Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jaded: Chapter 8

Chapter 8

"Did he just say…?" I trail off.

"Yeah. He did. Lizzie, are you okay?" Chloe asks.

The spotlight goes out and I sit down.

"I don't even know what that means. Like, why didn't they ask me? What do I do now?"

"I don't know. But I think it's something pretty big since every eligible young man is coming this way."

I look and see 15 guys coming toward me.

Where were all these guys before dinner?

"Hi, Elizabeth would you like to dance?"

"Ms. Gent dance with me."

I try to focus on the faces but there's too many voices.

"Lizzie, come on." Cameron says, pulling me up.

"I thought I told you to dance with Miranda."

"I was going to. But you looked overwhelmed. So I'll dance this song with you."

"Thank you."

"So what does one do as a ward?"

"No idea. I guess I'll find out."

He nods and we continue dancing.

My life isn't changing. I'm still me. I can deal with this.

'Ms. Gent, there's a photo shoot. Follow me." A woman says.

I smile at Cameron and he smiles back.

I see flashes ahead. We enter a conference room. I'm not speaking if someone asks me a question.

The woman motions me to stand between the Simm sisters and brothers. More flashes.

We do every combination possible. I take a picture with each sibling. Flash, flash, light and sound.

Just when I'm getting frustrated, someone asks a question.

"I'm sorry. This isn't an interview. We gave you the exclusive. Lizzie will answer questions at another time." Delilah says.

Lizzie will do nothing of the sort. But I take that as permission to leave.

I can't process any of this.

I enter the dance hall and look for Jenn. She's dancing with one of the guys I ran from.

I don't want to ruin her night. But I want to talk to someone familiar. Finn.

"Hello again, Ms. Gent." George says, putting his hand on my back.

No, this is wrong!

"Pretty big announcement. I'd like to discuss it while dancing."

"Look for gossip with someone who enjoys showy vacations and wasting away their semesters."

I walk away. I stop at my table and close my eyes for a moment.

I look up and see Finn. He smiles weakly. I walk across the dance floor.

“May I have this dance?” I ask.

Finn looks at Timothy and he nods.

“Of course.” He says taking my hand.

We begin waltzing and once again my feet know what to do. I look up from Finn’s suit and make eye contact with him. We hold eye contact until he looks away. The next time I look back, he’s staring at me again. The song changes and I pause.

“Just follow my lead, Eliza.” He whispers.

I nod and start dancing again.

I wonder if I should say something. People talk while they dance. Is this weird? Does Finn find this weird?

I look up and meet his beautiful brown eyes. I smile and forget what I was going to say.

“Thank you everyone for attending the benefit. Have a nice night.” The MC says.

I can hear people clapping but Finn and I keep dancing. The orchestra starts up again and we adjust our tempo. I look at Finn. Dancing with him is completely different than dancing with anyone else. I don’t feel like I have to pretend. Finn’s head turns and he meets my eye. I immediately look down.

The song changes. I still feel his eyes on me.


“Finn, why have you been staring at me?”

“Because I don’t want to look away. There’s no one I’d rather look at while dancing with you.”

“Why aren’t we talking?”

“Do we have to talk?” Finn asks confused. “It’s not like we just met.”


The song ends.

“Excuse me.” I say, curtseying.

I walk away before he even bows in return.

“What a nice couple. They look good together.”

“They do but the ward and the help? And she snubbed Charles Moore.”

“But what was she before? She is a SOS after all.”

I think I found Macey’s future friends. I let myself out on the terrace.

“You know, this is a dangerous place to be without service.”

I turn around and see Timothy Campbell.

“So I’ve heard, Mr. Campbell but I have yet to see anything scary.”

“You’d be surprised how people react to what they call privileged brats.”

I sway and put a hand on the balcony. But not before Timothy Campbell supports my other arm.

“I’m fine, Mr. Campbell. I’m just a little light headed from the excitement.” I say, so he doesn’t notice how his words affected me.

I can tell he doesn’t believe me.

“Well, I’ll turn you over to your security then. Or did you mean to run out while he’s frozen on the dance floor?”

I look through the doors and see Finn on the edge of the dance floor staring at the terrace doors. Michelle makes her way to him.

“Mr. Campbell, I respect your law of conduct.”

“My law of conduct? I take it Finn has told you the rules.” I nod. “I’m glad it made an impact on you both. However, that’s not the reason I’m against your relationship progressing.”

There’s something else?

“Lizzie, it’s the last song.” Caleb says.

“Well Mr. Campbell, I’m off to dance the night away.”

Timothy Campbell almost smiles and then shakes his head.

“Remember what we spoke of.”

I nod and take Caleb’s arm.

“What is her story?”

“I don’t know but I’m going to find out.”

Caleb puts his other hand on my hand on his arm.

“You’re a good dancer. Where did that come from?”

“I don’t know. I remember practicing the waltz with my mom. I guess I was taught the others at some point.”

“And you still remember?”

“I remember my mother in perfect clarity. It’s everything else that I’m missing.”

Caleb nods and we reach our place. The music starts.

“Speaking of your dance skills, you and your partner seemed to be in your own world.”

“Are you going to tell me the problems with dancing with him, too? We just met yesterday.”

“What can I say? Something makes me want to protect you.”

“You have two sisters to be brother to.”

“Yes, but they’re all grown up. They don’t need to be told where problems lie. Plus, Finn is like a brother to me.”

