, not wanting this late night discussion turn into an, as they claimed, "heated debate" over her younger sister's attitude and life choices. "We just came to check on Tommy…" She trailed off as their mother interrupted.
"Oh did you? Well, you do know I was coming, right? I am his MOTHER. Did you think I would neglect him?" She was on a rage now, her hands gestured unnaturally, showing the full extent of her anger.
"No, no, no," backtracked Lynn. She glanced uneasily at her siblings, almost asking for help. "Our bedroom is closer, so we thought-"
Mrs. Andrews was not paying attention as she lounged against the door with her arms crossed, and interrupted once again, "You three have school in the morning. Go. To. Bed. Now."
Lynn glared half-heartedly, and let go of Tommy -the little boy was already drifting back to sleep- and shot a warning to Stephany with her eyes, "Don't argue! Just listen!" When Steph refused to rise and exit the room, Lynn lunged over and grasped her younger sisters forearm as she continued to retaliate, albeit, silently.
They crossed past their mother and the middle child could not resist bumping forcefully against her shoulder. As obviously as penguins fly (A/N VOTUM. Dis ezz fow yew!), Mrs. Andrews was not pleased.
Mr. Andrews sat on the edge of Stephany's messy and blanket strewn bed, his eyes were still clouded with sleep as he rubbed them feebly, the plain gold wedding band on his fourth finger glinted off the light shining in from Thomas's room. His blue and grey plaid pajama bottom clad legs were stretched out and crossed at his ankles.
He got up and treaded slowly to the door. When he reached it, he lowered his head and placed a kiss on Lynn's forehead, whispering in her ear before moving closer to Stephany. Lynn lay down in her bed, feigning sleep.
Mr. Andrews approached Stephany, who glared at him from underneath her wild bed-head. He pulled her into a half hug, gently grabbing her forearms to pull her close. He kissed the top of her head, then whispered "I love you," carefully near her ear.
Stephany glanced up, making -but not maintaining- eye contact, and muttered in a nearly silent voice, "Me too."
Once her father departed, she crawled under her blankets and stared out her window at the strangeness of New York City, wishing for the stillness of underground.
Gregor awoke in a rough and disoriented manner. His younger sisters, Lizzie and Boots, were climbing on top of him and were bouncing up and down while giggling and screeching, their hair flapping and their smiles illuminating the dim, minuscule room.
"Gregor! Gregor! Wake up! Hehehehe!" Boots's voice came out garbled from her repeated bobbling on his chest and stomach. He managed to smile at them, even though he was in a slight physical discomfort. Boots, for sure, was not the small little thing that he used to clutch to his chest and carry around. In addition, it had been a while since Lizzie had sprouted past four feet.
"Come here, you!" Gregor sat up, and tackled Boots in a hug, she giggled unceasingly as her older brother managed to blow raspberries on her stomach and frizz her brown curls. Lizzie followed in suit, collapsing on her back next to Gregor and Boots.
After a few moments of increased tickling, laughter, and childish foolishness, Gregor, being the oldest sibling, wrangled up his sister and ushered them out of his room. "Come on now, I have to get dressed!" he replied to their protests at being thrown out in a superfluous amount of mirth. He slipped into a pair of dark jeans with lighter worn patches over the knees, a white t-shirt that advertised his school, and a pair of good, durable sneaker that were past their peak.
He hurried through his morning routine in the bathroom, and rushed into the kitchen for a speedy breakfast. His sisters were already finished and standing by the door, waiting for Gregor to eat then escort them to school. He grabbed a bagel, and drank some mouthfuls of juice.
"Gregor," His dad called, walking into the kitchen just as his son yanked open the door to the outside hall where Lizzie and Boots were waiting. He set an empty glass on the table before throwing Gregor a light jacket. "You'll need it, Son. That October wind's picking up." He poured himself a glass of orange juice, and glanced up, a small smile lighing up his slightly aged face. "Have fun."
Gregor was slipping the jacket on, but smiled and said, "Dad, its school. When's it ever fun?"
His dad laughed heartedly, but it soon turned to a cough, and he waved goodbye as his children left.
Gregor's smile faded as he shut the door. His dad had a relapse four days ago, and still hadn't recovered enough to return to his teaching job. Nevertheless, he was on his way to being fully healed.
Gregor grabbed Boot's hand as he turned around, but out of his peripheral vision caught sight of movement on the other side of the hall. He craned his neck and glimpsed four people heading towards them. It was the Andrews.
