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In Dreaming Reality

By Isabella Lunawood All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Fantasy

Blurb

"Welcome to Acroft High!" Sebastian mumbled his arms wrapped around Marissa in a tight embrace, as a group of bikers pulled into the parking lot. I looked away from my friends and toward the bikers. Wow, who were these guys? I watched almost entranced at the guy who was standing nearest to us; he was like the rest of them wearing tight black jeans, a white t-shirt and a black leather studded vest. It was when his helmet was finally off his head I really felt shocked-- his hair was normal looking… In the sea of neon haired students he stuck out like a sore thumb; and so did his friends which was kind of a relief-- suddenly I didn’t feel so alone. I felt drawn to them, I wanted to talk to that one guy-- the one with dark brown hair all askew from running his fingers through it… I needed to know his name. “Genevieve!” Marissa’s voice sounded strange, was she scared or angry? “Get back here!” I blinked-- what was Marissa talking about? I was standing almost right next to her and her blue haired boyfriend! I glanced over my shoulder and realized I was halfway across the parking lot. How had I gotten here? "Haha! Well Topher-- looks like your girl wants a different type of prince!"

Prologue

I couldn’t believe I was finally home! I felt like I was going to explode. It had been a year -- a long time to be away from my family. Of course, there were such things as FaceTime and Skype to keep me connected to what was going on with them; but when I had been able to connect, I found that I didn’t much like hearing what they did say. All my crazy sister Annabelle had wanted to do was talk about some new boy that she liked, the party she went to last night, who was cool now, who she wanted to be friends with -- a list of names that meant nothing to me as I sat on an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room, thousands of miles away. Anna was my opposite in nearly every way. Example: I liked calm nights at home watching Netflix, or re-reading my favorite books while listening to the Beatles. Her idea of a good time, on the other hand, was to go out and loiter outside of 7/11′s with a motley crew of girls, looking for trouble. The June of my grade ten year, I’d caught her trying to get into the boy’s locker room just before gym was over -- and no, she didn’t have a good excuse. Not that I had a good excuse for trying to miss gym, either.

When I managed to get in contact with my parents, they weren’t much better. It was all, “Genevieve, how are you getting on? Are you making healthy choices? How much have you eaten today? Are you making friends? Are your friends a good influence?” And if it wasn’t that, it was, “How are your grades? Are you managing to keep up with projected academic timelines? What are they teaching you in England, anyway? Is it similar to what you would learn here?”

Of course, not all of our conversations were without useful information. A couple of months after I left, my mom informed me proudly that my dad, a shrewd corporate lawyer, had finally gotten the promotion he’d been wanting -- along with a significant raise. I didn’t realize how significant until they also informed me that we were moving: to Shaughnessy, a notoriously wealthy suburb in the beautiful neighboring city of Vancouver. I felt my roots being ripped out from under me; my mom, sensing this, tried to assuage my anxiety. “Don’t worry, I packed up your room -- made sure not to leave anything behind. We found the perfect house, you’re going to love the view! I painted your new room, and your father found this amazing first edition set of Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale books for you...” And so on, and so forth. For the next ten months, I tried to get into the swing of their euphoria, and ignore the worries at the back of my mind about what I would be coming home to.

My fingers dug into the stiff blue cushion beneath me. The plane had landed ten minutes ago, and -- while my gut instinct was to grab my things out of the overhead, push everyone out of the way and get off the plane and onto Canadian soil -- I sat hunched over, clinging to the seat. I rocked back and forth slightly, trying to remember how to breathe. There were so many people pushing and bustling and speaking. My mind was on overdrive. I might have stayed there for hours, had the older gentleman sitting next to me not tapped me on the shoulder.

“Don’t mean to rush you. But I’d rather not stay trapped here against the window.” He gestured that I should stand. “If you don’t mind.”

Feeling my face flush, I nodded and stood. I had to admit, it felt amazing to stretch my legs after so long. The only time I’d gotten up during the flight was to go to the bathroom; even then I had only gotten up three or so times in the past eight hours. The overhead compartment was already open, most of the bags already gone -- I reached for my purple messenger bag and threw it over my shoulder.