I sigh.

“Go ahead.”

“You didn’t just dance with him. You danced four songs and didn’t even stop when the music did. You didn’t spare anyone else a single glance. You both need to be making connections, not strengthening previous ones.”

“Don’t hold yourself back. Tell me all the places the problems lay.”

“Everyone’s eye is on you. You’re the company’s ward and living in my sisters’ house.”

“I didn’t ask to be. I'm already upset about that. Now I’m being told how to live my life as well?” I whisper, narrowing my eyes.

“No. I’m just informing you of your new place. Finn doesn’t like attention. Keep that in mind.”

The song ends.

“Thank you, Mr. Simms, for your insight.” I curtsy and he bows.

“Lizzie!” Jennifer latches on to me. “Good night, Caleb.”

Mr. Simms waves and turns.

“He didn’t seem himself.”

“You mean he doesn’t seem like the man you met 24 hours ago?”

“Lizzie, are you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry Jenn. I’m just tired.”

And beyond annoyed.

“Me too.” Jenn yawns.

“Let’s get my baby to bed.” I say as attendants help us put on our coats.

“I could get used to this. Hey, don’t call me that.”

Finn smiles at me from her other side. I smile back and he looks away.

One of the valets opens the back seat door. There’s about 6 other valets. I don’t have to look at Timothy, Caleb, or any of our audience to know I’m supposed to sit in the back.

I rode here in the front.

Jenn falls asleep within 5 minutes. Finn shuts down every attempt I make at conversation and won’t even look me in the eye. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more frustrating night.

Finn walks us into the house. He checks the living room and our bedroom.

“All clear.” He says.

“Night, Finn.” Jenn says going up stairs.

“Well, the adults are supposed to be back by 2.”

“Oh, right. The kids were kicked out at 10. They have an after party.”

“Would you have even wanted to stay, Eliza?” He asks, smiling.

He finally looked at me!

“No. I don’t like large crowds. But I still had a good night.”

“Same here.”

He blinks and looks away.

“Well, I’ll be up until my dad comes home so text me if anything happens. Though, nothing should with the guards out front.”

“I will.” I promise anyway.

“I’ll see you Monday.”

“What about tomorrow?”

“I have homework and training. Stephan will be with you and Jenn. I thought I told you. It must have slipped my mind.”

“Okay, until Monday then.”

Finn smiles.

“Good night Eliza.” And he slips out the door.

I could have read while he did homework.

----- ----- -----

A knock sounds.


“Yes.” I croak out.

The door opens.

“Would you like some brunch? Jenn ordered it for you.” Allison  says.

“Sure. Come in.”

Allison puts down the food.

“Where is Jenn? When I came back in the room this morning, she was gone.”

“I think she had plans with Nicole and some of the girls. Paul took them.”

“Okay.” I say, picking up my book.

“Are you hungry? Delilah said you’ve been up since 3.”

“Right. I talked to her when she came home.”

I slept from 11 to 2. I left my room so I wouldn’t disturb Jenn while I read. I took an hour nap at 6.

“It’s almost noon. Jenn said you’d want to eat breakfast for your first meal.”

“She’s right. Thanks Allison. Where are all the adults?”

“Misters Simms and Belle Simms had an emergency flight at 4. Delilah went to the office at 9.”

“Wait so I’m here alone?” I ask.

“Well the staff is here but yes, you are alone.”

I feel my headache coming back.

“Would you like to join me for breakfast?”

“Sorry, Lizzie. I’ve got to get back to work.”

“Okay, bye.”

Allison smiles at me sadly and I’m hit with dejavu.

I start eating and pick my book back up.

“Hello, Ms. Gent.”

I look up.

“Hello. You must be Stephan.”

He nods.

“Have a seat.” I start cleaning up. “Right, I’m not allowed to clean. Time out, why are you here Stephan? I don’t need a bodyguard in the house?”


My phone rings.

“Sorry. Hold that thought. What’s up, Jenn?”

“Lizzie, turn on the news! They’re talking about last night's benefit.”

I turn channels. The estate is on screen. There’s about 20 reporters in front of the gate.

“Jenn. I’ll call you later. Be safe.” I say.


The pictures change to the benefit venue. That’s followed by Mr. Arthur Simms announcing me as the ward. And it ends with a picture of Finn and I dancing. Finn is blurred out.

“As the first batch of Simms Orphan Scholars prepare to graduate, the Simms have announced a ward among them. There hasn’t been any information on what that means or how many more wards there will be. The ward, Elizabeth Gent, is currently ranked 6th out of the four girls’ academies. She is the 3rd highest SOS. And it seems like someone else may be benefiting from her wardship.”

I wait for them to say Finn’s name but they don’t.

“I can’t believe this! I didn’t want this. How can they do this without asking me?”

“Technically, you all became wards of them the moment you tested into the academy. You're just the only one with special mention.”

“How is Jenn going to get home?”

“Don’t worry. Her chauffeur Paul is also a bodyguard. He’ll figure it out.”

“Why did the Simms all leave? This is their business.”

“Well you’re the ward. It’s more about you.”

“What about Finn? How long until his name is in this? Not that they’re right but he’s going to hate this.”

“Timothy is working on it. He won’t let his son be connected to this.”

“How’s that going to work? Finn is well-known. Someone’s going to tell the media.”

“You’re forgetting the powers behind the Simms’ name. They own shares in most mass-media.”

