~ Dealing With Issues ~
by Eveh


Disclaimer: Two People here may seem kind of similar to ones we all know, however these characters are mine.

Content: Two women here are in love although it's not very graphic; just know it's here. As far as language goes?well that's not too bad either. This would actually be rated PG-13 and that's really stretching it.

Other Stuff: If you have not read all those Accident stories I wrote then this will make absolutely no sense to you. You might want to read all those first considering that I'll say this is actually part of the Accident series, which now includes What Happened After?, Extended Family: Just Starting Out and Unsettled..And just as a warning I'm going to say that I won't be writing anything more about Tori for a while.

Feed the Bard at XenGab01@aol.com

©2001


I still have in my mind the picture of Latrice lying so serenely on her bed covered with so much blood and chaos. Her dark brown eyes stared back at me with a frightening amount of instantly gained clarity that revealed that they had found peace. I however was not given that luxury. My peace that I had just recovered was washed away in one person's selfish desire to escape the burdens of reality.

I folded the letter that Latrice had left me and placed it in my back pocket of my black Tommy jeans. Only once more did I turn and look at my roommate, just so that I could be sure I was indeed seeing what my brain said I was seeing. Then, I turned my back on her body and walked out of our dorm room. I closed and locked the door behind me, there was no need for anyone else to see what I had just been forced to see.

With solid determined steps I made my way across the hall towards my friend's room. She wasn't there but I was able to get in anyway. She had given me a key a long time ago. I'd stay in her room when I needed to get away from Latrice. It is an ironic fact now?

My phone call to the police came from that room. I don't really remember what I said or what they asked. They did say that they'd be there soon. I think the operator wanted me to stay on the phone longer but I hung up anyway. I had someone else to call.

With a motion as automatic as breathing I picked up the phone again and dialed the number to my home in California. Samantha picked up the phone on the second ring and as soon as her voice had reached my ears, I could not stop the torrent of tears that had been on the verge of falling since I first walked into my dorm room.

"Mama," I whimpered into the phone through my tears. "There was so much blood Mama."

"Tori?!" Sam yelled into the phone. "Is that you? What's wrong? What happened?" I could tell she was on the verge of panicking but I could do nothing to mollify her.

"She's dead Mama and she left me the note... she left me the note," I strangled out.

"Tori who's dead? What's going on?" She asked slowly her voice surprisingly calm.

There was a light tap on the door and I turned towards it. I knew it would probably be the police on the other side. "I have to go now Mama. I think the police are here."

"Police?!"

"I really have to go now, bye." I hung up the phone even though I could clearly hear her yelling at me not to. I stood up from the position I had taken while on the phone and opened the door. I was correct when I guessed that it would be a police officer standing on the other side.

The hours passed by while I watched the police come and leave. A school councilor even found me and tried to talk to me but I pushed him away. He forced me to make an appointment with him later. I had no place to go and nothing to occupy my racing mind. I was stuck in a continuous loop of seeing myself opening my dorm door for the first time that day. I see myself reaching for the handle and finding the door locked. I pull out my key and unlock the door. In the back of my mind I am yelling at myself telling me not to open the door. My body doesn't listen and soon I am looking at Latrice for the first time all over again. I am finding her note addressed to me, and am reading it carefully. I hate her words more then anything I have ever hated in my life.

There's a knocking on the door and I jump up from the bed. I am not in my room, but am in my friends. I was dreaming of the events that had taken place only hours before. The knock at the door comes again and I roll out of the bed slowly and stumble my way to the door. Without caring who was on the other side I opened it and found myself looking down into worried green eyes.

"Mama?" My voice is gruff from sleep and silent tears. "What are you doing here?"

Sam gives me no answer. She simply reaches out and gathers me in her arms. I go to her willingly.

"I'm so sorry, baby," she gently whispers into my ear.

I pulled slightly away from her allowing my tears to flow unhindered. "Mama, I wanna go home." I tell her pathetically.

Sam reached up and wiped away some of my tears with her thumb. "Ok," she answered me softly. "Is there anything you need from your room?" She asks gently as she moves an errant strand of hair away from my eye.

I shook my head slowly, not wanting to even picture what could be on the other side of my dorm room door. I never want to go in that room again.

Sam led me out of the dormitory and before I knew anything I was lying on a bed in some hotel room waiting for the morning to come so I could catch a plane and be on my way back home. I had to stay around for the day anyway to be available to the police, the media, and my personal favorite, Latrice's family.

Someone had called her parents and they had arrived within a few hours. They were sitting across from me on some tacky loveseat belonging to the hotel. They looked at me with disbelieving, mournful eyes. I had just given them the note that Latrice had left for me and they had read it more then just a few times and they still looked confused.

"Why did she do it Tori?" Latrice's mother asks me. I can tell she is holding back tears and I don't blame her for trying to be stoic now, because once the tears start I don't think they really ever stop.

Unfortunately, I had no answer for the woman. I understood her daughter's actions no better or no worse then she did. I knew this woman who sat across from me. I had met her before when Latrice had proudly introduced me as the girl who had helped her so much. She had, at one time, thanked me for helping her daughter out and for being there to support her. Latrice's mother had called me a positive influence in her daughter's life.

Without an answer, I looked at the woman fighting to not let my head drop and look away from the face that was just an older Latrice. "I don't know ma'am." I shrugged my shoulders. "I really don't know."

Mrs. Williams nodded her head accepting my answer or lack thereof. "Did you want to keep this?" She asked me holding up Latrice's letter.

I just nodded my head and accepted what she had offered me... her daughter's last words. It may have been addressed to me but she was not my daughter. I was not the one who gave birth to her and raised her to the best of my ability. It was indeed an honor to receive this small compliment from Mrs. Williams.

Mrs. Williams asked me no more questions about the whys or what ifs. I think she knew there was no answer I could give her. The true reason, the reason that made sense, had left?no had died with Latrice.

Mr. Williams just sat there next to his wife and looked at me. His eyes were vacant of the warmth he usually had flowing to you through them. Latrice was his baby girl and he could not save her. He had out lived his precious little heart. I knew of the pain he felt. When I had first met him after that incident with Jacob he had told me about how important Latrice was to him. He had told me proudly of what she had accomplished and of what she had done to make him shout praise for his little girl.

It is one thing to stare into the eyes of a dead body whose soul had already left but it is something else entirely to look upon the face of a living man and watch something inside him die. Whether it is the death of hope, freedom, will or anything else beloved to him, to watch it die is a very tragic thing. The man was not lifeless yet his life had left him.

"Where were you when this happened?" Mr. Williams' voice was somber.

"At home," my voice was rough so I cleared my throat. "It was Spring Break, you know, and I needed to be with my family."

"Did you know she was going to do this?" He asked obviously trying to put some blame somewhere.

"No sir, I did not." I told him firmly. I was not going to play this game of blame with him. "Did you?" This was probably not the best thing to ask or the best response I could have made, but I am entitled; after hours of crying, exhaustion, heartache, and a year supply of bad dreams, to have bad judgment.

Mr. Williams leapt from his seat and his large frame towered above me. He was a large black man who easily weighed at least hundred more pounds then me. He was a very muscular man who had played professional football in his youth. Now, he was an assistant coach for some high school football team. From what Latrice had told me he was going to be head coach after the coming year.

"Are you suggesting that I knew my daughter was going to kill herself?" He slowly asked me enunciating each word with extreme care.

I stood from my seat below him forcing him to take a step back. He was still taller then me, but I was already angry and hurting and was at the point where I had had enough. "No sir, I would never suggest that because I know you cared for her very much." I took a moment to swallow carefully pushing back the lump that lodged itself in my throat. "But why would you think that of me?"

Mr. Williams pulled his head back. He looked shocked by himself and by my words. I could tell he wanted to fight, he wanted to do something that was within his control and it just so happened I was the one standing before him and I was the one that would be Latrice's scapegoat. Mr. Williams shove his finger on my chest and forced me to make a small step of retreat. "You were suppose to protect her and help her," he growled out. "I trusted you."

"Edward," Mrs. Williams yelled from her position on the loveseat. "Stop it. This was not Tori's fault."

Mr. Williams simply ignored her and continued to stare down at me. "You were supposed to be there for her."

In all honesty that hurt me to hear him say that. It's not like that same thought had never run itself across my mind. I was supposed to be there for her. I was supposed to be the one there helping her when her thoughts had turned so melancholy that killing herself had become a real option.

"I needed support to," I said through a carefully released breath. "I think you've forgotten Mr. Williams that while your daughter was in pain and had nightmares of that night I did too." I took a steady breath. "I killed a man for your daughter Williams. I don't think you have the right to ask anything else of me."

If I had hit him with my fist I don't think I would have gotten the same flinch as my words had caused. The man deflated like a large parade balloon. He collapsed in on himself and the anger that was so easily there as an answer to his pain vanished, and I didn't catch him when he fell. I was done catching people from their pain. I had too much of my own to deal with.

Sam entered the hotel room just as the large man crumpled. She had left when Latrice's parents first arrived to call Dana who had stayed at home to watch Riana. Her emerald green eyes looked at the man kneeling on the floor then tracked over to me. She left Mr. Williams on the floor and immediately went to my side. Mrs. Williams would have to be the one to console her husband.

My mother placed her hand gently on my arm forcing me to look down into her eyes. There were more tears that insisted to be shed, but I held back. I was through crying for at least this day.

"Maybe you two should leave now," Sam told Latrice's parents managing not to sound in the least bit offending. "We just all need some time alone right now."

Mrs. Williams had moved from the loveseat to her husband's grief filled body and looked up at Sam for a long moment making solid eye contact. After a moment of complete silence-Mr. Williams even quit from his sobs-Mrs. Williams nodded her head and helped her husband up off the floor.

"Let's go Ed," she told him carefully. They moved towards the hotel door and Mr. Williams continued his trek out, not once looking back at me. Mrs. Williams did turn though and looked at me for a very long moment. "I'm sorry that this happened to you Tori. We've very much appreciated the support you showed Latrice," her head turned and glanced at her husband's retreating form. "I know he didn't really mean what he said to you?he's just really hurting and I know that's not a very good excuse." She edged past the threshold of the door and placed her hand on the doorknob. "I'm sure we'll talk to you again later," she said as she shut the door behind her and disappeared.

I stood there and looked at the closed door for a long moment. I could feel Sam standing next to me allowing me this moment. She wasn't going to ask any questions or try to offer words of comfort. This was my moment to make a quick assessment of what had just happened and what I should and shouldn't react to.

The moment passed and I took a deep breath then slowly released it. I turned to my mother and told her everything that had transpired in her absence. She was understandably upset by Mr. Williams's reactions. I'm sure if she had been present when he had began placing the blame on my shoulders that she would have been immediately in front of him putting him back in his place.