It was my fault I’d been sent away. Well, sort of. I still couldn’t quite understand what the big deal was. Yeah, I liked sweets. No -- other food was gross. I didn’t need it to be satisfied. So, what -- I had twelve cavities at a time and my weight was an up-and-down Yo-Yo. I never saw the Stepford Wives complain about a little weight, and you never saw them eat either. When my parents finally sat me down and told me I had an eating disorder, I laughed. They weren’t impressed.

Let’s be real. They had never made a fuss about my habits before! I mean, it was like they had groomed me to be this little princess. They gave me china tea sets, costume Princess' dresses -- Mom made me wear them with crinoline to make them poof -- and plastic or wire tiaras. Don’t even get me started on the countless viewings of Disney and Austen movies. I have to admit, though: it did start as a bad habit -- just eating more candy and treats than actual food -- but then, I’d never been a big eater. And after all the sweets I just wasn’t hungry ... so why would I eat anything else?

Then there was this ingrained concept of perfection. I wanted to look like Amanda Bynes or Nicole Kidman, with their flawless faces and figures. Even the girls in fairy tales, like Rapunzel, always looked perfect -- and that was what attracted those dashing princes. So, in conclusion:

Life -- it’s really only about one thing, and that is perfection. And nothing and no one was going to stand in my way to get it.

I’d finally made it down the narrow aisle of the plane, almost off. Almost free. The older gentleman who had been my seat partner for eight hours was mumbling something behind me -- I was pretty sure he was irritated at my snail’s pace. The problem was, my legs were cramping, all pins and needles. I wasn’t going to move an iota faster than I had to.

The flight attendant smiled wearily at me. I nodded back. I would have hated to be stuck within the confines of a plane, having to be nice to people all the time. Not to mention that they always had to wear that unbearable shade of navy. I was convinced it was worst color ever, with the exception of black. What would possess you to only ever wear black? Although, I supposed it made sense if you worked at a funeral parlor or a fancy restaurant.

“Thanks,” I managed to croak before exiting the plane.

Wow. Even my voice was fighting with me after not having spoken for so long. It sounded awful. I cleared my throat, feeling the temperature drop as I walked along the glass hall. It was at least ten degrees cooler out here, far less humid and murky than the recycled air of the plane. My lungs were grateful, as I’m sure my hair was as well; I could feel my brown curls starting to relax and unglue from the back of my neck.

I wasn’t really sure what type of reception I was going to get once I passed through customs. My parents -- I sighed and shook my head. My legs kept moving – more awake now, fewer cramps and fewer pins-and-needles, but my bag felt like it was getting heavier.

They -- my parents -- wanted a changed daughter. They were expecting it. I just wasn’t sure I was changed. Oh, I had forced down three meals a day for nine months. Three healthy meals. Clean eating -- that’s what everyone was about these days. Just raw fruits and veggies. Say no to all processed foods; must be fresh or frozen.

Oh yes, and my favorite yet was: everything must be “gluten-free.” I hadn’t actually experienced that yet. My mom had been going on and on about it the last time I’d FaceTime-ed with her. The thing was, all the stuff she was talking about didn’t really matter in Europe; they didn’t allow GMO’s, or whatever it was they thought was causing people to react to gluten. I was sure I was going to hear more about that soon. Mom had de-gluten-ized our house -- whatever that was supposed to mean. I’m sure my carb-loving sister and father still managed to satisfy their cravings somehow.

I stepped onto the moving conveyor and realized I didn’t know where I had put my phone. My stomach growled, making me remember how little I had eaten on the plane. I really just didn’t like airplane food. The hot beverages, though! I’d been all over that tea... and the scones. Scones weren’t healthy, really – but they also weren’t unhealthy if you really thought about it. They might even have been my last gluten for a while if Mom was still militant about it.

My iPhone, where was it? I needed it to tell my parents I was finally here. I reached into my purple bag and began to rifle through pockets, then tripped and fell on my face. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten I was on the conveyer – I had toppled right off the end. I jumped up and grabbed my bag before looking around. My face was hot. I could feel the blood rising, turning it a brighter and brighter red. I didn’t want to know how many people had seen me fall – it wasn’t just ungraceful to trip over your own two feet, it was downright embarrassing.