"Gregor!" Mrs. Andrews absolutely crooned. "Hello! Hi, Lexi! Hi, Beth!"
"My name's Boots!" the owner of the name corrected the older woman. "And she's Lizzie!" The little girl slurred the "s" slightly, and pronounced the "L" in Lizzie with the subtlest amount of a "W".
"Well, I am very sorry!" her voice was slightly high-pitched as she spoke to the youngest of the siblings. She glanced behind her, Lynn griped the strap of her messenger bag and sent the trio an apologetic glance and pleaded her mother to quit talking with a mental message. Thomas, the youngest, hung off his mother's hand and stared at them, but achieved the feat of a bored expression. Stephany, the dark-haired middle child, had her arms folded, her face was completely blank. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she stared past, barely showing any indication that she even noticed the confrontation that was occurring.
Mrs. Andrews pushed through the awkward lull in verbal communication as she made a startling announcement. "Why don't I drive you to school?" She said it so brightly; anyone passing by would have thought all reaction would be positive. In fact, all responses were negative.
"Mom-" Lynn began to warn her, when Stephany broke in.
"Mother. Quit it. Stop being lame." Her tone was completely blunt. The tone of voice and lack of respect shocked Lizzie, but had no effect of Boots, for she was young enough to lack the attention span of tuning in on a full length conversation. At Steph's words, Gregor could barely contain a reaction, but let an arched eyebrow slip out. "Stephany Lee Andrews, you apologize this minute." Her mother demanded, unaware that she was causing a scene.
"No." Stephany firmly defied, and still, her gaze remained steadily fixed, towards the end of the hall. Until she turned her piercing gaze onto Gregor, who just so happened to be watching her intently. "We'll just walk."
And with her determination in set, she strode past her mother, sister, brother and neighbors, and forcefully punched the down button, making an endeavor to call the elevator.
"It won't come," Gregor spoke for the first time. "It's been down for a while. Everyone complains, but nobody does anything. We'll have to take the stairs." He watched Stephany's back as she gave the elevator door a last look of disgust. And for the first time, he noticed she was clothed entirely in an outfit that corresponded with her hair. She wore black skinny jeans, black converse, black messenger bag, black tank top that was covered by a long-sleeved black see-through shirt.
Gregor walked over silently to the door and led the way through the stair well. At the bottom, he stayed, holding the door stationary with his back as Lizzie, who was now holding Boots's hand, walked past, along with Mrs. Andrews, Thomas, and Lynn. When Stephany crossed in front of him, her shoulder brushed against his chest, along with her messenger bag across his gut. She turned her neck so fast, glancing at him, he was sure she had received whiplash.
In that instant, he noticed two things. The first, that she was pale, very pale. And secondly, she had a pale, silvery scar peeking out of the top of her shirt, at the base of her neck. It was a triangle, and seemed to be longer. It reminded him of his scars.
When they arrived at school, Gregor and Stephany split up from Lynn. Lynn, being two years older, had classes in the other side of the building. The school day was boring for Steph, considering the classes had little students and all students rotated through their schedule together.
In each class, Steph was assigned a seat, given a supply list, and then promptly zoned out during the lesson until the bell rang.
In her fifth period class, right before lunch, desks were arranged in clusters of four, all facing inward. Steph happened to be placed next to Gregor.
During of a particularly boring lecture, an open notebook slid onto her desk with the words, 'Sit with me at lunch?' printed messily on the blank page.
Stephany glanced at Gregor who happened to be staring out the window. She wrote back, 'Why?'
He replied, ''Cuz you don't have anyone else to sit with.'
She scribbled down, 'Yeah I do; Lynn.'
Gregor rolled his eyes as the bell went off. "Well invite her too." He gathered his things together and paused. "Don't worry. I actually have friends. We'll sit with them."
Steph rolled her eyes, "As long as they talk more than you."
Stephany followed Gregor -who never glanced back- to the cafeteria, where they grabbed the maroon hard plastic trays and joined the end of the line where other hungry students waited.
When the dark haired girl laid her eyes on the food available, she audibly gagged. Gregor looked over his shoulder and sent her a questioning look.
Stephany muttered, "I don't eat garbage like that. It's disgusting."
Gregor smirked, "It's cafeteria food. What did you expect?" This statement caused Steph to roll her eyes. When the line moved forward, she chose a wilted salad, an apple and a half-edible bread roll. She paid for her lunch and was guided by Gregor to a table where a girl and a boy already sat. The girl had dark brown hair, some of which was dyed hot pink, neon green, and electric blue at the ends. She studied a thick stack of papers in front of her with blue eyes hidden behind thin framed glasses. Overall, she looked to be short but extremely thin. She nudged the boy who sat next to her. His hair was short and slightly sandy-red. He wore thick framed glasses. He was drawing something with lots of intricate lines on a napkin, but occasionally he would straighten his slouched posture when his body was racked with heavy coughs.