A part of me wished that she had been there. That way I wouldn't of had to have protected myself from an assault that had the potential to cause me serious mental anguish. Mr. Williams confirming that some blame could be put on my shoulders did nothing for my tired mind. It could only proliferate the thoughts that I actually was at some fault. It gave some creed to the feeling of guilt that I couldn't help but let wash over me.

Yet, this was all just another event in my life where I would have to live through it and learn from it.

I was damned tired of learning things.

***************

I never did return home the day after I found Latrice. Her funeral was going to be within that same week and I couldn't leave without attending. I needed to say goodbye to her one last time if only to tell her that I did understand.

Now that's a frightful thing to admit. To actually announce that I understand why she did what she did. It makes me question my own mental stability, but I do understand why she did it. It's even harder to admit that I understand the "why", because I had thought of suicide before. At some point in my life it had become that same real option that it had become for Latrice.

I understood her sleepless nights and waking hours of pain. I understood that when she closed her eyes only one scene would play again and again in her mind's eye. Everything she had gone through I had suffered through right beside her.

There was this song that Latrice and I had heard once together and could never play it again. The first part went something like: Ooh Lordy now, troubles so hard. Ooh?Lordy now, troubles so hard. Don't nobody know my troubles with God?Don't nobody know my troubles with God.

The song basically repeated itself again and again, but still hit somewhere deep inside my soul where I was yelling out that nobody understood what the hell was going on with me. Everyone was always telling me that they understood and they were really supportive, but unless they had taken a life I didn't give their understanding any true credit.

I can't listen to that song anymore without thinking about one of those days way back when, when all my troubles were just too damn hard. Times do get better though, and I healed from that wound Jacob caused. Now, I just had to gather my courage again and heal from the wound Latrice had reopened and the one she created.

Dana flew down to the Lone Star State along with Riana and Kel in tow. She wanted to be at the funeral with me and I guess Kel bared the same sentiment. I needed the support so I didn't even try to talk them out of coming.

My whole family stayed in the hotel Sam and I had stayed at that first night. Kel got her own room and I decided to bunk with her. Being surrounded constantly by Sam and Dana's good intent could get a bit stifling at times. I knew that Kel would try to get my mind away from things and that's really what I needed at the time. I was tired of feeling bad and I needed a break from all the seriousness and grief; such things weigh heavily on a person's soul.

The night before Latrice's funeral Kel and I were sitting on the floor leaning against the couch that faced the television. We were in one of the hotel's nicest rooms because Kel wouldn't stay in anything less. There was some movie on that neither of us were paying extreme attention to. With a bowl of popcorn between us and some nice cold cans of Coke in front of us we sat back and enjoyed the calm before the storm.

I didn't feel particularly chatty and Kel didn't bother to even try to goad me into a conversation. This was the most comfortable I had been in the four days since I found Latrice which in actuality felt like four years.

"That slut!" Kel points at the television screen and jumps up from her position on the floor. "I can't believe she did that!"

"Who did what when?" I asked maintaining my position on the floor.

"That slut Josie bitch-face Atkinson." Kel spit out. "I can't believe she did that."

I turn my head towards the TV and glance at the young woman who is currently on screen being interviewed by some reporter about some movie. It was a promotion that some cable network was doing for their new series. Apparently the movie we had been watching had ended and I didn't even really seem to notice. I guess my thoughts were just turned elsewhere.

Wanting to be fully supportive of my friend I jumped up off of the floor as well and yelled at the television. "I can't believe her," I yelled. "For her to do something so insidious is just awful."

Kel put her hands on her arms and stared at me indignantly. "I know."

I crossed my arms over my chest and took a firm stance. "She has some nerve to do what she did."

"To think that I actually slept with her." That comment from Kel threw me through a loop but it was her life and the woman on TV was attractive, I guess. I personally thought she could do better.

This Josie person was a redhead who had a hair cut that framed her face. She was cute in an 'I'm a slut' kinda way. Her skin was rather pale and carried no hint of a tan. She didn't seem like she was too tall and it seemed like her acting career would only include such features as: Made For Teenager Movie I and Made For Teenager Movie II. Both movies would include the plot of 'I'm a popular person and you're not, but a cool guy likes you so you fall in love instantly and now you're cool by association?and stuff.'

"For shame," I said gravely shaking my head for effect.

Kel took her gaze away from the TV and looked at me with an amused expression. "You don't even know what she did."

I shrugged my shoulders. "No," I drew out the word, "but if she did something that made you yell at the TV then damn it." I stomped my foot on the ground. "I'm ready to take her out."

My friend just smiled at me and I could feel the aggression that had suddenly appear wash away from her body. "Always getting my back huh?"

I cocked my head to the side slightly surprised by the statement. "Always," I said as if it were the most known fact in the world. "But I would like to know what she did. If I'm going to hate somebody I should at least know the reason why."

Kel moved over to the couch and plopped down very unceremoniously into it. "She took that part away from me," she answered pointing again to the television.

I turned around and looked at the screen once more and listened to the producer of the film explain that the movie was going to be about a drug addict's struggle towards recovery. He called it a "very pivotal role for any young actress to play".

"For some reason Kel, that Josie," I pointed to the screen, "doesn't really seem like the kind of person that can pull off that part." I moved over to the couch and took a seat beside my friend. "Why didn't you get it?"