I hurried over to the luggage carousel. There was a massive crowd here. I tried to hide in the middle and began to rifle through my bag again. This time I opened every pocket, finding my iPod, earbuds, lip balm, hand sanitizer -- still no iPhone. There was a loud thump which made me look up with a start. Luggage began to pour down the belts and people swarmed inward. I sighed. If I kept looking in my bag I was going to get knocked over again by the stream of people.

“Remember. Be confident. Be cool,” I whispered to myself.

It was a mantra I had used at the Centre to help myself whenever I had to go to another pointless meeting where I was supposed to talk about my feelings. Of course, it wasn’t fool-proof. I still struggled with feelings of anxiety and paranoia when I was stressed. The voice in the back of my head insisted that if my parents had just left me alone and never sent me away I wouldn’t feel things like this -- ever.

“Square breathing.” I muttered as I let the flap of my bag fall shut. “Breathe in for four, hold for four, out for four...” I started to inhale and exhale accordingly.

It was supposed to make me feel better, but instead, I just felt claustrophobic as I tried to stand as still as possible, but kept getting shoved every which way until I felt completely hemmed in. To distract myself, I turned and watched the luggage roll down the belt and around the carousel wheel. I felt no need to rush forward. My suitcase was a very distinctive shade of purple, like practically everything else I owned. It was, after all, the color of royalty, and therefore perfection.

A woman beside me spotted a bag that appeared to be hers and sent her husband forward to retrieve it -- but, of course, being a nondescript black, it turned out not to be the right bag, so back on the carousel, it went. The couple did this three or four times without finding their belongings. Meanwhile, my purple suitcase rolled down amidst a sea of black bags, and I summoned up the courage to wrestle my way to the front of the pack to haul my luggage away. The poor work-mule of a man stared open-mouthed at me as I walked away, while his wife yelled at him again that she had spotted their things.

I pulled out my passport with my landing documents. It felt thicker than normal when I passed it to the lady at the door of the luggage room. She took my passport, flipped it open, and smirked before passing it back.

“Make sure you don’t lose this, or your phone,” she murmured, passing my passport back to me as she waved me onward.

Idiot-Genevieve. Of course, I had put my phone in my passport. How could I have been so dumb? I was holding it when I was filling out my landing papers for customs, back on the plane. I must have just closed the whole thing and stuffed it in my bag.

I was nearing the final exit -- so close now to being home. I took a deep breath and got in the line for customs. I was four or five people back, so I turned my attention to my iPhone and switched off airplane mode to let it search for a network. I looked up. Two people in front of me. I tapped open my phonebook app.

“Why don’t you make that call after you’re through customs, young lady?”

I looked up at the most stern-looking woman I had ever seen -- which was saying a lot since, in the past nine months of British company, I had seen my fill of them. At least she wasn’t wearing a doctor’s coat – just a white dress shirt and dress pants in that horrid navy blue.

“There is an open station over here.” She gestured widely to the right with her overly long chubby arm. How dramatic!

I’d never used a self-serve customs booth before. I walked up to one apprehensively, but thankfully they had thought of people like me and planned accordingly: at the machine I was met with a picture diagram that explained how to proceed. I sighed, relieved, and began to follow the steps on the instructions. Great -- dates gone, today’s date ... where I’d been … right. Next step, scan passport. My iPhone was still in my hand. I glanced at it as I fed my landing card into the machine. It had stopped searching!

I hit call on my phone and grabbed my bags. In the background, I could hear the phone ringing.

Click.

I frowned.

“Welcome to Roger’s Voice Messaging.” I rolled my eyes impatiently. “Angela Pradora,” a short recording of my mother’s voice said brightly, “is not available. At the tone, record your messa--”

I hit end and felt my frown turn into a scowl, a flutter of fear in my stomach. It wasn’t like my mom to not answer her phone. I kept walking and held the home button down, trying to quell the rising paranoia that my parents had forgotten what day I was coming home.

“Call Annabelle Pradora,” I ordered Siri.

The phone started ringing.

“Please pick up. Please, please, pick up,” I muttered under my breath. All around me, there were people using their phones -- taking photos, smiling happy smiles. Well, they all had something to smile about. None of them were alone ...Oops. Pretty sure I just photobombed that last family I walked past -- too bad I didn’t feel like smiling today.

I sighed. Even if no one else picked up, my sister was more likely to answer her phone then my busy parents. I mean, she lived for phone conversations -- granted, they were always about herself -- but at least she answered her phone.