"Hey," Gregor said to them as he pulled out a seat. "Guys, this is Steph."
"Hi!" The girl said. Her voice was high-pitched and cheerful, and she switched her gaze from the papers to Steph and looked her up and down. "Cool outfit! I'm Angelina." She jerked an elbow into the ribs of the guy seated by her. "And this is Larry. Say hi, Larry." She said the last sentence in an almost threatening manner to the boy, however he obeyed immediately.
"Hi," Larry was quiet, but scanned Steph in the same manner. In a causal conversation mode, he asked Gregor, "So is this your girlfriend?"
Gregor, who had previously been munching down on a slice of pizza, jerked his head up. "No, Larry. Steph is my neighbor." He did not even bother to look at Stephany's reaction.
Steph lowered her head, pulling out a plastic chair, and she sat down next to Gregor, across from Larry. She numbly took a bite of her apple.
Angelina gazed sadly at her. "I'm sorry. Ever since Larry and Gregor had a fight over why neither of them hit on girls and Gregor claimed he had a girlfriend, Larry has been uptight about it." She explained it nonchalantly. But every word was caught in Stephany's memory.
Angelina began chatting, aiming questions at Steph, which she answered bluntly, yet truthfully. Once Angelina took up a conversation with Gregor and Larry, Steph zoned out. Her mind raced, she thought of all the possibilities until the bell rang.
"Come on," Gregor said to Steph. "This is where we throw out our garbage."
He led her over to the plastic bins and they disposed of their trash and stacked the trays haphazardly.
"Wait. Stop," Stephany said. Gregor turned to ask what she needed; nevertheless, she cut him off. "You have a girlfriend." There was no question. A statement.
"Uh….ye-no. Um. It's complicated." He avoided a direct answer.
Stephany gazed at him patiently; he was a good four inches taller, so his eyes floated above her forehead. "It's okay. I understand complicated." She spoke softly.
"We were separated. For some interesting reasons." His eyes stayed on the crowd of students gathered around the door, the gaggle pressed around the two people who stood now silent.
Stephany swallowed hard. "That's it. We NEED to talk. In private."
For the first time, he dropped his eyes to meet hers. "Okay. We'll go to a park."
"Central park? I haven't been there. Ever. It'd be neat." She sounded genuinely like a sightseeing tourist, the first time she showed any interest in this grimy, grubby, loud city.
Gregor met her evenly, "Alright. After school. We'll talk. But drop the subject now. I don't want anyone to hear."
Steph smiled, the first Gregor had seen. However, it was less joyful, more patronizing. "Good."
"Let's get to class, A Most Dreadful Experience."
A/n: So guys. I'm sorry. Truly. I apologize. It has been way too long. And thanks to all who have stuck through with it.
Okay, a few things. This is super long to over compensate. Secondly. This is being uploaded by my beta (say hi VotumAstrum!) because I am in vacation in Gettysburg and Virginia beach. So a huge round of applause to her. Thirdly, happy July fourth to all of us Americans! Fourthly, happy Canada day! Fifthly, July 6th is my birthday so this is my present to each of you! I'm fourteen! Soooooo. Lots of love to all yinz.
I want to say, I love each and every review I have received. Seriously, last time I checked, 63! You all are EPIC.
So I'll give Votum the honor of saying whatever is on her mind since she gets to step outta the silent shadows of beta-ship.
Hello all of you AssassinAuthor fans! This is VotumAstrum here! Fabulous story so far, am I right? HAHAHA! Do you think crushed pecans or crushed peanuts would look like sand? I guess we'll just have to find out! Thanks for reading this very longggggg awesome chapter. Guess what? I GOT TO WRITE THE DISCLAIMER! YESSSS! Well see ya! Ciao! Vale! Hasta la vista!
P.S: If you were confused about the flying penguin thing in the 23rd paragraph, don't worry. It's a longish story. Let's just say Mrs. Andrews was not pleased at all.
P.P.S: Review you people! If you took the time to read this story at all, no matter if you liked it, loved it, or if it wasn't really your thing, please review (no flames please, compliments and constructive criticism only) and say what you liked and/or things that you think would make it better. REVIEW! (Or face the wrath of an angry beta)