Kel's soft blue eyes studied me for a moment as she was obviously formulating some type of answer. "I guess I wasn't good enough." She mumbled out after her careful appraisal of my fašade.

"You're lying." I responded quickly. "Would you like to try answering my question again, this time preferably with the truth."

Kel sighed heavily and ran her hand through her silky blonde hair. "I couldn't make the call-back they had set up for me because I wanted to be here with you," she confessed.

I wasn't sure whether I wanted to strangle or hug her for giving up something so important to her for me. I just chose to reach out and tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear to keep away from her face. "Always got my back, huh?"

My friend smiled then imitated my earlier gesture of when she had asked me the same question. "Always," she responded softly.

"You know," I looked at my friend intently in the eye. "If you really want that part, I can make sure you get it." And it was the truth. I had a lot of connections inside the movie industry because of my biological parents and also because of my own experience within the industry. If Kel wanted that part I could make sure she had signed a contract by the next afternoon or evening at the latest.

Kel shook her head. "You know I've always liked earning my own parts Tori. I've never let you help me out before and I'm not going to do that now." She reached out and grabbed my hand. "You're my friend, and even though knowing you has helped my career, I don't want to use you to advance my career."

"But you lost this part because of me," I protested. "I'm just making sure that the deserving person gets the part."

"The person who showed up for the call-back got the part, Tori," Kel gently explained. "She deserves that role even if she did snatch it away from me."

"Yeah well," I grumbled, "you'd have that role if it wasn't for me and we both know that."

Kel reached out and grabbed my hand grasping it tightly within her own. "I love you Tori, and no movie or single role is going to ever be more important then you. Whenever you need me, whether you know it or not, I'm going to be there for you." She lowered her eyes and her eyelids were rapidly blinking back tears.

I reached out and drew her lowered head closer to me and placed a gentle kiss upon the top. "What did I ever do to deserve a friend like you?" I asked her telling myself I would not cry.

Blue eyes just peered up at me and a tiny smirk formed on my friend's face. "You just got lucky,"

Kel's comment releases some of the tension that has built up between us and I let a laugh fall past my lips.

"You're right I did," I tell her smiling broadly still letting a few chuckles escape. "And I love you too."

Kel stares at me for a long moment. I know what she wishes to say and I know I am not prepared for it. Too many things had been going on in my life recently and I didn't need any more complications or anything more to analyze and over analyze. Things needed to be simple. Things needed to be so simplistic that the most important thought that would have to cross my mind is what I would be wearing the next day.

My friend saw my unready ness written so clearly on my face and she chose to forgo a conversation that had long been brewing between us. We would and could not speak of such things now. In my flawed state I could do something we would both regret later on. My could-be words and actions could be the cause of me loosing the best friend I ever had, and by no means was I prepared to do that.

"I'm tired," Kel says instead of her true thoughts, "let's get some sleep." She stands from her place on the couch pulling me up with her because our hands, somehow, were still joined.

I follow her to the bedroom and plop myself on top of the bed. I feel Kel slide in beside me and she tells me a gentle good night.

"Good night," I say softly, "and thanks."

"You're welcome," she tells me not having to ask what it is I'm thanking her for.

***************

I have decided that the mourning of death really can't start until the body is in the ground, because it is only when your friend, family, or associate truly does leave you and you have to face it. Immediately after death you are first thrust into making all the arrangements and calling all the people that should be told about this devastating news. There is no moment for you to think, but when that body finally goes into the ground and all the people leave, you are left alone with your thoughts. You are left alone to face, in your own mind, what has really happened.

Thoughts.

Solitary, melancholy, self-deluded thoughts.

Dangerous thing, these thoughts.

They tell you things like, "It's all your fault; you're the one to blame; everyone is looking at you and they're all thinking the same thing. They're all thinking that you should have been there."

The weather is cold and rainy and errantly you think of why it always seems to rain at funerals. You wonder why it's always cold even if it is the summer.

"It's good when it rains at a funeral, Tori. That means that the person's soul is washed away and is moving on." My mother told me that. Not my biological mother, but one of my real mothers, Sam. She had said this to me when I had attended one of my friend's funerals after that car accident with the drinking and driving. It's amazing how that one event has affected my life so much.

"Tori?" I hear Dana's voice and am ripped away from my thoughts. Her hand is covering my bicep and she is looking down at me with concerned baby-blues. "Are you okay?"

I turned to her and didn't even try to stop the tears that were making streaks down my face. "Why does this happen to me Dana?" I ask really needing an answer to that question at this moment. "First my parents die. Then Audrey's mom dies. Then my friend's in that damn car accident. Then I kill a young man, because I didn't have enough control. Now, this!" My voice had gotten progressively louder as I spoke. "Now I have to stand around at some other damn funeral because she," I pointed to the ground where Latrice's body had just been put to rest, "decided that life was too hard."

People had turned around and were looking at me, but I didn't care. I was on a role and nothing was going to stop me now. "When does it stop?!" I yelled. "When does it fucking stop?!"

My mother never flinched back from my words. She stood there and held her ground waiting for my words to stop as my sobs took over. She was there to gather me up in her arms to lead me away from the watching eyes.

Dana guided me to one of the limousines that had taken us out to the graveyard. Latrice's family had asked us to ride with them. Mr. Williams hadn't looked at me at all on this day. I decided to just not pay any attention to that, because I didn't have enough energy left to care anymore.

Once firmly inside the limousine Dana helped me dry my tears. I rallied some control over my grief stricken mind. I leaned back against the gray leather of the vehicle and released one very long breath.