Click.

“NO!”

“This is Bella! Sorry, I can’t talk right now – I’m out and about having the best time EVER. If you need me, you know what to do. Leave a message after the Beepity Beep.”

I felt my jaw drop. Bella? What? Her name was Annabelle! And Beepity Beep? What, were we in Grade Two? Come on...

Beeeeep.

“Really? Can’t answer…?” I almost dropped my phone in my haste to end the call. No way I was going to leave an angry voicemail I’d probably regret later. I’d made it to the last glass hallway; international arrivals. I always felt like royalty when I walked out these doors. People standing there waiting for their loved ones but watching you walk out, some waiting with cameras. This is what it must have felt like to be a princess -- maybe like Lady Diana or Kate Middleton. Not that they had been recognized as princesses officially.

For the first time since landing, I grinned. I even felt my posture change, standing straighter, just a tad taller. Of course, not even that was going to help with my height issues. I looked through the glass doors -- there were so many people there waiting for loved ones. I scanned the crowd. My dad had better be there. I stepped to the side of the hall, leaned my luggage up against the wall and put my camera on front-view so I could take a look at myself.

My curls looked slightly less wild than the last time I’d taken a look at myself. I pulled a few out so that they weren’t so tight. My skin looked even paler under these stupid fluorescents than it normally did; my purple top looked slept in, yet the puffiness around my eyes looked like I hadn’t slept in forever. I sighed. Well, at least I was going home where I could nap and shower. I suppose this was going to have to do.

From the other side of the glass door, I could hear cheers and someone getting welcomed home by loved ones. I had better be welcomed home ... even if it made me feel uncomfortable. There’d better be someone waiting for me on the other side of that door -- at the end of this hallway. I bit my lip hard.

“Calm and confident. Cool and collected.”

I picked up my bags and stuffed my phone into my denim skirt pocket. Then taking one last deep breath I made my way down the hall and confidently strode through the sliding door into the mayhem. Every step I took was a step closer to being free -- free from being told how to eat, how to live my life. Free from stupid rules and--

“Genevieve!”

I broke from my thoughts. I had lost track of how many steps I’d taken. I was standing at the end of the fenced hall and in the open space of the arrival lounge. My father was standing right in front of me, his arms wide open. I blinked. He looked older than FaceTime would have suggested -- new lines at the corners of his eyes, hints of gray fighting along his sandy blond hairline. He pulled me into his arms and buried his face into the top of my dark brown hair. If I had felt claustrophobic before … well, this was just as bad.

“Dad!” My voice was incredibly muffled by his dark green sweater. “Dad, you’re suffocating me!”

He reluctantly released me.

“Sorry, hon. I’m just so happy to see you.” He adjusted the large glasses on his face. He looked owlish, his blue eyes glowing with joy. “In real life, as you would probably say.”

I nodded. He had thankfully left off the hashtag.

“I know. Me, too.” I wasn’t very good at dealing with emotions like this. Showing affection and all that in public -- I mean, why? Not that I didn’t appreciate the fact that he was showing me how much I’d been missed … and that he had actually remembered to come get me -- that I was coming home today.

He took a step back. “Well, let’s have a look at you!”

I did our thing. The one where I would do a little spin and curtsy. It made me feel younger than seventeen -- more like five.

“Why, you’re just the prettiest thing I ever did see!”

I grinned in spite of myself. His response never changed. I was always the prettiest thing he ever did see. I had even tested him, once. I put on the ugliest sweater I could find from Value Village. It was neon orange with brown and black spots; it even had a pink fringe. I did my spin and he still said it -- I mean, he might have frowned a little, but just a little.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Well, let’s get a move on. I’m sure you can’t wait to get home.” He grabbed my suitcase and carry-on. “So glad you’re back where you belong, Gen.” He smiled again, then started to lead the way toward the parking lots.

I followed behind, feeling awkward now I wasn’t carrying anything.

“So where's Mom and Anna?” I hesitantly asked.

We’d reached the last pair of automatic glass doors that barred us from the outside. From home. The first one slid open and we walked through.

“Well, Anna felt it was super important to get her school shopping out of the way -- and your mother wanted to supervise that project to make sure it was done properly.”

“Of course she wanted to go today ...”

“Gen -- don’t be like that.”

We’d come to the second sliding door. I was almost outside, finally real air! Canadian air. LOL. Canadian Air? Haha.

“Gen? What’s so funny?”

I hadn’t realized I was actually laughing out loud. Whoops. Awkward.

“Nothing, Dad. I’m sorry. Funny thought.”

“Right. No worries.” Dad sent me a look. “You’re just tired.”

The door opened, and I was immediately greeted with a blast of soft, warm air -- fresh and laden with the smells of the city and plant life, the way it seemed only Vancouver’s atmosphere could be.

“How’s the weather been this summer?”

Dad shrugged.

“Not particularly different. Very dry, though. The locals instated a level three water restriction and fire ban. We had a wicked storm a few weekends back, but it wasn’t quite enough rain to lift the restriction.” He kept walking, and I followed him.

We paused to wait for taxis and buses to stop to let us cross the street. My father was a very patient man -- sometimes too patient. He had slowly been climbing within his company over the last ten years – too slowly. He was bright, probably a genius, and had made the company millions if not billions of dollars; but he had wanted to wait to be recognized, instead of pushing his name forward like a common salesman.

“How was the weather in England this summer?”

There was a break in traffic and we hurried across the crosswalk with the other twenty-or-so people who had gathered with us.

“Well, it was really windy -- so, even when the sky was clear and the sun was shining, it was still cold.”

“That’s truly unfortunate.”

I shrugged. “Not really. Apparently, summers in England are usually windy.”

We had walked across the street and into the second level of the parking lot. I followed my father into the lot. I looked around for his red Nissan but I couldn’t spot it. Instead, we seemed to be heading toward a champagne Mercedes.

"Hmm."

“What was that, Gen?” Dad popped open the trunk and crammed my suitcase and bag inside.

“Nothing, Dad.” I paused, imagining myself sitting in the driver seat. “So... remember when you said I could get my New driver’s license when I came home? How are you feeling about that now? I mean, it would be really, really great to get rid of my Learner’s before school starts...”

Dad shut the trunk. The sound of it clicking closed echoed in the cement lot.

“Gen ...”

“Dad.”

Dad walked over to me and patted my shoulder, opened my door and helped me into the car as if I was a child again.

“We’ll see, hon.”

I grabbed my seatbelt, trying to remain calm as I put it on.

Dad stood for a moment leaning against the passenger door. “I’ll be honest, I don’t really have time to continue to teach you right now, and trust me: they go hard on those tests -- you’ll need some practice. I’m sure you’re a tad rusty. But as it is, I’m currently in the middle of a huge case, and Angela has been really busy with getting Crafted With Kindness --” My mom’s new gluten-free treat business. “-- off the ground.”

I sighed. I couldn’t be that rusty. Granted, I hadn’t driven for ten months -- but that wasn’t really my fault. I wanted my N so badly, I’d be willing to do anything to make sure I got it at least before Christmas. It had to be this year!

Dad leaned in and kissed my cheek.

“Eww. Gross, Dad!” I shoved him away and slammed the car door shut.

I had asked to get my New driver’s license once I had fulfilled the requirements with my learner’s, just like every other teenager does; but my father and mother told me that if I couldn’t be responsible to eat healthily, then I wasn’t responsible enough to drive on my own. This had been a huge factor in my agreeing to go to this overseas treatment center. They had promised that when I came home they would let me get my N and that they would get me a car. I mean, I really hadn’t wanted to be going into Grade Twelve without being able to drive my own car to school -- and now that we lived in Vancouver, I wanted it even more.

Dad started the car. “You OK there, bean?”

I nodded. I hated being called bean. Dad only called me that when he felt bad he couldn’t follow through on his promises. I closed my eyes, I was so tired, and rested my head against the glass on the window.

“You know, maybe once Ray and I get this case is wrapped up I’ll be able to find some time to spend at the wheel with you. You remember Ray, don’t you? He’s one of the key partners at the firm. He and I were chatting the other day-- I didn’t realize that he had a daughter who went missing a few years ago, he mentioned her and it made me think of you. Cassandra Pirot. Hmm… You know bean, I think the world of you, so does your mother… I know that it’s important as you enter your next year -- your final year of high-school -- that you feel confident...”

