Alleen Scordato wheezed slightly, as she stood up and dragged herself into the kitchen to face the rest of her day. The spoon clattered against the side of the teacup as she walked, from the tremor in her hand, and her right knee made an alarming creaking sound, which she ignored along with the rest.
She was 87 years old, after all. She was bound to have an ailment or two. The way she saw it, she was lucky that she didn't feel much worse than she did.
She set the cup, spoon and small plate in the sink and then steadied herself with the edge of the counter for a moment, before reaching back to turn on the water.
She smiled grimly. Best get started; the dishes weren't going to wash themselves. There were so few that she really could've left them to do with the lunch things later, but it was hard for her to stand for very long and if she let them get too far behind, she'd be in trouble.
She carefully washed and rinsed each item and placed it in the rack to dry. She hated how difficult some of these simple things were now, but they had to be done. Besides, she refused to give up on the little things that made her feel some semblance of normality.
She turned off the water and wiped the counter and sink with a dishcloth, drying the lingering beads of water, before making her way back to the living room to rest.
As she caught her breath from the short walk, Alleen found herself thinking about her situation. She used to be able to do anything she set her mind to. There had been a time when she'd worked a 14-hour day and then walked home at the end of the day. It was hard to believe that she was still that same person. It had been so long ago.
She'd buried two husbands since then, and three children as well. She had grandchildren now, great-grandchildren even. She was old and she felt old.
No matter how tired she felt though, she still didn't really feel like she should be this person. When she looked in the mirror, she seemed trapped inside the wrinkled face that stared back at her. Time had stolen the person she was, and left her like this as some kind of cruel joke.
She shook her head. There was no point in dwelling on it. She was as she was and there certainly wasn't anything she could do about it. She'd lived a long life and the price for that was to end up old and weak. No use grumbling about it.
She turned on the television and flipped through the channels, but nothing caught her eye so she just turned it back off.
Her eyes were too bad to read any more, and her hands wouldn't let her do much else, so it was usually either watch television or stare at the walls. No wonder she so often found herself dwelling on her problems; there simply wasn't much else to do.
She turned the television back on again, mainly just for the background noise. Her friend Betsey had one of those recorder boxes that her son had bought for her, so she could save things and watch them later. She could also freeze it if she had to do something like answer the phone.
Alleen looked over at the phone. She probably didn't need one of those recorder boxes anyway. It wasn't like anyone ever called her any more.
She scolded herself for getting gloomy again, and try to drum up some enthusiasm for the young man who was currently trying to guess some kind of puzzle to win some money.
After only a few minutes, however, she started dozing off, and eventually drifted into a fitful, uncomfortable sleep.
[end excerpt from Chapter 1]
Wendell Laufer nervously checked his rear-view mirror for the tenth time in less than a minute.
He was pretty sure that the blue sedan was following him. It was either the sedan or the black SVU, and since he'd managed to lose the other one at the last turn about twenty miles back, the sedan seemed the most likely candidate.
It was always possible, of course, that he'd temporarily lost all of his pursuers, but he wasn't willing to take any chances.
He scanned ahead for the next available side road, and waited until he was almost on it before signalling and then quickly turning. This would take him several miles out of his way, but it would be worth it, if it got them off of his trail for a while.
His eyes flicked up to the rear-view mirror, where he could see the blue sedan continuing past the turn. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Wendell wasn't sure how many agents were actually out there now, but every day it became more and more difficult to evade them.
Still watching the road ahead, he reached over to the seat beside him and flipped open a small, dog-eared notebook and made a note of the date, time and location in large shaky script. He could fill in the details later, once it was safe to stop. The important thing was to log everything while it was fresh in his mind. That was the only way he managed to stay a step ahead of them.
He reached up and rubbed his aching eyes. There was only one more thing that had to be done before he could rest for a while.
Wendell scanned the road for the next turn that would take him back to the main highway, and then resumed heading towards his original destination.
Several minutes later, he came to a small petrol station, and he pulled up to the pump. Before getting out, he consulted his map, which was covered with drawn lines and scribbled text. This place should be okay.
He made a quick check of the other customers and then proceeded to fill up his tank. He never knew how far out of his way he might have to go to avoid capture, so he always made sure to completely fill the tank whenever possible.
He went inside and paid cash, fully aware that the store's camera was recording him and that the agents would be aware of his location within a very few minutes.
Getting back into his car, he checked out the customers again. So far, so good.
He pulled up to the road, and cautiously looked both ways before pulling out into traffic. He hadn't had a driver's licence for several years now, since they'd started putting the bar-codes on the back in the special ink that let them track his location, so he had to be very careful not to break any laws or draw any attention to himself.
Wendell had never been able to figure out why they'd singled him out, but they'd been watching him for most of his life. He certainly didn't know anything, or at least if he did, he wasn't even aware of it, but that hadn't stopped them from tapping his phones and listening in on all of his conversations.