"When does it stop?" I asked my mother again. This time with a false sense of calmness.

Dana looked me squarely in the eye. "It doesn't," she answered flatly. "It never stops. You just have to take what you get and deal with it?the good and the bad."

I stared at my mother letting my face show clearly that her answer was not what I wanted to hear.

"It's the truth." She said upon seeing my face. "It never does stop, but you do learn how to handle things better. You learn what is really important and what is trivial. You get a chance to live life."

"Living life hurts too much," I muttered without thinking.

"Sometimes." Dana moves closer to me on the seat and I can feel her body warmth calling out to my cold skin. "Sometimes you feel such joy, though, that you feel like you'll burst from it all. It swings both ways."

I let out a sigh and shake my head. "I'm ready for the joy Mom."

Dana wraps her long arms about my shoulders and pulls me into her embrace. "So am I." She whispers to me and gently kisses the top of my head. We are able to grab five peaceful minutes then the car door opens and Mr. and Mrs. Williams enter followed by Kel and Sam who is holding Riana. My sister reaches out for me and I immediately take her in my arms. She is able to remind me of precious life. It is a reminder that I very much need at this moment.

My sister rests her head down on my shoulder and I hold her to me tightly. At this moment, without her even knowing it, she had become my lifeline. My mind releases some of the foolish notions that it had been entertaining earlier.

I am now able to entertain the thought that I'll get past this too. I'm not the one that decided to die. I am not the one whose life ended. This too shall pass.

***************

Two months later I found myself back at home very happy to be there. I had survived my first year of college-and it wasn't that easy-so now I was free to do what I wished and I no longer wished to help people by going into law enforcement. I don't think I could handle what all that entailed any longer.

In a way Latrice's death had been a catalyst for what would become my life. I had decided that I wanted to help people and try to make sure that what happened to Latrice didn't happen to others. I never wanted suicide to be the answer to anyone's emotional pain again.

It was my decision to become a counselor for wherever anyone needed me. I wasn't concerned about money because I already had all the money I could use in one lifetime. I figured that my famous name would bring much needed attention to whatever cause I decided to attach myself to.

I wasn't going to do that now though. I still needed time to grow up and get more settled in my life. I was still too young to throw myself into that type of atmosphere. There was still so much in life that I needed to experience.

College had made me experience a lot, but there was still many things that had yet to be explored by me. I figured that time would change all that for me and I needed time.

Over the summer Audrey got married to that guy who owned that restaurant. I know that I speak about him like I don't like him at all or don't care about her marriage, but I really do. He is really a nice guy and he adores my sister so I couldn't really ask for anything more. Audrey began working at some hospital in the area and it isn't Baylor. She told me that they didn't offer her enough money.

Also over the summer I ran into Richard. He seemed to be doing ok. He told me about school and about how he had heard about everything that had happened with me this year. He had said that he thought about calling me, but he wasn't too sure if I'd appreciate it.

One thing that I regret the most about what happened between Richard and I is that we lost a very solid friendship. He had been there for me when I had gone through a lot of stuff in my life and a part of me always would remember him as that small little boy who had a crush on me when I was in the hospital when my biological parents had died.

"I really would have liked to hear from you," I told him. We were sitting in the middle of the park not far from home on the soft grass.

"Yeah, I did send you a card though. Did you get that?" He asked cautiously as he focused his attention on a stalk of grass that rested in the palm of his hand.

I nodded my head aware that he probably didn't see me then cleared my throat. "Yeah, I did." My voice was somewhat shaky and I had no clue as to why. "I'm sorry that I didn't tell you that before."

"You don't have anything to be sorry for," Richard responded immediately. "You were going through a lot then."

"I was," I wasn't going to deny that obvious fact. "But I had Dana and Sam there to support me along with Kel."

"Are you still friends with her?" He asks and I know it is simply because he is curious.

"She's the best friend that I've ever had." I tell him and instantly regret it after seeing him flinch slightly, even though it is the truth.

"I'm happy that she was there for you then," He tells me sincerely. "It's good that you were able to have a friend stand by you then." He throws the stalk of grass in his hand away and briefly watches it flutter in the wind then lets out a long sigh. "I should have been there for you Tori."

I move closer to him on the grass and place my hand gently over his. "You were," I tell him and place his hand over my heart, "in here. I got the flowers and all the cards you sent. You took a lot of first steps in maintaining our friendship and I never followed through." I let the regret of have filter into my voice.

Richard's big brown eyes glare down at me. "I just don't want you to think that I abandoned you."

I grasped his hand tighter. "I've never thought that," I told him firmly. "I knew you too well and loved you too much to think that."

I saw the kiss coming from a mile away but I did nothing to stop it. As a matter of fact you can say that I did a lot to continue it. It felt really good to reconnect with someone in that way again, but in a way it felt really wrong as well, which is probably why that when it ended I jumped up and said, "Damn, I really have to go. I'll talk to you later." Then, I turned around and ran ignoring Richard who was calling me back.

That kiss brought me all types of confusion so I went to my best friend to talk about it. Looking back now, I can see how that could have been a bad idea.

Kel was on yet another movie set so I went there and got her to agree to have lunch with me. I bought us some hamburgers then went to her trailer and waited for her. Fifteen minutes later she walks through the door and I immediately begin telling her about Richard.

When I get to the part where we kissed I just told her exactly how I felt and about how I exactly ran.