Dad’s voice continued in this low monotone, and it was comforting in an odd way. I heard the beginning of what he was saying. It sounded important and grand -- like the beginning of a father-daughter talk that I should maybe be awake for -- but my eyes didn’t want to stay open and my mind was exhausted. I hadn’t slept on the plane. I had watched movie after movie, then I made an epic playlist, mostly British pop, and then I listened to it while I re-read A Little Princess, The Secret Garden…

“Genevieve?”

It was so quiet. Dad must have stopped talking.

“Honey, we’re home!”

My face felt plastered to the window. I must have been drooling. Wait -- the car wasn’t moving ... I opened my eyes.

“Ahhh, and she is alive!”

I sat up. The car was stopped. We were sitting on a long drive in front of this massive house. It was perfect. It was white with dark green trim, huge bay windows and a wrap around porch.

“Dad!”

“Yes, I know.”

I hadn’t felt this excited in a long time. “This is the best!”

“Your mother very specifically was looking for a house that had...”

“It’s like the house from Green Gables on steroids!” I cut him off.

“Yes, I suppose.” He cleared his throat. “However, it’s rude to interrupt.”

“Sorry.”

“This is for you.” Dad handed me a key. “I had this specially cut for you.”

I stared at the key. It was a larger key than you would expect a house key to be, but that wasn’t what struck me; it was the fact that he had had it cut with a Disney print. Tinkerbell was grinning at me off my house key.

“Thanks!”

“What are you waiting for? Get in there and explore. I’ll follow you up with your bags shortly. Angela and Annabelle will be home soon.”

That was all I needed to hear. I undid my seatbelt, threw open the car door and ran up the last bit of the drive. The lawn was so manicured, it couldn’t have been because of my father -- he must have hired a gardener. I ran up the steps and paused at the door.

“Well, Gen.” I took a deep breath. “This is it.” I put the key in the keyhole and turned it.

The door swung open. I looked over my shoulder. Dad already had my luggage out of the trunk.

“Your room is at the top of the stairs and to the right. I left your door open for you,” Dad hollered at me as he shut the trunk.

I stepped into the front foyer. Mom must have hired an interior decorator. It looked incredible. Very chic. Mom was into French country -- not over the top, but the color scheme definitely. I loved it. The buttercream yellow, the blue -- that wasn’t navy -- the forest green, even the patterns of the people in old fashion dress, and sometimes the monkeys hanging out in trees.

Not bothering to kick off my bubblegum-pink Converse, I ran up the wide staircase.

“Gen! Shoes off!” Dad ordered from behind me. I could hear the front door shut.

I glanced around. Most of the doors off the landing were shut. Only two were open. One looked like it led into a bathroom, the other into... my room? Every time I had thought about what my room looked like, I couldn’t make myself visualize it. Often, my mom had asked me if I wanted to see what she had done with my room, but I had always insisted that I wanted to wait until I was home to see it. Now, I kind of wished that I had let her show me.

Dad had climbed the stairs behind me. He squeezed my shoulder and handed me my purple bag.

“I’ll be in my office if you need me.”

I swallowed. Whew. This was huge. New house, new room, and pretty soon -- new school. Dad had wandered off, I hadn’t even seen what direction he had gone. I made my feet carry me forward.

The door wasn’t fully open so I pushed it and watched it swing -- as my room came into view I felt a surge of joy and excitement. Mom had carried the French Country look through the house. The walls shone with a brilliant shade blue; buttercream silk curtains with tiny pink flowers and green vines, edged with lace hung from the windows; a huge area rug with the same colors and patterns covered the center of the hardwood floor. The canopy bed in the center of my room made my heart swell with glee, as did the matching dresser and wardrobe.

I felt like a little girl again. The events of the last ten months seemed to fade into the background as I made my way to the center of the room and slowly turned around in circles. I wanted to take it all in at once, spinning around faster and faster until I felt so dizzy I had to stop. My heart was bursting with delight. I wanted to cry; I was that happy.

My room had been empty for seven months -- no one had come in here except to decorate and move my things in. But there was something in the air of the room; I had felt it from the moment I had entered. There was the scent of newness -- fresh paint, untouched cotton sheets -- that I loved, but also something else with even more vitality as I breathed it in than a fresh Canadian breeze. Was it potential? Imagination? The room was so still around me as if holding its breath; it seemed to be begging me to let my mind take flight. The effect was magical. Yes, that was it: magic. I smiled, reminded of all my favorite stories: Cinderella, Snow White, or even Pride and Prejudice, or Emma … and then my nose detected something else -- the unmistakable smell of books.