“You know, you are surprising reassuring even though you clearly don’t want to talk.”

“Bodyguards aren’t supposed to talk. We are here to watch, protect, and advise.”

“Well can you advise me on the best way to get out of here?”


I follow Stephan into an elevator. It takes us underground.

“Okay, choose.”

“Choose what?” I ask, as my eyes adjust.

“Choose a car.”

There are about 30 cars. They are of differing class levels and models.

I see the van Finn drives and choose the convertible next to it.

We get in and drive around the garage. We pass one exit and go to the next.

“What’s the difference?” I ask still in the tunnel. “And why are they so long?”

“One takes you to the drive around the house. That’s how Finn picks you up. The reporters would see that. This one lets out past estate grounds. It’s a secret.” Stephan states.

Finn would have made that a joke.

“There’s a secret tunnel to the garage?!”


“Now I feel like they’re just showing off their wealth.”

“It wasn’t the children. It was the mother Simms. They say she became a reclusive toward the end of her life. She had this tunnel built and never went to public events in her final 12 years.”

“She probably just liked her privacy. I know I do.”

“I understand. I was simply relating what they say about her.”

I know but it bothered me. I’ve always loved learning about her. There are no pictures of her from her final years. Her last public picture was Delilah’s 5th grade graduation. There’s a lot of rumors but I don’t believe them.

The wind hits my face and I lean back. I’ll forget about life for a while.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Jaded: Chapter 7

"You're going to a benefit?!" Tess asks.


"Lizzie, you should be more excited." Bianca says.

"I am excited."

"Are you worried about formal dancing?" Rizalyn asks.

"No. I know how to waltz. I'll just follow the lead for the other dances."

"Did you go dress shopping?" Mikayla asks.

"No." I say and Jenn says, "Yes."

"Which is it?" Bianca asks.

"A shop brought their gowns to the house." Jenn says.

"No way." Tess says.

"Yes way. It was the coolest thing ever."

"It was strange." I say. "We were sitting on the couch while all the saleswomen brough in racks of gowns."

And Belle left with me alone with Jenn and Delilah. I couldn't enter their world of enthusiasm.

"But you still found a dress." Jenn says.

"Yes. I did still find a beautiful gown."

"Details please." Mikalya says.

"It's electric blue, strapless with flounces starting from the waist."

"Floor length?" Bianca asks.

"Of course."

Everyone laughs.

"Delilah asked for a matching tie and pocket square."

Jenn would mention that.

"For who?" Tess asks.

"For Finn."

"Lizzie, you have another supporter." Mikalya says.

"Yay." I deadpan.

"Why do you guys want them to be together?" Rizalyn asks.

"You haven't seen the beauty that is the two of them. I only got a glimpse last year. The only ones who truly know are Finn and Lizzie." Tess replies.

"Spare me. I get enough that daily."

"The girls here also want them to happen." Jenn explains.

"See? It's undeniable." Bianca says.

I start pacing.

"Anyway, I have to tell you about my dress. It's beige and empire waist. I bought the cutest shoes for it."

"Why didn't you get a bright dress like Lizzie?" Rizalyn asks.

"It was my favorite. Besides, Lizzie's the Belle of the Ball. Not really, because Belle will be there." Jenn says, putting a hand on my arm.

Everyone laughs and I stop fidgeting. I smile at her.

Tess asks about her shoes.

----- ----- -----

I step into the house.

"You said we'd do it in the spring. Closer to the date." A man's voice says.

"We thought this would be better." Belle replies.

"And neither of you told us." Another man's voice comes. "You don't have to look at her, Belle. I know it was her idea."

I look at the study group. Jenn shrugs.

"And I stand by it." Delilah says.

"I know you do. I can't believe you. And I can't believe Belle let you get away with it. Arthur and I were supposed to be here." The second voice says.

"Caleb, calm down." The first man says.

"Caleb?" I mouth to Jenn. She shrugs again.

I motion for the group to go up quietly. And then the door closes again.

And the study slams open.

"Finn?" Arthur says. "And 6 young ladies."

His eyes stop on me. Awkward.

"Hi. My name is Elizabeth Gent. I didn't know anyone would be home." I say, coming off the step.

"Hi, Lizzie. I'm Arthur Simms."

"Delilah left." Caleb Simms say.

Then, he stops and looks at me. How does he know to look at me? This is becoming too much.

"Hi, Lizzie. You probably know who I am. But for introductions sake, Caleb Simms at your service." He says, bowing.

I smile weakly and curtsy in reply.

"Nice to meet you. We can go to the public library." I say, looking at my group.

"Hey, guys." Caleb says, waving. "I don't know you."

"Jennifer Bertram. I came with Lizzie."

"Nice to meet you." He says, smiling.

"We'll get out of your way. You probably want to unpack."

"You guys should stay. Use the library here. It's almost as extensive as a real library." Arthur says.

"I see you've meet my brothers." Belle says coming into the foyer. "Go ahead and study. Dinner will be at 7 and everyone's invited."

"Pleasure meeting you, Liz." Arthur says, leading Caleb away.

I follow the group to the library.

"Was it just me or was that really weird?" I ask closing the door.

"It wasn't just you. The brothers weren't themselves." Mandy says, confused.

"I've never seen them fight. But I guess all siblings must." Chloe comments.