"I was gone so fast that I could have given the Road Runner a run for his money." I tell her finishing my story.

Kel is sitting down and is looking intently at her hamburger. She takes a deep breath then slowly releases it. "Are you going to get back together with him?" She asks me slowly.

I shrug my shoulders. "I don't know."

"Well do you still love him?" she asks tentatively.

"I don't know," I say shrugging my shoulders again.

"Do you want to be with him?"

I let out a sigh of frustration. "I don't know." I say slowly.

Kel shifts in her seat so that she is facing me. "Then please tell me Tori, what is it you do know."

I run my hand through my hair in a nervous gesture. "I know that I'm very confused."

"Okay," Kel draws out the word. "Why are you confused?"

I stand up and begin pacing. "I'm not really sure." I'm frustrated and I really don't know why. "I just thought that I was over Richard and now I'm not so sure."

"I thought you were too." Kel muttered under her breath and I'm sure I'm not supposed to have heard it.

"What did you just say?" I ask seeing if she'll repeat herself.

My friend lays down her food and stands up so that she can move next to me. "I just said that I thought you were too."

Okay so she repeated something I wasn't initially suppose to hear and while doing that she had been able to thoroughly confuse me. Tori was just now along for the ride.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"The words are very clear." Kel I can tell is frustrated. "You're not a stupid person, I know you can understand them."

"What just crawled up your ass?" I flick my hand at her and am compelled to turn around for effect.

"God," Kel yelled out. "You drive me so crazy."

"I," I pointed at myself, "drive you," I pointed to her, "crazy?" I shake my head as if to clear it from all my confusion. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Ugh," My friend groaned. "How is it that someone as smart as you can't figure out something so simple?"

I didn't think the question required or deserved an answer so chose to remain silent. Kel just looked at me for a long moment and crossed her arms across her chest and her foot began tapping. I didn't necessarily take this as a good sign.

"It's about time we had that talk Tori," she told me seriously.

Ahhh?a clue just flew through the window and smacked me in the head. Hard.

"Don't you have to be on the set soon?" I look at the door gauging my chances to get by Kel to make a run for it. Unfortunately, Kel has strategically placed herself between the only exit and me and there was no way that I could just go through her. It was time I just resign myself to my fate.

"I'm not going anywhere and neither are you," she steps closer to the door obviously having seen me look at it so intently just moments before. "We're going to talk about this and you're," she pointed to me. "Not going to run away."

Without my mind fully able to control my body my head just nods entirely on it's own.

"Okay, then have a seat," She indicates the small loveseat that is in her trailer and I move over and take a seat. Kel follows me and sits at a close but not too close space. She take a deep breath gathering whatever courage she needs for whatever she going to do next, because I'm certainly not leading this little intervention.

"I want you to tell me exactly how you feel about me." Okay that was an easy thing. I opened my mouth to speak but Kel put up a hand that forestalled my speech. "And don't you dare say that you value my friendship and all that other crap. I want to know the full truth."

How do you tell someone the full truth when you do not know it yourself? It was time for me to do some quick thinking.

I ran my hand through my hair once more in the mere hopes that it would ease my nervousness. Needless to say, it did not.

"Kel," I started off, "I'm just going to be as honest with you as I possibly can." I clear my throat and take a deep, deep breath and let it out slowly. "I love you very much and you mean the world to me. You have been there for me when times have been really hard and you haven't once judged me for anything. You've accepted me as Tori and not just Victorianna."

I needed to take another deep breath. "You have been a very solid thing in my life and sometimes I allow myself to think about how it would be if I let our relationship progress into something?deeper, and to be honest with you that scares me."

"Why?" Kel asks softly reaching her hand out to touch me but pulling away at the last moment.

"You make me question who I thought I am, and I can't question that because it took me so long to figure it out in the first place." I tell her honestly. This is not the time to be keeping secrets.

"Yet you haven't dated anyone else since Richard. You haven't shown any interest in any other relationship except in whatever it is we have." It is now Kel's turn to run her hand through her hair. "You're confusing the hell out of me Tori," she says obviously frustrated.

I sigh heavily. "I know."

Kel and I lock gazes for a long moment then look away at basically the same time. A very uncomfortable silence ensues. Again we look at each other for a moment then Kel just throws her hands up in the air and releases a frustrated growl then practically lunges herself at me and firmly attaches her lips to my own.

The moment my brain understood the sensation that Kel's actions caused I immediately pulled away from her, and yes I ran. I did not pass go and I did not collect two hundred dollars. I just ran and I'm pretty sure that if you were to return to the scene of the crime you would see my track marks on the floor of Kel's trailer.

My friend got up quicker then I realized she could, and caught with me. I just couldn't run away fast enough. Today I wonder what kind of image we made to the film crew when I burst out of Kel's trailer in a full sprint with Kel following close behind. Then, of course Kel caught up to me and grabbed my arm forcing me to look her in the eye.

I didn't have the heart to just run away from her. She deserved more from me then that. She actually deserved a hell of a lot more. Kel probably deserved my heart, which just wasn't ready to give itself away yet.

My eyes met hers and I saw the pain my running had caused her. I recognized the fact that she had just jumped off a very hefty cliff and was now waiting for me to tell her whether or not she survived the fall. Putting aside my own selfish desire to run I reached out to her and gathered her in a hug. I whispered that I was sorry into her delicate ear and hoped that it would eventually be enough to make amends.