Excited, I walked over to the built-in shelves, already lined with them -- and there, just like my mother had promised, was the first edition fairy tale collection. I pulled one of the volumes out and cautiously flipped open the ancient book.

“I wish I lived in this world.”

My voice sounded loud and foreign in the stillness of my room. As happy as I was to have space to myself, I suddenly missed my friend Claire. We’d met at the treatment center. She was incredible -- I honestly had no idea why she was there. She seemed so normal -- well, as normal as anybody else. She had reminded me of Anna in a way, which was why I’d felt so drawn to her when I’d met her like I had known her my whole life. Claire was the one who had encouraged me when I was sad and had been there for me when I was alone. She had become family. I’d have to try and Skype with her soon.

I stared at the intricate picture of Hansel and Gretel. What stupid little children. They had allowed themselves to get stuck in a horrible place because they hadn’t listened to the warning of -- oh, wait, that wasn’t the original version, that was the version from Once Upon A Time. I closed the book and hugged it to my chest, making a mental note of re-acquainting myself with the real story.

“It’s a small world after all ...”

Stupid song. Why was it stuck in my head? I left the bookshelf and headed towards the nook in the bay window, but stopped short when I saw myself in the full length mirror of my wardrobe. My hair was a disaster. My purple tank top and jean skirt really didn’t pair with my pink Converse as well as I had thought, and my stomach just visibly growled.

“Ah, man,” I moaned. I walked over to the window seat and sat down. “Shut up, stomach.” I smacked my middle lightly, but it only made it worse. Suddenly, all I wanted was a nice cup of hot steaming tea -- and maybe a blueberry scone ... “Mmm, I could really go for some Starbucks right now.”

“Really?”

I knew that voice! That had to be --

“Annabelle!” I put the book down and bounded to my feet. “I missed you so much. Also: You need to learn to answer your phone. ”

Annabelle laughed and tossed her head of blond curls, and skipped over to meet me. Annabelle loved displays of emotion -- sometimes too much, in my opinion -- but I hadn’t realized how much I missed her until now, until I could physically reach out and touch her. She drove me nuts most of the time, but I had to admit, life hadn’t been the same without her. She pulled me into a hug, a tight I-don’t-want-to-ever-let-you-go hug. I tried to ignore the fact that my skin looked even paler than I had wanted to imagine it was against Anna’s deep tan.

“I missed you too.” Her blue eyes sparkled. “So you want to go to Starbucks?” Annabelle dangled car keys off one of her fingers.

“You got your license?”

I didn’t want to be angry -- but when I had just been talking to my dad about getting my license and he had said no, knowing how much that meant to me, while also knowing that Anna had her license already: I was not impressed.

“Please, don’t be mad. I went in for my Learner’s before you left. I just didn’t want to tell you. Mom made me take those classes where you basically have to go to school to learn about cars and crap like that. I wouldn’t have gone, but if you take the courses they give you your new driver’s license in half the time. I took my road test two months ago.”

“How did I not know you went for your test?”

“Well, you were pretty preoccupied with getting your life figured out -- no offense.”

“Wow, shots fired.”

“Sorry, Gen.” Anna let go of me and took a step back. “Look, you just got home, and I really did miss you. I want to treat you. Did you still want to go to Starbs?”

What I really wanted to do was to find my father in his office, and my mother, wherever she was, and give them a piece of my mind about Anna driving before me -- but I also wanted some gluten ... Bring on that scone. I mean, bring on the tea -- tea with scones.

“Sure. Let’s go.”

I followed Anna down the stairs and into the garage.

“Mom says I have to use her car until I can prove I’m responsible to have my own car, but Daddy says he’s going to get me one for school -- so we’ll see what happens.” Anna smirked. “I think he’s already picked one out for me.”

“Be cool,” I muttered to myself as I felt a surge of anger rush through me.

“What was that, Gen?”

“Oh, nothing. I just said, ‘That’s cool.’”

“Right. And we are off.” Anna opened the garage and put the car into reverse. “Hang onto your hat, lady! This is going to be a bumpy ride!”

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