"Caleb and Delilah have always had sibling tension. I think it's because Caleb was the youngest for a while. I'm sure everything will be alright." Finn says.

"Yeah. I guess we should study."

We split into two groups, sophomores and seniors.

"So are you ready for the ball?" Allison asks, stretching.

"It's a benefit not a ball." I say. "I'm not Cinderella."

"It's your social debut."

I laugh.

"I suppose. I mean I'm not going to make that much of a difference."

"Everyone's going to want to meet you." Chloe says.

"Why?" I ask confused.

"When everyone finds out you're staying with the Simms, you'll be the main topic." Finn says.

He sounds sullen.

"So, like I said it's your social debut." Allison emphasizes.

"Fine, we'll call it that. I'm ready. We're getting our hair, nails, and makeup done."

"We're spending all day with Belle and Delilah." Jenn says, as the door opens. "It going to to be so much fun."

"I'm glad you feel that way. It's dinner time." Belle says.

I pack up so I'm the last out.

"Delilah's not joining us." Arthur says, when I look around the table.

I nod and sit down.

"Do you still have studying to do?" Caleb asks.

"Not today. We got most of it done. Lizzie's an ace." Allison says.

"She helped us at the same time." Nicole says.

"That's impressive." Arthur says and I shake my head. "No, really. I remember doing home work into Sunday night."

"And mom wasn't sure about sending us there. She thought the class load had gotten crazy." Caleb says.

There's a pause.

"Until she realized Arthur wasn't starting until Sunday morning. I'm glad I got to go. I always wanted to be an Alden girl." Belle explains.

"So buddy how have these girls been treating you?" Caleb asks Finn.


"It's been cool. Today was the first time we talked about clothes or anything. I blame the benefit."

"We talked about it for a moment." Chloe says, exasperated. "Why do guys act like all 'girly conversations' last forever?"

"Becasue it's fun to get this reaction." Finn smirks.

"What are you wearing, Finn?" Arthur asks.

"I don't know. My mom wanted to set it up."

He doesn't know?

I look at Belle. She smiles back, complacent. I feel like it was Delilah's idea.

"And you let her? You're such a good son." Caleb says.

"If she cares that much, then that's more important." Finn replies.

That's really sweet. I don't think I could do it. But it's still sweet.

"Since you don't have homework, how about we watch a movie?" Arthur asks.

Finn and I meet eyes. He has more homework than us.

"Sounds good." He says, still looking at me.

"And girls, you can sleep over tonight. Stephan can pick up anything you need." Belle says.

"Cool." Mandy says.

"I'll find out what time my mom wants me home tomorrow. I can take everyone back to the academy in the morning." Chloe offers.

And that's how I ended up hosting a sleepover.

----- ----- -----

Lindsay: Send me a picture when you and Jenn are all put together.

Allison: send me a pic.

This is why they're my best friends.

Jenn comes out of our room.

"Can you take a picture of us, Lucy?" I ask the head maid.

"Yes." She says.

She takes the picture and walks away quickly.

"Lucy doesn't talk very much."

"She talks to me sometimes. But maybe she's just really focused on working." Jenn says.

"That could be it." I say sending the picture.

Lindsay: Beautiful. Don't fall in those shoes. And have fun.

Me: Thanks. Have a good time at lunch. Tell me if there's any cute freshmen.

Lindsay: At the academy? Creepy.

Me: At Northwestern. You crazy.

Lindsay: I know. And I'm not going to tell you. You already have someone.

Me: We're not together.

Lindsay: You might as well be. Tess and Rizalyn are telling me to get ready.

Me: Rizalyn is excited to go?

Lindsay: She's antsy from nerves. Anyway, have a good time.

Me: Bye.

"Ready, Lizzie?" Jenn asks, picking up her clutch.

"Yep." I say, glancing at the mirror. "I mean, yes."

"We don't need to be proper until we get there."

"Lizzie, Jenn?" Belle calls up.

We leave the room and walk down the stairs.

Delilah gasps and I look up. Finn and the brothers are staring at me. Belle is … dabbing her eyes! Why?

"Jennifer, you look beautiful." Arthur says, assisting her down.

"Eliza, you okay?" Finn whispers.

"I don't understand everyone's reactions."

"Simple. You look gorgeous."

"Thank you."

I still think everyone's being too much. But when a guy says that, how do you think of anything else?

"Picture time." Michelle says.

"Where did she come from?" I ask Finn.

"Who knows."

We all pose for a picture.

"We'll meet you there." Caleb says.

"Girls, save me a dance." Arthur says.

The Simms leave.

Michelle takes pictures of the three of us.

"Now, just Finn and Lizzie."

"Good idea, Jenn." Michelle says, emphatically.


"Did you know about this?" Finn asks through his smile.

"No, I promise."

"I meant the blue tie. We're matching."

"I did. I didn't know it was a surprise until yesterday. Sorry."

"It's fine. Let's just appease them." He putting his arm around my shoulders.

I smile as the camera snaps a few more times.

"I think we're good mater. We're going to be late."

"Okay, thank you. See you there."

"Drive safe." Finn says, helping Jenn put her coat on.

"You too."

We get in the car as his parents drive off.

"Which fork do you use first?'

"It's the salad fork." I say. "She's nervous about dinner. Belle taught us everything quickly."

"Finn, do you know formal silverware?"


"Of course. Lizzie picked it up immediately like always. I'm going to be the only one to mess up."

"Jenn, you'll be fine." I say.

"And if you do mess up, Lizzie and I will too."

I smile at him and he smiles back.

"You guys rock. Okay, now we need music." She says, grabbing the phone hook up.

We talk and listen to music all the way there.

----- ----- -----

There are coat attendants. Good and proper coat attendants.

"Don't forget your ticket, Jenn." Finn says, handing it to her.

"Elizabeth Gent." I tell the hostess.

"Yes. Guest of the Simms. Party of three. Table 2."

"Thank you." I say, smiling and looking for our table.

"This way." Finn says, putting his hand on my back. “The higher the number, the closer to the stage."

"Good to have an expert around."

"I've only been to a couple of these. And they weren't happy occasions."


"Hi, Lizzie."Chloe says. "Looks like you're the completion of our table."

"So you're the young ladies staying with the Simms. George, help them sit down."

Finn scoots me in and George helps Jenn.

"Mom and dad, you know Finn. This is Lizzie and her sister Jennifer. Girls, this is my twin brother, George."

"Hi, guys. Jenn, you look amazing." Lynn says, standing behind George.

"Your brother's sitting there now, dear. Sit next to your father."


Mr. Lucas looks at her.

"Fine, we’ll just talk around George."

"Dancing will commence in 10 minutes."

"I'm going to talk to my father." Finn whispers to me. "Excuse me, Mr. & Mrs. Lucas."

"Jenn, would you like a drink?" George asks. "Lizzie?"

Lynn and Chloe look at each other.

"Yes, please." Jenn says and I nod.

He motions someone over and picks up two ciders.

I talk to Chloe and her parents until the first song. George asks Jenn to dance.

"Elizabeth Gent. I've heard so much about you." A woman says.

"Good or bad?" I joke and she doesn't laugh.

"Anyhow Charles," She motions for a young man. "Charles, this is Elizabeth Gent."

"Hello, Miss Gent. Would you care to dance?"


He leads me to the dance floor. We wait for an open space to join in.

I try to follow his lead but he messes up on the third rotation. I might be wrong so I ignore that thought.

"What do you do for work, Miss Gent?"

"I'm a high school student."

His mom may have heard of me but he hasn't.

"Oh. I'm in my freshman year at Harvard Law."

That means he's at least 5 years older than me.

"What do you think of the new courses in international and comparative law?"

"I think, well it provides a better education than before."

"What elective did you choose?" I ask.

"Are you thinking of going into law? Why are you asking so many questions?"

Because it’s polite.

"I'm not going to be a lawyer. I just read a lot of academic journals."

"I graduated 7th in my Academy class. What are you?"

"Last year, I was 3rd but only by 4 points."

Charles' face sours.

"I prefer not to talk about work at events."

I'm tempted to roll my eyes but that's not acceptable. I catch Finn’s eye. He sends me a confused look.

"The girl with you is your sister, correct?"

"Yes. Her name is Jennifer."

"You look nothing alike. She has black hair and brown eyes while you have blonde hair and blue eyes. Your face shape and body types are different as well. Different fathers?"

I can't even tell if he's trying to imply anything or if he's just nosy.

"We're not blood sisters."

"So she's adopted? Or were you adopted first?"

"Neither. We decided we were sisters. Jenn and I, no parents involved."

He looks at me confused so I change the topic.

"What do you do for fun?"

"Snowboard, surf anything that requires travel. My friends and I hate going to the same place or doing something basic. Like last year, we went snowboarding in Keystone but that's still in America. So this year, we went to Les Contamines, France and each got their own cabin."

That doesn't even sound fun.

"That's interesting."

"You'd love it. This winter we'll make it more expensive. I'll add you to the list."

"It's okay. It's not really my scene." I say as the music ends.

"Nice dancing with you." He says and walks away.

I go back to my table. I'm waiting with the Lucases for three songs before another young man asks me to dance.

I dance four more times in over an hour. My partners don't get worse. But they don't get better either. They make it obvious their parents made them ask me or they just think I'm pretty.

I sit down and try not to slouch. I see Jenn dancing with George for the fifth time. They have changed partners but keep making their way back to each other.

"Last dance before dinner."

I haven’t seen the Simms since they made a brief entrance. I look for them. Instead, I look in the spot I was avoiding. Finn is against a wall, glaring at the room at large.

"Elizabeth Gent?"

"Lizzie." I correct, again.

"Yeah well. I'm Cameron. Can we dance?"

Finn comes to my side.

"Chloe, would you like to dance?"

Chloe looks at me.

"Yes. I'll dance with you." I tell the kid in front of me.

He takes my hand and leads me to the floor.

I see Finn and Chloe come to the floor.

"How old are you?" I ask.

"I'll be 15 next month."

He's closer to my age but whoever sent him is just as misguided as Charles' mother.

"Who told you to dance with me?"

"My dad. He said he needs the Simms to like us."

"Next time your dad sends you to make a business deal, don't answer the key person with yeah well. Politeness goes a long way."

"But I don't want to dance with you. I want to dance with Miranda."

And I want to dance with Finn. I look over Cameron's shoulder to see Finn glaring in my direction. At me or the kid it doesn't matter. It's not acceptable.

"Tell you what. If you can get even less people to dance with me, I'll put in a good word about your parents. You just have to promise me one other thing."

"Alright." He says, warily.