When I pulled back I looked into her eyes, the hurt still being there, and gave a very gentle kiss on her lips. Why did I do it? It beats the hell out of me.

"I can't deal with this now," I told her in a hushed tone as soon as her eyes had reopened from my gentle caress. "I'm so sorry, but I just can't deal with this now."

Kel's gaze hardened and I accepted the need for her to now raise a shield against me. I understood her frustration and her anger. "When do you think you will be able to deal with this?" she asked bitingly.

My head dropped and a very tired feeling washed over me. I was tired of dealing with everyone else's emotions but my own. I was tired of having to make sure that everyone else looking to me for answers and for some reaction that would just make their day. As many people as I had supporting me and telling me it was always okay to cry, I just felt very suffocated. I was tired of people "understanding" what was going on with me. I was just very tired.

Unfortunately Kel had just pushed me a little too far. She had hit me with the last thing that I could deal with. I was fed up and pissed off. That's not a very healthy combination. I picture it much like putting a cat in a dog's cage, more then likely you'd see an explosion.

"Maybe I'll deal with this as soon as I find it's worth dealing with." I replied immediately regretting my words but not really caring. I'd put that regret deep down in a box to only evaluate and open at another point and time. "I do love you Kel, but I'm not going to do this now." I shrugged my shoulders. "I'm sorry." I gave her face one last gentle caress and turned around to leave.

Kel grabbed my arm and turned me back around. "Whatever you have to deal with Tori, you go deal with it, but when you get back we're going to settle this. One way or another." She leaned over and gave me another kiss showing me that she was in complete control. She just reaffirmed the fact that she had always been in control. I was the one that was loosing it.

My friend got the last word and she was able to be the person who walked away. I wasn't the one that was able to make the dramatic exit. I was the one that was left and had to turn and leave with my one solitary thought. Damn, what the hell am I going to do?

***************

When I returned home my parents could immediately tell that something was wrong with me. I ignored their questions that stemmed from concern and locked myself away in my room. I needed time to just sit and think and I couldn't do that while I was explaining to my parents what exactly had me so confused.

I plopped myself down on my bed and released a heavy sigh. My mind was racing, but it really wasn't going anywhere. My thoughts were going in one circle that kept on pointing at me just being confused and insecure.

Unfortunately, my bedroom door didn't have a lock so I wasn't able to literally lock myself away with my thoughts. Upon seeing me upset entering the house Dana came to my room. I was sort of expecting Sam, but it didn't really matter. I didn't feel like talking to either of them. I didn't want either of their sympathy or support or understanding.

"What happened Tori?" Dana asks me as she invited herself into my room and sits down on my bed.

"Nothing that I'm going to talk about." I answer shortly and turn away from her.

"It's something that has obviously upset you," Dana says ignoring my previous statement. "So you should probably talk about it."

"All I ever do it talk," I say frustrated. "I'm tired of talking and sharing my innermost feelings. I just want to lay down on my bed and not talk."

"I understand your need for space, Tori so I'll leave." Dana acquiesced, "but when you're ready to talk about whatever's gotten you so upset, I'm here for you."

God, she was always there for me. I don't remember a time when she wasn't there for me. My mother provided me so much support that I may have actually taken it for granted. I got support from everyone. I sort of miss that now.

So this is where the story actually becomes more recent. These events only took place a few months ago. I haven't spoken to any of them since I walked out.

I had decided that I needed to get as far away from everyone and everything as I possible could. I had the money and I had the time to leave, so I just packed myself a bag-just one-and then walked out of my room.

When my parents asked me where I was going and what I was doing I just told them, "I need to get away."

When they asked when I'd be back I told them, "Just whenever I feel I need to, I guess."

These were not strong answers and they fell very short from answering their questions, but I don't think I much cared about that. There was just a part of me that didn't want to remember anything that had ever happened to me, and that included meeting Sam and Dana. There was just that very obnoxious, loud part that yelled at me to flee and be on my own without any person relying on me for anything. It screamed relentlessly at me to go to a place where no expectations existed. Go to a place where no one knows your name. The voice screamed. Go away to a world you've never seen and act in a way that you never could before. Be that person you never thought you could be because you let the way your family and friends thought of matter.

Did my parents understand my need to escape? I don't know. I don't know if they understood anything at all. I haven't talked to them since I left their home with my one bag and drove away.

Only once did I send them a letter telling them that I was ok. I believed that they deserved that. However, the letter didn't tell them where I was and it didn't tell them what I was doing. It only said that I was alive. They just had to accept that much information.

So?where did I go?

I took my car and drove away. I just kept on driving until I was too tired to go on. I made it as far as Denver, Colorado. It was a very long trip. I checked myself into a hotel and decided that this is where I would stay for a while. It was a pretty state and I didn't really have anyplace I really wanted to go. Colorado seemed to be just as good a place as any.

After my first week there I rented myself an apartment and even got myself a job as a waitress at some prestigious restaurant where it cost a person way too much for a small bowl of soup. This was my way of taking that small chance of someone recognizing me. If anyone were going to stand up and yell, "Hey that's Victorianna Marcus," it would be in this restaurant.

I never was recognized.

I played a very secretive game with these people; judging them and knowing them without them even knowing I was one of them. Most them the people that would frequent the restaurant would see me as nothing more then their servant. They were paying me to do a job that they wouldn't be caught dead taking. In their minds that made them better then me. However, they didn't know that I was probably wealthier then they were. They didn't know that with a few phone calls I could become their new boss.

I liked this game. It brought me a lot of amusement.

Then of course, there was the other game that I played with the other customers, the customers who would only come in for special occasions or the odd chance to eat out in a fancy place when they could afford it. To these people, I instantly became one of them. I was one of the people in this big struggle to try to get ahead. Ahead of what, I didn't know.

Everyday I went to work and I actually made pretty good money. I didn't have that many friends, but I went out almost every night I could and would be at some party or another where all the sudden I would sit back and watch all these people get drunk or stoned or both.

I wasn't a fan of the drugs, but I didn't mind the alcohol all that much. I may have not been twenty-one but that didn't hold me back from drinking, and it didn't hold me back from getting drunk, which in turn means it didn't hold me back from doing stupid things that I regret.

Of course, if I'm going to go into the realm of regret I would have to start off at the part where I left my home where I had support from my parents and damn good friends.

So, what did I do that I regret? I played like I was the writer of all the rules and I acted like I was the leader of all the fools. I was perfection and everyone else was flawed. I was untouchable and everyone else was extremely lucky if I graced them with my presence.

Do you see the pattern of how I might have regretted some actions I might have taken?

I remember a party that I held at my apartment. People brought their own beer, their own food, and their own everything. I got drunk that night and was leaning back on my couch with a bottle of beer in my hand with some guy by my side trying to talk me into showing him my bedroom when some young guy, I think his name was Rick, runs up to me and tells me his girlfriend is passed out on my bathroom floor.

Not particularly flustered by the idea I slowly get up and make my way to the hall bathroom of my two-bedroom apartment. On the cold tile floor I see a young redhead girl completely unconscious lying there. I step closer to her body and reach down to feel for a pulse. It wouldn't do me any good to have to call the police to tell them some girl died at a party that I had thrown. Of course, I'm not too sure I would have cared if I had to do that. I was already too drunk to realize what was going on right before me.

To my great luck, along with the redheads, there was a faint pulse. Her skin was cold and clammy though and her breath came in ragged breaths. It was my diagnosis that she had had an overdose of whatever drug she was taking.

Rick was watching me care for his girlfriend from just outside the bathroom door. His dark brown eyes were wide with worry and his body was shaking from his fright. He was looking to me to help him and save him. He was expecting something from me and that was a very big faux-paux.

"Whatever the hell you two have been doing she took too much of." I told him not thinking twice about the body that lay on the floor next to my crouched form. "I suggest you get her to a hospital."

"Shouldn't we call an ambulance or something?" The frightened boy asks me which only causes me to laugh.

"Are you stupid?" I responded seriously. "If I call the ambulance then someone's going to find out what's been going on here and that's a bad thing." I stood up from the cold tile floor. "I just have one rule kid," I tell him holding up my index finger. "No phone calls to any type of authority that would get me in trouble." I walk past Rick and patted him on the shoulder. "She's your responsibility. You brought her here. Whatever happens to her is your fault." I smirked at him. "You better hurry and get her to the hospital. There's no telling how much time she has left." Those were my last words to Rick before I turned and walked away from him dismissing his plight.

To this very day that is one of my worst regrets. To think that I could treat someone so callous?well frankly it scares me. It scares me so much that when I think about it I wonder if I really did that, because deep down I never really think I could have.

I don't know how the girl ended up and I never heard from Rick again. I guess he learned his lesson about the effects that drugs can have over a person. He had to learn the hard way, which is probably how at least half the world's population learns anything.

This of course is not the only event during my period away that I did anything I probably wouldn't have today and shouldn't have then.

His name was Jose. He was the perfect picture of trouble and I became his soul focus for about four months. Everyone said we made the perfect couple. I was his beautiful girlfriend that he would do anything for. He was my dangerous gangster boyfriend.

Jose is a great regret of mine.

I was with him for four months.

He was a very violent fellow who had the extreme need for control and power. I, on more then one occasion, became the brunt of his anger. I don't really feel like talking about Jose. There are still a many issues that I have unresolved about my time with him. Though, Jose is the reason why I decided to return home. He made it time for me to go home.

It wasn't really easy to leave him, because he was afraid that one day I would and watched me incessantly. I did leave him though and when he tried to stop me, I just let him know that the person he had been walking all over previously, no longer existed. Tori had returned and she was ready to return to her family and was ready to face the consequences her running may have caused. It was also time for me to return home because I decided that I could not subject a child to that type of environment when I know I could provide better.

I caused myself a lot of problems and now I have to deal with them and I will deal with them. I'll care for my child and I'll finish school.

I actually returned home a few days ago. I knew Dana and Sam wouldn't be home so I let myself inside the house. It hadn't changed much in just a short six months. My friend, only friend from my whole ordeal in Colorado, dropped me off. He stayed for a moment and we discussed that everything that can happen does happen. Now, isn't that the truth.

On that day I didn't have the courage to confront my parents. I left and find myself an apartment instead. The first person I called when I got back was Audrey. She rushed over to my apartment almost as soon as she heard my voice. She had been worried about me.

When she arrived at my front door she gathered me in a hug and immediately demanded an explanation. I gave her one. I told her everything and after I was through, I realized that I had come home.

She hasn't left my side since I returned and she plans on being here with me when my parents show up to see me for the first time in about half a year. They'll be here soon. I'm a little nervous.

Writing all this has actually helped me put a few things into perspective. I have to stop writing now I guess, because this is where my story ends? for now.

The End



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