the First

Lost Appetite

The grocery store and drive home are uneventful, I pull into the driveway. My nails are completely dry now, so I'm free to do as I please. It's about five o'clock, Mom will want to start dinner. I grab the two grocery bags from the passenger's seat, and climb out of the car. I lock it and step through the front door. I hear the distant sound of a vacuum upstairs. I walk to the kitchen and place my bags on the counter, and unload them. Alfredo sauce to the fridge, pasta to the cabinet, and apples to the fruit drawer. I go up the stairs and towards her room, where the vacuum's noise is coming from. Turning the corner into her room, I see the vacuum sitting in the middle of the bedroom, on and cleaning, but no one using it.

"Mom?"

Then I hear voices. One that sounds like my mother's, and another that sounds familiar. I can barely hear what she's saying over the sound of the vacuum.

"I'm going back for her, okay? This isn't for the family I left there, or for anyone else. She's my daughter." That's Mom. She's talking about me?

"I understand."

"We need to get her there soon. With Aleksander and the others looking for her, too..." my mother's strong voice becomes sad, "I'm worried about her."

"Don't be." and the man is silent. Mom walks back from the corner of the room to resume vacuuming, and doesn't see me. I duck out of sight and take a huge breath. Were they talking about me? I know my mother was in the beginning, but that next part... Going back where? Who the hell is Aleksander? I sigh and rub my temples, I'm getting a headache. And to top that off, that aching seems to be moving up my legs. I feel it in my calves now. I have no clue what's wrong with me!

I collect myself and walk into her room with a smile plastered on my face, "Hey!"

She looks surprised, but masks it quickly with a smile. She shuts off the vacuum and turns to me, "When did you get home?"

"Just now. I unloaded the stuff and put it in the fridge."

"I'll finish vacuuming and I'll be down to start cooking."

"Sounds good!"

I turn and walk out of the room, and go back downstairs. Flopping onto the couch, I pull out my phone. There's a text message from Savanna, "hey! can't wait to see you tomorrow, meet by the bench? and u r coming to the party no matter what!"

I smile and text back, "of course to both. missed you!"

Austin Roberts throws a party after the first day of school every year. I've never been, but I decided to go this year because it's my senior year, and it's kind of like a pre-birthday party for me. And Austin... Austin is the definition of popular. He just moved here at the end of last year, but he's already the quarterback of the school's varsity football team, easily the most attractive guy in school, student body president, and has an incredibly long line of girls just waiting to hook up with him. And he's chosen me as his next one. It's no secret that he wants to date me, everyone in the school knows. He may be attractive, smart, and athletic, but he knows everyone is into him, and he's let it go to his head. He's not really my type. But at the same time, I sometimes think about dating him. I've been told that he's nice and very doting, he's incredibly rich after all, but I don't want to be like every other girl in the school. Usually, as soon as he hooks up with a girl, he dumps her. Not meanly, but as soon as he gets her he leaves her in the dust. He's a total player. But nevertheless, I'm going to go to his party. I can avoid him and have a good time. It'll be fine.

By the time Mom walks into the room the sun is beginning to set. She places the vacuum in the hall closet and turns to me.

"I'm going to start dinner, okay?"

"Sure."

My phone buzzes with a smiley face from Savanna.

I put my phone down and turn on the TV. It's on a crime show that I'm not exactly interested in, and I quickly zone out. Did the pedicure lady press the wrong places? I bend down to look at my legs, they still look relatively normal. The only thing is that light tinge of gray. It seems to have crept up my legs, but luckily it's only noticeable if you're looking for it. This is weird. It feels like I'm in a dream, and soon I'll wake up next to Luke on the floor of the basement. The two men, my legs, that weird conversation my mother had with a guy who seemingly disappeared through her window? It all seems unreal. I pinch the inside of my elbow, wincing a little. Nothing. I'm still sitting on the couch, listening to the crime show and to Mom cook dinner. If this isn't a dream, I'm incredibly close to cracking my "nothing is wrong" facade. School is tomorrow, my only chance at making things normal. I'm going to go in with my head held high, and make it to Austin's party tomorrow night. Heck, if this is a dream, then I can let whatever happens happen. I could live out my secret fantasy of letting him flirt with me and maybe flirting back this time.

"Dinner's ready!" Mom calls, snapping me out of my daydream.

I stand, my legs complaining every step of the way to the table. I flop into my chair with a little more force than necessary, Mom shoots me a glance as she sets the silverware and napkins on the table. She decides to brush it off, and sets down my plate.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Sitting across from me, she digs in to her meal. I nibble on mine, I don't really have an appetite at the moment. She notices almost immediately.

"What's up? I thought my Alfredo was your favorite."

"I'm fine. I'm just not super hungry, I ate on the way home."

I'm a horrible liar. She arches her eyebrow, I'm sure I'm about to get called out.

"Just eat what you want. I want to make sure you're good for school tomorrow. Do you need anything?"

"Nope. I'm fine."

"Okay."

Thank God. We sit in silence, eating and thinking. I take a few more bites before I'm done. I stand to take my plate to the sink, rinse it, and load it into the dishwasher. I walk back to the table and sit down, where Mom is finishing her meal. I reach down to rub my calves a little, willing the pain to go away. She takes her plate to the counter and loads it.

"You should go to bed early, get some beauty sleep for tomorrow."

It's only seven thirty, but sleep is sounding pretty nice. A sweet escape from today's nightmare. I get up and give her a hug.

"Good idea. Love you."

She kisses the top of my head, "Love you too."

I pull away and grab my glass of water on my way downstairs.

"Goodnight!" she calls after me.

"Goodnight." I respond, gingerly stepping down each stair. I deposit the glass on my night table and walk outside to let Knight back into his stall. He whinnies at me from the pasture, I smile at him and lead him quickly inside. I snatch a treat from the tack room and give it to him, kissing his nose and locking the barn door on my way out. I go back inside and take off the boots. Walking into the bathroom, I get ready as quickly as possible. My tired feeling is getting stronger each minute. Throwing on my softest pair of PJ shorts and a comfy top, I yank my hair into a bun and crawl into bed. I'm asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

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