"You'll ask Miranda to dance three non consecutive times after dinner. She may say no because she's shy, her parents tell her to, or because she doesn't want to dance you. You have to stop at three so you don't pester her."

Cameron smiles.

"I can do that."

We talk comfortably after that.

"Lizzie." Jenn says, taking my hand.

"Having fun?"

"Tons. I've messed up on dances. But everyone's been nice about it."

"Especially George?" I whisper.

"Yeah, he's nice." She responds.

She's not sold?

Finn scoots me in and sits down.

"You're lovely dancers." Mrs. Lucas says.

"Thank you." I reply.

"I can't believe the Ridgewoods sent Cameron to dance with you." Chloe says.

"I know. But he's adorable."

"He is. He's been in love with Miranda Adams since they were in elementary."

"And Miranda?"

"Same but she's really shy."

"But he seems shy."

"Nah, he's just really obedient. Dating isn't his family's plan right now."

"Well, I told him to dance with her. A couple dances isn't going to hurt."

"You guys do realize they're not even 15, right? They don't need people cheering them on." Finn says.

"Of course they don't. It's just good to see. And they can use a little push." I reply.

The salad comes. I poke Jenn and she smiles.

The Lucases ask us questions and make an effort to get to know us. The soup and main course are delicious. Lynn keeps looking at George. Chloe keeps looking at Finn and I. Fun and awkward. It should become my slogan.

"Mr. Arthur Simms has some words to say."

Dessert comes while he's going to the stage. It's a chocolate and fruit masterpiece.

"Hello and thank you for joining us tonight. My siblings and I appreciate your support. It’s been 10 years since Belle and I started managing the company. To commemorate, we have taken on a ward. Elizabeth Gent is now under the protection of the Peyton Empire."

The spotlight hits me. And I stand up in surprise.

I'm what?!?!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It's been dreary lately. It's June. And the weather can't make up its mind. It was over 100 on Monday and then it was drizzling on Tuesday.

The weather isn't doing anything for my mood. I haven't been sleeping well because, as always, I'm afraid of my dreams. I don't want to eat or leave the house. I want to lay in bed and watch tv.

I'm taking a break from therapy because I started working this week. I know my medication is a good fit. I know my cycle will affect my mood. But I really need a upturn.

I hope a change of weather will help.

P.S. I'll probably be complaining of heat in a couple weeks but sometimes the wish is too overpowering.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Jaded: Chapter 6

Chapter 6

I shoot up in bed and check the time. 2:14 am. Jennifer’s nightmares usually come between 12 and 1. We’ve passed the critical point. I lay back down.

Only now I can’t sleep. I’m fully awake. 2:38 am. I’m going for a walk. I check on Jenn. She’s sound asleep.

I slip outside to the backyard.

I’m going to a benefit. I’ve been seeing young enterpeanuers go to benefits for as long as I can remember. Magazines would feature them and their celebrity guests. There were even a few shown on TV. And I’ll be attending one.

I sit against the tree and stare up at the stars.

I hear a sigh. I lean around the tree.


“Oh, hi Eliza. What are you doing out here?”

“I was planning on going on a walk but I’m sitting against this tree instead. How about you?”

“Couldn’t sleep, again.”

I stare at him, wide-eyed. Finn has a steady sleep pattern.

“How are the girls doing without their fearless leader?” Finn asks robotically.

“Do you actually care or are you just turning the conversation?”

“I care.” He says, glancing at me. “Did I do something to bother you?”

“You keep getting lost in thought and observing. Now you’re not sleeping. I feel like I ruined your senior year by uprooting you.”

“I’m just doing my job.”

I lean away from him. He scoots over.

“That’s not how I meant it, Eliza. I’m observing and thinking because I’m doing my job. I’m glad I get to go to school with you. I told you that. I just don’t want to get in your way.”

“You’re not getting in my way by being a part of the conversation. You wouldn’t be getting in my way if you wanted to suggest anything. I want to enjoy going to school with you too. I want to see your hometown through your eyes.”

“I moved here when I was eight.”

“I’ve moved around since I was eight. I don’t even remember which street I grew up on. Seeing that connection for someone else is amazing.”

“Fine, we’ll go this weekend.” He says, closing his eyes and leaning against the tree.

“Finn? Are you okay?”

“I’m just…”

“Don’t you dare say lost in thought!”

He opens his eyes and smiles, lazily.

Don’t distract me by smiling either.

“Alright, alright. It’s just a little uncomfortable being home. I haven’t had a routine at home since I was 14. It’s difficult having them telling me what to do after being so independent.”

I hum in reply because I have nothing to say.

Finn sits straight up.

“Oh man, Eliza. I’m so sorry. I don’t have anything to complain about. That was rude of me.”

“Finn, I already told you. You don’t have to feel bad talking about your family. I’m used to not having a mom and dad. I may not always understand but it’s a part of who you are so I’ll try.”

Finn nods.

“It’s just a bit strange because they raised me to be an independent child.”

I wonder what kind of child I was.

“But now they’re reluctant to let me do my own thing. Dad’s reminding me to train and the code of conduct. Mom’s telling me to schedule and wash my clothes.”

“Do you have a hard time remembering to wash your clothes?”

“Well, we can’t all have maids like some people.” He says nudging me. “No, I don’t. She’s just being a mom.”

“Okay. What’s the code of conduct?”