Lately though, it had gotten much worse. Over the past few months they'd actually started coming after him, and he had a sick feeling that, no matter what he did, sooner or later one of them was going to catch him and then that would be it. He would disappear into the back of some unmarked van and no one would ever see or hear from him again.
He glanced down at the map. Nowhere was safe for very long, but at least he'd managed to identify some places where he could hide temporarily, and as long as he kept moving as much as possible, he could convince himself that he almost had a chance.
He looked at the spot that he'd circled on the map. He couldn't go straight there, of course, but even diverting down several side streets, he should be there within an hour.
[end excerpt from Chapter 2]
Velma Triggs stood in the doorway and watched her daughter sleeping. There was something reassuring about the gentle rise-and-fall of her breathing under the covers.
"Is she asleep?" Velma's father whispered, as he stepped up behind her.
"Are you sure you have to leave in the morning?" he asked, "You know you're welcome stay longer, if you want."
"I know," she said, "But I need to get back in time to rest up a bit before school starts back, and it's a very long drive."
"You guys should've flown out," he said, a warm smile creeping into his voice, "In fact, I seem to remember someone telling you that before you left."
"You're right, Dad," Velma teased, "Go ahead and say 'I told you so'."
"I believe I just did," he said, grinning.
"I just thought Kayla would enjoy the trip more by car, so we could stop and see things along the way."
"Well," Velma said, "She loved staying in hotels, and she got excited about a few things along the way, but mostly she just slept or was bored."
"You could still fly back, you know."
Velma shook her head. "I need my car."
"Get someone to drive it back for you," her father suggested, "There are always some college students needing to get home or back to school, who'll be more than happy to drive it, just to have the transportation."
"Thanks, but no," Velma said, "I deal with students every day and I'm not sure I'm ready to trust my car to one."
"Velma Triggs, I do believe that sounds just the slightest bit snobby."
"Not at all," Velma insisted, "I'm just being cautious." She paused and then continued, with a mischievous look in her eye, "Besides, you're the one who saddled me with the name Velma. For all I know, that's what a Velma is supposed to act like."
"There's nothing wrong with your name," he insisted, "It's a perfectly good name. It was my mother's name."
"Yeah, it's a fine name," she said, "It just makes me sound as if I should be 60 years old."
"See? We were just planning ahead. When you actually ARE 60, it will suit you perfectly."
Velma laughed at the familiar banter. She had really missed this lately.
"Besides," he added, "It could've been MUCH worse. We could've named you after your OTHER grandmother."
"Yep. Hortense MacIntyre. How would you have liked to be named Hortense, eh?"
Velma made an exaggerated expression of horror. "I sometimes think you just made that name up to frighten me into feeling better about being named Velma."
"Oh no," her father said, shaking his head, "And if you think that's bad, her sister's name was Hawtell."
"Okay, now I'm SURE you're making it up."
"My hand to God," her father said, "And their MOTHER, now she had a strange name. Her name was--"
"I give up," Velma said, raising her hands, "You win. Velma is a great name. I'm glad to have it."
"See? What did I tell you?" he father said, laughing softly.
They stood there in silence for a few minutes, and then Velma quietly closed the door, leaving it open just a crack, in case Kayla called out in the night. "I think I'm going to go downstairs and read a few more of these essays, before going to bed."
"How are they, so far?"
"Typical high school essays," Velma shrugged, "A few good ones, a few that make me weep for our educational system, and the rest are just barely enough to get by with a passing grade."
"Ah," he said, leaning forward to kiss her on the forehead, "Well, I think I'm going to call it a night. If you need anything, just make yourself at home."
"Thanks, Dad," she said. Even though he hadn't moved out here until after she was out on her own, he still insisted that she treat any place he lived as her home as well.
"I'm so happy you were able to come visit," he said, "And I know your brother and Michelle were glad to see you too."
"Michelle hates me, Dad."
"She doesn't hate you."
"She thinks I'm going to hell," Velma said flatly.
"She thinks EVERYONE is going to hell," he father said, "It's just the way she was raised. You shouldn't hold that against her."
"Do you always have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt?"
"I try to," her father said, "It helps with my work."
"Dad, you build FURNITURE."
"Never mind," Velma said, shaking her head, "You're right."
"Once again," her father said, smiling broadly, "I've told you kids that if you'd just accept that fact, everything would be a lot simpler."
"Goodnight, Dad," Velma said, kissing him lightly on the cheek.
Velma turned and headed downstairs to face her essays.
[end excerpt from Chapter 3]
"Cal, please, not tonight."
Calhoun Delaney clenched his fist. The last thing he needed after working all day was to have to come home and deal with this crap. He started to say something, but the baby let loose with a fresh round of wailing, setting his teeth on edge.
"Shhh, baby," his wife cooed, pacing back and forth.
"Can't you make him shut up?!" Cal demanded. How hard could it be to get a baby to go to sleep anyway? