Saving You

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  1. Saving You
    A one x one between Lillian Gray and Xan


    Friends since the beginning of time, he and her did everything together. There was never a hint of romantic intention, not really. They were more like siblings, partners in crime, together forever it seemed. College came around, and they didn't part ways even then, keeping close contact through the years.

    On a visit home the female decides to sneak out, her new friends don't really have her best interests at heart, and are of the entirely wrong crowd. In a twist of fate, both of her parents, and young brother are killed in a brutal break in. She goes to him, and she's broken, different, no loner the girl he knew as a child.​
  2. Ellen Davis (open)

    Ellen Davis


    Age: 20
    Height: 5'4"
    Hair Color: Red
    Eye Color: Hazel

    Personality: Ever since heading off to college, she got mixed in with the wrong crowd and became a bit of a snob. Once a shy kid, she now is the life of a party, not caring about what she does or who sees it. She still has moments where she simply wants to be alone.

    Background: As a child she was picked on for having her red hair and many freckles. As she grew older, the taunting increased, and she stayed a reclusive little girl up until college. Her only solace was her best friend, a little boy she'd met as a child. Through him she was able to grow, and blossom into a caring student in high school.​

    "Come on!" Matt, one of Ellen's many scheming friends, waited at the side of her house. They had a good ten minutes before their arrival was expected at a party down the street. "Wait, you have a way back in right?"

    "Yeah I left the door unlocked, everyone is asleep." She hissed into the darkness below her.

    It was just past eleven and the night was only just starting for the pair. The second floor was only halfway as tall as it should've been thanks to the split level home. Ellen opened the window carefully, exiting backwards until she was hanging by her fingers from the frame and dropping down onto the ground with a thud.

    "There's a good girl." Matt teased, hoisting Ellen up off her feet. She thanked him and they were on their way.

    Years ago, Ellen wasn't even the same person. She spent more time with her only childhood friend at his nearby home if anything else. The time had flown by, and she was a certified bitch in the eyes of other classmates. Ellen cursed, she drank, experimented with drugs from time to time when she had the opportunity. The little girl who used to be in love with stories, a good run in the park, she was gone. Replaced by the impostor who preferred a party.

    "Ellen!" Another good friend, Michelle. She was wasted beyond recognition, the party had been raging for hours apparently having started early. However, the new pair was just on time. The music blared and she could hardly hear her own voice over the sound of the bass.

    "Michelle!" Allen screamed in reply, a wide grin creeping up on her face.

    Someone handed her a cup filled with an unknown liquid. Some sort of alcohol, she didn't care. Ellen threw her head back and chugged it breathlessly, crumpling the plastic red cup and tossing it to the ground to join many others.

    This was just another night in the week for Ellen. Dancing, drinking, and catching up with a few of her old friends. It lasted until the early morning when she was sure the sun was about to come up. If she stayed for too much longer her parents would be sure to notice. A few more moments of contemplation gave motivation to leave, some freshman puked all over a girl.

    Ellen left on her own, stumbling down the street by herself in the early morning. The horrors which awaited her behind the front door would send her reeling. Life, just wouldn't be the same. ​
  3. James Marshall (open)

    Height: 6'0"
    Hair Color:Dark Brown
    Eye Color:Gray
    Personality: Often keeps to himself and rarely speaks to others unless he has something important to say. He values his friends and is known to be extremely patient and compassionate.
    Background:Bullied as a kid, James knows first-hand about survival. Vowing that no one would ever look down on him or push him around again, he left home after high school and sought a life where he could do things without his mother hovering around him. An only child, he developed a close relationship with Ellen Davis, a girl who was often teased by the same kids who bullied him.

    Each act, no matter how small, creates ripples in the universe. Some manifest immediately, while others travel years before being felt.
    Last night, one such ripple reached a sleeping James Marshall.

    And just like that, his world shifted.

    But James won’t wake up knowing that. No one ever does. All he'll remember when he opens his eyes is just how upset Katherine had been. He won't be thinking about the past. His gaze won't be lingering on the book he had thrown at Kevin Gordon some thirteen years ago in a school playground hundreds of miles away to protect a then-frail girl who now might as well be living in another star system.


    The clock read 6:54.

    He glanced at the empty space beside him, reached his hand out as if to make sure she wasn’t really there. The bright sunlight that spilled in through the blinds seemed to make a mockery of the disquiet in his heart.

    Reaching for his glasses, he did a mental rundown of last night’s events. They had dinner at Katherine's favorite Chinese restaurant. Ordered the dumpling soup. Discussed their new project. Planned a possible vacation. Laughed at the absurdity of the fortune in the fortune cookie. Bought a tuxedo for Newton. Ate ice cream. Talked about Comic-con.

    Can you get a badge for Lisa? Katherine had asked. She has this huge crush on you, you know? She asks me how you are every chance she gets.

    Are you sure you want me to get a badge for her?
    He teased, and she socked his arm in return.

    Just don't be running off with her after you see her dressed as Bayonetta.

    Damn. I wish I could see that. I wonder how she'd manage the hair thingy.

    Well, you can purcha—

    I can't, he finally said as he opened the car door for her, I'm already buying one for Ellen.

    The mention of her name was all it took to change the mood. Katherine had remained sullen on the drive home, and the tension eventually erupted into a fight.

    You KNOW how hard it is to get those badges, James. Why waste it on someone who hasn't gone in three years?!
    Sure, it's "tradition" you say. You make excuses even when there's none. I know you've been "just" friends since forever, best friends since forever, but she can't even take some fucking time off to meet her "best friend's" girlfriend. And we've been together two years! Two long years! And never, not once, did she make it to our breakfast, lunch, dinner, movie, picnic, party — I can go on and on and on about how fickle she is! I want to understand what you two have, I really do. But how can I?

    A bark snapped him out of his thoughts. He glanced at the doorway where a waiting Newton was wagging his tail. The black and white Pitbull he had rescued from the pound two years ago was an incredibly sweet dog and never failed to lift his mood.

    "Want to go to the park, boy?" he asked and was rewarded with a single, sharp bark. "Let me make us some breakfast first and then we'll go, all right?"

    As if he understood, Newton turned around and headed to the kitchen.

    "And then we'll fix things with mommy," he said as he followed the dog out. He needed to patch things up with Katherine. And he could probably ask one of his friends to purchase a badge for Lisa. James knew this wasn't really the issue, but he hoped the gesture would smooth things over a bit. They rarely fought. And when they did, it usually had something to do with Ellen.

    He glanced at a picture of him and Katherine on his way to the kitchen. He had snapped that photo, never expecting it to look good. In it her face was turned up towards him, dark brown hair framing her face. He, in turn, was looking at her. The smile on their faces were genuine. It was one of the many framed prints on the wall. He stopped for a moment, his eyes taking in the other images. Of Newton. Of family and friends. Of ancient ruins and sunken ships. Of a girl in a field of sunshine, a burst of dandelions dancing around her.


    "You always give me trouble, you know?" he said.

    And James Marshall — though his heart felt heavy — managed a small, sad smile.
    • Love Love x 1
  4. Through the fog which hadn't settled in the mind of Ellen Davis, sirens made their way to her ears. Blaring lights, the sound of voices thick with concern for the orphaned girl. She sat in the back of an ambulance, wide eyes which couldn't reverse the images so clear in her head.

    When Ellen had returned she opened the door with as little noise as she could manage, somewhat proud of her self actually, for slipping in unnoticed. It didn't matter though. She began to tiptoe back upstairs to her room when the first body nearly made her stumble into the wall. That of her younger brother Jonah, his face locked in a scream which would never stop. So began her cries for help. She couldn't take another step into her childhood home.

    It was a blur of people after that. The bodies of her mother, father, and brother were taken away and police tape was put up around the boundary of her house. The entire time, she stayed in the back of the ambulance. A man put a blanket over her shoulders at some point, but it never gave her any comfort, didn't help with the utter shock of it all.

    They're dead.

    "She just found them like that? God damn, poor girl." A policeman uttered across the street from her. He was in a conversation with an EMT.

    "She won't talk either, I've tried asking her name, she just isn't here right now." The woman responded. "I'd be a little shocked too, triple murder in the early hours, that's her family."

    "Ell..." The girl voiced her name, at least a part of it. Words were stolen by her by a force which she could not name. "Ellen D-d."

    Help me.

    There was only one person she wanted to see. If only she had the strength to get up and move, but she was frozen out of fear. It was her own fault. Ellen had left the door unlocked, and whoever had gotten in did so because of her. The blame settled in alongside the fear until it paralyzed her completely. Ellen didn't blink for fear of making another wrong move.

    She knew she had to do something, anything.

    Ellen reached into her pocket with shaky hands and it took her several times to dial the familiar number. It rang, and she waited.

    And waited.

    Until she dropped her phone, bursting into another fit of hysterical sobbing.

    This is all my fault.
  5. James had stopped watching the news around the time he turned nineteen. Online, he rarely clicked on links that led to stories of drug cartels and kidnappings and murders and armed robberies. This is not to say he wasn’t aware of what’s going on in the world; he just refused to be inundated with the constant barrage of information any longer.

    The decision came after overhearing a conversation at a Starbucks he frequented:

    Yeah, another school shooting. Like that’s even news now.

    It had been said with such a casual tone, the way one would describe an upcoming exam.

    That’s like the one from two months back, right? So how many are dead? Do they have more than the last one?

    The rest had been drowned out by the hum of the blenders and the sound of jazz music, but James had heard enough. From then on, he chose what news he digested daily, if any at all. Then he would step back and let it sink in. He didn’t want to end up desensitized to the mindless violence the media was so keen to show the rest of the world. As if it was now normal. As if it should now be expected. As if in order for it to become more news-worthy, the body-count had to be higher than the last, the murder more gruesome.

    He didn’t want to end up not caring.

    Grabbing his cellphone from the table, he noticed a missed call from Ellen on the display screen. It was rare that she called first, rarer still that she called that early in the morning. His first instinct was to call back, but then there was Katherine, and he didn’t want to delay their reconciliation any longer. This was the first time they’ve gone to sleep without resolving things, the first time that Katherine had been upset enough to ask to be dropped off her sister’s place.

    He had called Ellen countless times in the past, and there were times when she took weeks to call back. The missed call he had gotten was probably another half-hearted attempt to draw him into her circle, or more than likely, a call to ask another favor. Ellen often did, and in fact — as Katherine had pointed out before — it was the only time she thought to call him.

    Jesus, James. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re in love with her.

    He had burst into laughter after Katherine said it. It was a sentiment he had heard often and was used to by now. People always assumed that about his relationship with Ellen, and it couldn’t be further from the truth.

    He loved her, of course, that much was certain. It wasn’t, however, like the kind of love he felt for Katherine. He felt, for Ellen, equal parts of annoyance and pride, equal parts like and dislike.

    Ellen was like the sister he never had; a friend one moment, his sworn enemy the next.

    And so, when he and Newton stepped out the door to head to the park, he put all thoughts of Ellen behind him. James would be blissfully oblivious to the news being played on T.V. and completely unaware of Ellen’s pain.
  6. "Is there anyone you can stay with?" The officer asked Ellen the question for what felt like the hundredth time. His patience was wearing thin, but she managed to shake her head in the negative for him. "No one?"

    The EMT had already tried to take her to the hospital for observation. The shock had done some serious damage to her system, but she kept on refusing. It would cost a fortune just to be observed and she wasn't fond of the atmosphere. Machines drumming to the sounds of countless hearts, when one stops, panic sets in as a thousand footsteps rush to a room. Besides that, there was the overpowering smell of antiseptics, to the point where a person felt like throwing up for being too clean.

    She hated hospitals. It wasn't an option.

    "...-omeone? Are you with me?" The officer snapped his fingers in front of Ellen's face and she reared to attention, eyes going wide again as they had when she'd first discovered her brother. The thought sent her into another wave of tears, and the man sighed.

    Talking to her was useless. She'd given her name, but even hours later after the scene had been cleaned, she still was void of any emotion but the look of panic dead set on her face. The color was drained from her normally flushed skin, eyes so small and pierced, the pupils seemed to disappear. She shook, every limb in her body begged for her to stay curled up, and ignoring it meant rounds of quivering and crying.

    "We'll take you down to the station for now, okay Ellen?" The officer placed a hand on her shoulder, it was meant to be reassuring, but she jerked at the touch.

    "James." She blurted uselessly. Again, she fumbled for the phone in her pocket and tried to dial the number, but she could hardly hold still long enough for it to dial through.

    "Would he let you stay with him?" This seemed to interest the officer, who'd otherwise gotten nothing useful from her.

    "Maybe." Ellen said quietly. She finally managed to hit all the right numbers when the phone dropped out of her clumsy hands again. The officer sighed and picked it up off the ground, pressing the thing to his hear to listen in on the dial tone. He left a message in Ellen's place, telling whoever was on the other end to pick Ellen up from the station when they could. It was still early, and he didn't expect a response.

    She hardly expected him to come though. The way she'd treated him over the past years? It was like they were strangers. She took so long to get back to him, that she'd hardly remember the occasion. Birthdays came and went with no cards or well wishings. Ellen had deserted him. But in this one dire moment of need, she prayed that her best friend still had something left for her, some god given blessing that would call him back to her.

    There was no one left.
  7. It wasn't hard making up with Katherine. After an early walk in the park, James dropped by a cafe and bought a dozen different pastries before walking to the flower shop beside it. He spotted a bouquet of hydrangeas — a flower Katherine adored — and picked a large pastel bloom that seemed to be in the middle of transitioning from pink to blue. Pleased with the selection, he also asked for one salmon-colored rose; this was for Newton to carry in his mouth. He hadn't taught him that particular trick yet, but figured it would be good for laughs at least.

    And everything had gone exceptionally well. They both apologized: him for not realizing that his thoughtless actions were driving a wedge between them; her for being sensitive when it came to matters about Ellen.

    James thought himself incredibly lucky to have met someone like Katherine. The two were quite the couple, with similar interests and a never-ending drive to succeed and do better. They challenged each other often and engaged in a variety of activities that always gave them something new to talk about.

    The only thing they fought seriously about was Ellen. He had constantly reassured her that there was nothing there, that what he felt for Ellen was nothing like what he felt for her. And yet it was the one thing he couldn't convince her of. Perhaps it was because she hasn't seen them together and didn't know how much of a brother-sister relationship they really had. To Katherine, Ellen was a woman that he dropped everything for.

    To him it was a force of habit — it came as natural as breathing.

    All of two years, Ellen had been an unknowing participant in their disagreements, and all those disagreements had been resolved with no help from Ellen. She was a party with no say as she was never there.

    And all that was about to change.

    They had gotten home late in the afternoon. James checked his phone and played the one message he had as he walked to kitchen. He was expecting Ellen's soft, lilting voice, and was taken aback when he heard a gruff tone. The message was brief, the voice on the other line tense. He could hear murmurs in the background, but couldn't make out what they were saying.

    "Honey, I forgot to tell you," Katherine started, her voice getting louder as she approached the kitchen. "Sarah and the guys from work called. They're having drinks later to discuss the new serious game project that we got. I wish we'd do something other than farming games. The market's saturated with Third World Farmer clones. What do you think? We can go after we have dinner." She gave him a teasing smile and a wink. "Unless of course, you have other...plans."

    I can't.

    James stopped before he could blurt out the two words that started last night's fight. He stared at his phone and opened the rarely used Facebook app. He did a quick search and checked Ellen's profile.

    Glenn Bates
    5 mins
    im here if u need me. sorry for ur loss.

    Joanna Smith
    5 mins
    omg!!!!! im soooo sorry to hear that. im prayin for u guys.

    Dylan Green
    10 mins
    oh wow, i don't even know what to say. sorry for your loss. so sad this had to happen to you. the world is a sick place. i hope you get justice.

    The posts went on and on from names James weren't familiar with. From among the busy, confusing posts, one truth was made clear: Ellen is alive.

    Ellen is alive. Ellen's family is dead. Ellen hadn't been killed. Ellen's family had been killed — murdered. Ellen survived. Ellen's family didn't. Ellen is ok. Ellen is alive. Ellen is not dead. They're dead, but Ellen is alive.

    Family. Dead. Murdered. Ellen. Alive. He felt his world shrink where nothing but those five words existed. And then he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and another lightly touching his wrist. He hadn't realized his hands were shaking.

    "James, honey..." it was Katherine's voice, soothing and calm. "What's wrong?"

    He looked up at the woman in front of him, and his vision blurred with unshed tears. James took deep breaths before talking. He didn't know the whole story yet, only pieces of what he had gathered from the posts. The message the police left only mentioned that Ellen was at the station, and that she had apparently given his name as an emergency contact.

    "Go to her," Katherine said as she held him tight. "She needs you right now."

    James felt a wave of relief wash over him at those words. He would have gone either way, but he preferred to leave without an argument.

    "And James," Katherine added, a sad smile on her face, "I know it won't mean much, since she barely knows me, but please extend my condolences."

    He kissed her softly and in minutes was out of the apartment and on the road that would take him to Ellen.


    It had taken at least two hours to get from Tacoma to Bellevue because of an accident on the 405. James had been gripping the wheel the entire time like a captain on the helm of a sinking ship, white-knuckled and tense, brows knit in an expression of grief and worry and guilt. His mind flashed back to the Davis family — to Ellen — to the many times he had been at their home. He recalled the welcome smile of her mother, and the pleasant sound of her father's voice. Ellen's younger brother had been but a small child back when they used to hang out at her house. He felt a wave of grief wash over him. Then there was anger — then sadness. Life could be horribly unfair and horribly cruel.

    But there was still Ellen and right now, that's all that mattered.

    The police station lobby looked part bank, part hospital with everyone looking like they worked for the undertaker. Beam seats lined some of the walls and though the space was well-lit, there seemed to be a blanket of perpetual gloom in the air.

    They hadn't taken him to see Ellen right away, instead it was a Detective Walsh who greeted him. The stout, balding detective kept the pleasantries to a minimum and launched into a flurry of questions as soon as James was seated.

    How did he know Ellen? Did he know her family? Do they have enemies? Where was he at two in the morning?

    He knew it was standard procedure, and he answered each one truthfully. After a while, when it was apparent that there was nothing more he could add, he was finally given the detective's business card and led down a short, narrow hallway with closed doors and frosted glass. The detective stopped at one of the rooms, knocked twice, and opened the door. He greeted whoever was inside and stepped aside for James to present himself.

    He wished they were seeing each other under different circumstances, but there was nothing else to do except face the reality of what had happened. He stepped inside the room and felt his heart go out to the girl sitting statue-like on the chair, a crumpled ball of grief, looking smaller than the first time he rescued her.
  8. There were too many faces and names Ellen had to remember as they all jumbled together in a blur. The police station. A room. A detective. Names. Faces. Repeat. The hours dragged on as she waited for the arrival of James, she didn't know what she'd do when he came in. Would silence capture her voice, so beyond terrified and vulnerable to form the proper words to express her grief. The moment came, finally, as the thick door of the interrogation room was opened and he came in.


    "We've tried to get her to talk to us, but, the poor girl's in shock." Detective Walsh whispered behind his hand into James' ear. Even if the action kept his words from spreading further towards the girl, it hardly mattered. She was stuck in her own world of worries anyways.

    Ellen tried to remember what the last words she'd said to her family had been. They'd been arguing about the party she wanted to go to. There were drugs, alcohol, and her parents didn't want her to go. The last thing she said, reverberating in her ears as she thought back to the previous night. It was horrible. Ellen tried to push the memory far, far t the back of her mind where the horror couldn't reach, and her emotions left it untouched.

    "You're all so fucking irritating!" Ellen had screamed at them, there were no tears in her eyes, just balled up fists ready to punch in the nearest wall. And she had, right into the bathroom door before she passed down the hall to her own. At that, her mother had stormed up the stairs.

    "Ellen D-"

    "Oh whatever!" The fiery red head slammed her bedroom door in her mother's face.

    That was it.

    The last thing she'd ever said to them before they died, not that she loved them, or appreciated the years they'd spent saving so she could have an education. Not a word about her favorite mac n'cheese, which Ellen's father would spend hours making just for his little girl. Over the years, all they'd done was love her, shower their little angel with affection and applause for her achievements. She blossomed in high school, her grades reaching far and beyond even Ellen's own expectations. She'd joined a theater club despite her shy tendencies, a computer club so she could understand what James was always going on about, and in return she'd slammed the door on their relationship, scrubbed it right into the dirt with the heel of her foot like garbage.

    Now? They were gone.

    A thick hand reached out to grab her shoulder and she jumped out of her seat to get away from the touch. The detective apologized quietly, making no attempts at reaching out to her again. Everyone was to be feared, no one, nowhere was safe. Ellen whimpered, pressing herself against the wall until her hazel eyes laid themselves on the one person she trusted.

    "James?" She questioned herself even. The word slipped out of her mouth, foreign to her ears. "You came. After all this, you."

    Ellen held her head in her hands and wept. Even after all this time, he still came for her in her time of need. He hadn't abandoned her. The girl fell to the floor, back against the wall, and wailed into her hands. Between sobs she managed to get out the names of her family. Jonah, Hillary, Patrick. All gone. Yet there she was, the worst of them all.

    Ellen Davis.

    "They're all gone. It's my fault, I didn't lock the door, and they're gone, they're gone, they're gone." She sobbed hysterically, her shrill voice reaching into the halls as people bit their lips in grieving along with her. The heavy atmosphere of the murder set the scene, but her wailing put even the thickest of men to sighs of pity.
  9. He let her cry. Big, wracking sobs that filled the room and tore at his heart. James wanted to think of someone else — something else — but Ellen crying in front of him made it impossible. Her pain drew everything to her like a magnet, and yet it kept everyone at bay, as if her wails were thorns that lashed out at those close enough to offer comfort.

    She was shaking when he rested a hand on her shoulder, but she didn't flinch. Slowly, he took her into his arms and let her cry some more.

    After a while, when the wails had turned to sobs, the sobs to deep gasps for air, James pulled away and looked at her face. Ellen's eyes were raw from crying, bloodshot and swollen and red. He took her hand and squeezed it tight, a gentle reminder that he was there.

    James knew they had to get out of the station. Detective Walsh was saying something again, and as much as he wanted to drown out the voice, he knew he had to listen. There was still stuff to do, paperwork to get done, procedures to follow. He left his number with the detective and promised to be available for anything they needed help with.

    Should I go home? Or should I stay at the old house? Mom won't be back until the end of next week — I'll just leave her a message if we stay. Don't want to ruin her vacation. Katherine wouldn't mind, and I can take a couple days off from work.

    He pulled out his keys from his pocket, and with his other hand, reached out once more for Ellen.

    "Elle," he said gently, "we need to leave now."

    He wanted to say let's go home, but caught himself before he blurted it out, aware of what that might trigger. Instead, he said what he had said those many years ago when they were but kids trying to survive recess.

    "I'm here for you."
  10. "Th-than-" She hiccuped, unable to form a proper sounding word any longer.

    Ellen still reached out for his hand. It was vaguely similar to when they were children again, she'd cry because someone pulled on her hair, or she tripped, but when the tears were dried and her eyes red and raw there would be that familiar hand. They weren't children any longer, but some part of her warmed up to think that after all this time, it still felt the same to be saved by her friend.

    She had the mind to thank the Detective on the way out, but besides that her eyes remained glued on the floor, her hand holding tight to James'. It was her lifeline, keeping her head above water when all she felt was the sensation of drowning. Deeper and blacker the world felt without a family to call her own. Her brother was just a kid! Barely making it through high school, his biggest worry was whether or not he'd get a decent score on his SAT. Now, he was gone, just like that. Swallowed by the abyss.

    "Where are we going?" She asked meekly.

    It had been at least a good thirty hours from the last time Ellen has slept at all. She stayed out too late at the party - a huge mistake on her part - but after the shock had settled out of her system it hit her like a concrete wall. All of a sudden, she only wanted to lay her head down and rest.
  11. "My old house," he said as he gave Ellen's hand yet another squeeze. He didn't know what else to do to make her feel better. She needed to rest, that much was obvious, and she probably need to eat. James knew that his mom always kept the pantry full and he knew there would be some food at home. He glanced at her again and wondered exactly what happened. He hadn't been told much, other than Ellen was the one that discovered the bodies. That meant she had been out.

    He opened the car door for her and waited until she got in. After a few seconds, he leaned over her, pulled the seatbelt across, and locked it in place. James smelled the alcohol on her breath and the smoke that clung to her hair and clothes.

    Why is this happening?
    What are you thinking?

    He stopped the questions flooding his mind and focused instead on the road ahead. He drove in silence, leaving Ellen to her thoughts. There was nothing else he could say to dull the pain she must be feeling.

    After a good thirty minutes, he made the familiar turn that would take them back to his childhood home, a place he hoped Ellen felt safe enough to be. He glanced at the roses that lined the driveway; there were more of them this time than the last time he visited. The porch railing needed repair in a few spots; he could do that while he was here. These were little things he noticed, ordinary things he focused on to keep himself stronger for the person who sat beside him.

    Finally he stopped the engine, stepped out of the car, and prepared himself for the coming night.
  12. She hated roses.

    Ellen's eyes set on the flowers lining the drive, thinking about the conversation she'd hat with her mother once. She hated roses, absolutely hated them, and the girl couldn't understand why. Romance and pain, all wrapped up into one beautiful flower. Gorgeous shades of red to keep the passion alive, but with a bite to match with its thorny grip. Her father would buy her mother roses after a long argument, and they'd laugh, because they both knew how much her mother simply hated the things.

    Despite that, Ellen still loved them.

    She stepped out of the car on her own and dug in her pocket for a cigarette. Short white shorts hidden beneath a long, shimmering top. Ellen hadn't even thought about her appearance. Rather promiscuous, and a little bit too much skin for someone whose family had just been, well, she didn't want to even say it in her thoughts. Thankfully though, two cigarettes were stuck with the lint in her left pocket, a small lighter to join it.

    After trying unsuccessfully to light it, she noticed her shaking hands, the flame wasn't close enough to start anything but the passing wind on fire. She adjusted her grip, the butt dropping to the grass uselessly. Ellen pulled the second one from her pocket and lit it up, taking a deep breath in before exhaling long and slow. Even the release from her new found addiction wasn't enough to keep her from whimpering.
  13. The door gave a soft squeak as he pushed it open; a light turned on as he stepped inside bathing the living room in a soft, warm glow. Turning around, he saw Ellen fumble with a cigarette before finally managing to light one. James watched as the girl who swore she would never smoke took a long deep drag from the white stick trembling between her fingers. He had never known Ellen to smoke.

    Just nerves. Something to calm her down.

    He knew he was making up excuses for her. The Ellen in the driveway felt more like a stranger than his childhood friend.

    He dug his phone out of his pocket and dialed Katherine's number. His back to the door, he talked to her, letting him know he was safe and that Ellen was staying with him for the time being until things get sorted out.

    Sorted out. How do we even do that? How do you sort out the murder of your family?

    "I love you too," he said before hanging up and stepping outside once more.

    "Elle," he called out, "come on in. I'll make us dinner. You can sleep in the guestroom after. You need some rest."
  14. Ellen took long, unhealthy drags from the single cigarette, internally she knew the one would never satisfy the urges. She'd need more. More to calm herself, more to soothe the headaches that came if she went too long without the small white stick of addictive nicotine. Where had she even picked up the habit? Nothing came to mind. It must have started, one time at a party, another later, until she was picking up her own cartons.

    "Oh, yeah." She responded, a tad delayed, but she felt too empty to eat if it was possible. Ellen didn't want to eat, or sleep, she just wanted her family back.

    When is it going to even settle in? They're gone, it's my fault, my fault...

    The phrase beat in her head like a drum, pounding and beating it into her system until she believed it. Ellen may not have been the one to do the deed, but she'd left the door unlocked, and it was good enough for her. Maybe if she'd only been a better girl, more like her brother, maybe if she hadn't argued. Something, anything, there were so many different possibilities of the things she could've done differently and she'd done none of it.

    Ellen stepped over the threshold and into the house. It had changed some since she last visited. The furniture rearranged, different smells, a portrait of James' family sitting neatly on a small table. The place used to be her home away from home, when the bullying was too intense, and she was too scared to walk the extra two blocks back to her own home, she'd stay with James.

    She rubbed her bare arms with her hands like it might keep her together for another second before she replied meekly. "I'm not hungry, can I, um." Ellen's eyes dropped to the floor and she felt hot tears coming back. "I just want to sit down, for a bit, if that's okay."
  15. James smiled. It felt forced, and yet that was all he could do at the moment. Of course, he heard himself say to Ellen. His mind was full of words to say and things he wanted to do, but everything stayed in his head. He had never felt this helpless.

    Well, imagine what SHE'S feeling.

    Looking at her, he knew she was close to breaking; her eyes were full of tears and her voice sounded small and far away. As helpless as he was feeling at the moment, he knew that there was no way to comprehend what Ellen was going through.

    James reached for Ellen's hand and took it in his own. He led her to the couch, sat on one end, and waited for her to join him. He desperately wanted to say something to make her feel better, but he knew words weren't enough. Better a grieving heart that matched hers than empty words that died on the tip of his tongue. The silence stretched between them - familiar and foreign at the same time.
    #15 Xan, Jul 31, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2014
  16. Ellen felt herself shattering with each step towards James. A piece of her trembling hands, tears falling away from her face, and finally her broken heart, in a blink of an eye destroyed as her hole world came crashing down around her. She crumbled to his side, her head supporting itself on his lap as she bawled, rubbing her face to keep the inevitable from happening. Red, raw, the only face she could make any more it felt like. She couldn't hold it in any more. In the safety of James' childhood home, she wept, and wept, and wept, until her eyes closed shut. Had she guessed, she must have been crying in her sleep.

    Dreams. Nothing sad, nothing happy, but she did dream. It was nothing significant and nothing meaningless. She tried to guess at what it might mean, but, a dream was a dream. When she would wake, it would all vanish into thin air as a distant thought in her drowsy state.

    One day, then another half, when she opened her eyes again it was light outside. Morning then? She kept her head flat, not wanting to rise. Her stomach had other plans, growling and cursing up a storm as it begged for a meal it so desperately deserved. "Shut up." Ellen moaned. "I know, food." She told herself. Despite that, she closed her eyes again. Maybe this too, would pass, as a fleeting memory long distant in the past. She could wake another day in another place and all would be just fine. Nothing remembered, and nothing lost.
  17. Morning already? Thought I'd never fall asleep.

    James rubbed his eyes and tried to focus. He had a pounding headache, and the crick in his neck wasn't helping any. He looked at the sleeping form of Ellen, her cheek still pressed on his lap, and he suddenly thought of how she would have looked silly with lines running across her face if he had worn corduroy instead of denim.

    Random thoughts again. Wonder what to make for breakfast.

    As if on cue, Ellen's stomach growled. James wondered if she'd have the energy to eat today. They were both exhausted last night, and James hadn't eaten since he brought Katherine breakfast yesterday.

    That felt like days ago.

    "I know, food," he heard Ellen say.

    So you are hungry after all. Better make something to eat.

    "I'll fix something up," he said, expecting Ellen to get up. When she didn't, he looked down and saw that she still had her eyes closed.

    Still asleep?

    He slid a hand under Ellen's head and lifted it slowly, careful not to wake her. Grabbing a nearby throw, he draped it over her body, then walked to the kitchen.

    Hope she's at least comfortable. Oh, better call mom.

    James hoped his mother was asleep and was hoping to get her voice mail. Upon hearing the familiar recording, he breathed a sigh of relief and left a brief message, informing her that he was staying at home for a couple of days. He made a few more calls to work, asked for bereavement leave and a couple of personal days off. Ellen would need help arranging the funeral and he wanted to help as much as he could. They were like family after all.

    He made scrambled eggs and bacon; the smell filled the kitchen and made his mouth water. it struck him how normal everything was. Normal breakfast. Normal day. He just wished he was making breakfast under different circumstances.

    We'll take it one day at a time, he thought as he looked out the kitchen window. We'll get through this. Just like we always do.

    Walking back to the living room, he saw that Ellen was still where he left her, eyes closed, curled up like a child. He stared at her for a few seconds, noting how peaceful she looked when asleep. The only sign of distress on her face were her tear-streaked cheeks. James sat in front of the couch, reached a hand up, and brushed away the stray strands of hair on her face.

    "Hey, El," he said softly.
  18. Before Ellen even opened her eyes the sweet smell of bacon and eggs reached her nose, and she inhaled deeply to fill herself up on the scent alone. She was hungry, there was no doubt, but there was still little desire to do anything but stay curled up on the couch. The blanket draped around her was a welcome change. She pulled it up to her nose to hide her tormented face.

    "Hello." She said quietly.

    The girl turned her face away from his eyes, appreciating his gentleness with her though. It was hard to not close her eyes again and meld back into the world of dreams. It was safer there.

    Ellen ate in silence, but she ate. The eggs slid down her throat with little taste to please her stomach. Her stare reached the opposite wall, acting on instinct rather than a desire to live. She mechanically moved on, stabbing at a piece of meat before sliding eggs on top, placing it into her mouth. Operating on a system of tendency rather than anything else felt strange, foreign, but her brain hardly operated well enough to care.

    I should say something.

    Still, she kept her gaze and continued to feed herself slowly.

    I wonder how he's been.

    Ellen didn't bother to ask.


    It was easier by the time the funeral came around. Had it not been for James, well, Ellen doubted there would have been one. She didn't have many aunts or uncles, only one of her grandparents was still alive, but they were all in attendance. Two uncles from her mother's side, and one uncle and aunt on her father's side. Their families were there, cousins, family, she was surrounded by those who were supposed to love and nurture her best, but all she felt were the cold hard stares of abandonment.

    Ellen hadn't been a kindhearted child in the past years, her behavior was hard to forgive, and while they offered their condolences with tears on their face, they said nothing more. No one asked how she was holding up, she stood alone. Although her families behavior was far from what she really thought, they were just too nervous to say anything. Not a soul knew how to deal with a triple murder in the family. It was hard enough to begin with, but trying to console the remaining daughter was impossible.

    She gripped her hands hard together as they lowered each body into the ground. Ellen had wept enough, and she couldn't bring herself to do it.

    They were gone now. Nothing could change that.
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