“My dad’s school demands respect, trust and sacrifice. We conduct ourselves in a dignified way to be respected. We instill trust by not treating a client as a friend or being romantically involved with them. And we are willing to protect our client at the highest cost.”

“Why in the world did you get picked to be my bodyguard, then?”

“That’s what I’m wondering.”

“I mean, you’re dignified enough and I completely trust you. But you were my friend before you were my bodyguard.”

Finn nods and our eyes met. I look away immediately.

Just friend.

“Why would they have my friend watch me?”

“I think it was to make you feel comfortable. My dad chose a young adult so you wouldn’t stand out too much at school.”

“Because bringing a boy doesn’t make me stand out.”

Finn laughs and leans back.

“Wait Finn, are you willing to sacrifice anything to protect me?”

“I’m hoping it won’t come to that because I’d have only a split second to decide.”

“Some guard.” I mutter.

“I’m kidding, Eliza. I would be willing to protect you no matter what, even if I wasn’t your guard.” He says, putting an arm around me.

“Good. So should I ask your dad to fire you so you stop being so reserved?”

“Getting paid to go to school is nice and I’m not breaking all the rules yet so no.”

“Alright but I’m firing you the moment you stop being dignified.”


We watch the stars for a moment.

“I’m going for my walk.” I say, standing.

Finn catches up to me.

“Are you ever going to tell me your story with Jenn?”

----- ----- -----

“I won’t leave Jenn!” I declare.

“Jenn will be fine. You knew we specialize in young girls.”

You shouldn’t. You’re not kind enough.

“We’ve been looking for fosters since you turned 10.”

She pushes me through the door.

“No. Jenn and I need each other. We make each other better.”

“Elizabeth. Stop this right now.”

“We don’t have room for problematic girls. Maybe the timing isn’t---.” Says the woman I met last week.

“No. She’s a great girl. She cares for the younger girls well.”

I care for one girl.

“You and Jennifer may correspond via letter. Give her a book and she’ll be fine.” Roxanne says to the couple, handing the man my belongings.

I follow them out. Once I got in the car I look at the building. Jenn's in the side yard staring at me. I wave as long as I could see her and try not to cry.

We traded letters for 10 months.

“Beth, you have mail.” Mr. _____ says at the breakfast table.

I open the letter.

Dear Jennifer,

I’m glad school is going so well. Congratulations on your test scores. I knew there was a reason you could understand my homework.

I’m good. Mr. and Mrs. ____ are still trying to get me to call them by their first names. It feels rude though. We’re going on a road trip starting August 16, two weeks before school.

How is your first week of summer?

Love, Beth

I drop the envelope in confusion.

“Beth? What’s wrong?” Mrs. _____ asks.

“This fell out.” Kendall says, handing me a piece of paper.

Jennifer has been adopted by a young woman. Take care, Elizabeth Gent.

Ms. Roxanne ______

I didn’t leave my room for a week. It took me another week to leave the house.

“Beth, assisting Doug starts this week. I know you’re sad but can you do it with me?” Kendall asks.

“Yes.” I say, picking up a new book.

“You just put down your last one. Do you want to go skating with us?”

I shake my head.

I worked the rest of the summer. We went on our road trip and school started. Roxanne _____ would not give me Jenn’s new address.

Then the ______ had to stop being fosters to care for her mom. They adopted Kendall while the other three girls were sent to an orphanage. Our records got lost in the scuffle. Our records were based on our memory.

I was only in the orphanage for 3 months before I was taken into another one.

A year passed with me going to school, reading, and assisting Mrs. ____ with errands and tutoring.

An announcement shook the home.

I wasn’t interested but Mrs. _____ made every girl take it. We lived so close to the academy that she would be able to see us.

I passed because of the training I had in obscure subjects such as Latin.

“Girls. We have a new family member, Jennifer.” Mrs. Bachchan says.

I’m not going to look up. I’m not falling for it again. Jennifer is happily adopted.

“Go ahead, dear. Introduce yourself.”

“My name is Jennifer _____.” Comes the clear voice.

I look up.

I scream and stand.

“Beth Gent. What are you doing?”

“Elizabeth Gent? Lizzie?” Jennifer asks as I hug her.

“Jenn. Jennifer is that really you?”

“It’s me, Lizzie. Is it you?”

“Yes.” I say, laughing and tearing up. “This is really happening.”

“Oh, Lizzie, I’ve missed you so much.”

“Me too. But what are you doing here?”

“My mom, Susan, I was adopted.” I nod. “She died three weeks ago.” Jenn starts crying.

I hug her tighter.

“Why don’t you girls go catch up? I’ll save some lunch for you.” Mrs. Bachchan says.

I lead Jenn to my room. She tells me all about her adoptive mom and their lives together. She tells me about the past month, how Susan was just running an errand. She was supposed to be gone for an hour. Then her adoptive grandfather picked up a call. She had spun off the road and hit a tree. She was only 42.

“Jenn, I’m so sorry. You’ve had to experience so much pain in such a short life.”

Her mom, dad, aunt, cousin and now adoptive mom.

“Papa moved to a home in this town. I’m not alone. And I found you again.” Jenn’s eyes widen. “I’m sorry I never wrote you. The first 6 months were hard to adjust to. I wrote you last January but it was returned.”

“It’s okay.”

“I promised myself I would apologize the moment I saw you.”

“Jennifer, it is okay. Roxanne _____ told me you got adopted. I was happy to know you were being taken care of.”

“I actually never stopped writing to you. Hold on.”

Jenn runs to her suitcase. She comes back with a box.

We read her letters and relive the moments.

While Jenn eats a late lunch, I talk to Mrs. Bachchan. She promises to make sure Jenn stays in town so she can be near me and test for the academy.

Thankfully two years later she got in as well.

----- ----- -----

“Wow. I never knew.”

“Lindsay is the only one I’ve told.”

“You’d never guess that Jenn has gone through all that.”

“She’s great at hiding it. And she’s dealt with most of it.”

“Yeah?” Finn looks at me. “I knew you moved a lot but the _____ adopted Kendall only?”

“She had been with them the longest and knew Mrs. ____'s mother. She was basically their daughter.”

“But it was another big change in such a short time period.”

“Finn, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that things change quickly.”

“I guess but didn’t you want to be a part of a family?”

“I don’t think the tradition type of family is the only kind of family. I love and care about the ____ and I’ll continue to do so even if I don’t know where they are or what they’re doing. To me, that’s family.”

“That makes sense. I mean that’s what my family has done for years. Eliza?”

“Yes?” I ask surprised.

He doesn't really have to get my attention since he already has it.

“Will you be my date next Saturday?”

Next Saturday? What’s happening next Saturday?

“For the benefit? Of course. How did you hear about it?”

“My dad called me as soon as school let out. I knew the Simms would want to tell you.”

“Oh, ok. I was going to ask you to be my date and, um, bodyguard tomorrow. Or rather, today.”

“Yeah, I guess you can’t go with anyone else anyway.”

“Well not when I have my own built in bodyguard/escort.”

“You know what? I have training tomorrow morning. I should get to sleep.” Finn says, standing.

I barely get out a bye before he jogs away.

Did I say something wrong?

----- ----- -----

Finn fulfilled his promise. We're exploring the town.

But he's not speaking to me.

"What happened between you and Finn?" Allison asks.


"Lizzie, he hasn't smiled this entire time. You two were silent in the front seat. Something happened."

"I thought it was going pretty well. We talked Friday. There were awkward pauses. I visited Michelle and he walked me home."

"What kind of awkward pauses?

"Like we'd be talking and our eyes would meet. The person whose turn it was would be silent. And then I'd look away."

"Wow, girl. For all your maturity and intelligence, you don't know anything about developing a relationship. That’s the time to flirt."

"I don't know how to flirt."

"Yes you do." I look at her surprised. :You and Finn can't have a conversation without flirting. It’s just not intentional so when your subconscious picks it up, you both freeze.Then, you change the path. But that can't be the only problem. What else?"

"Guys, hurry up." Mandy beckons us as Finn helps her off the boat.

We walk down. Finn helps Allison and then reaches out his hand. I'm about to take it, when he puts his hands on my waist and lifts me down.

"Since your balance is terrible."

I'm getting deja vu.

"I can get off a boat." I say.

Finn shrugs before catching up with the other girls.

"See what I mean? No progress, ever. But seriously, there's something else."

"I told him a personal story. And we're going to the benefit together."

"As a date?"

I relay our conversation.

"That's the second time you two faked me out. Lizzie, he asked you on a date."

"But he was already going to the benefit. And he says date all the time. I don't think he meant anything by it."

"You said you visited Michelle, right?"

"Yeah. So what?

"Did she show you videos and pictures of the family?"

"Yeah. Have you seen them?"

Allison smiles.

"No. He won't let anyone see them. He says they're too embarrassing. The fact that you've seen them means you're different. You said you've been talking about things you avoided before. You're willing to share all."

"But we're both reserved. Maybe we're finally able to share these things."

"And maybe the sky's green. You are both reserved. And it's only because I'm so chill that you've opened up to me so much. But there's a force causing you to think of all the things you don't know about each other. You need to stop repressing it by looking away or changing the topic. Or it may ruin your relationship."

We enter the gallery.

"I'll let you think about that." Allison says, walking away.

I look at some jewelry and paintings. I stop at a painting of a little boy and girl at the shore. Finn walks by.

"Finn, is this the shore we walked past?"

He glances at the painting.


Stop repressing it, I think.

"I like this painting."

"You've been looking at it for 10 minutes. I'm not surprised."

I'm silent. I guess he feels bad because he leans in to look closer.

"She has your hair."

"Yeah, I guess she does." I say, touching my dirty blonde hair.

"It's been here for years. Other things change but they haven't sold this yet."

"Maybe the artist doesn't want it sold. I feel like the message reaches more people this way."

"What's the message?" He asks, curious.

"I think we're supposed to imagine ourselves as the young kids on the beach. There's a joy and freshness that the painting gives off. Maybe it's their first time for the summer or their last. Maybe it was a surprise or an event looked forward to."

"Maybe." He says, walking to the next painting.

Allison walks up.

"I don't know if I can face the force alone." I whisper to her.

Thursday, June 4, 2015


I was thinking about elementary school today.

We used to play games that only required our body. We'd chase each other. We would be monsters and jumps out at each other. We played hand games and even made up some of our own.

It's funny what used to entertain me at a young age. I want to say that I matured. That it requires more complex things to engage me now. However, I think I'm worse off for it.

Children can create things to do. They use their imagination and figure out how to make it work. I wish I still had that ability.

I guess that's why I like working with children. I get to see them use their minds. It also teaches me how to have that mind again.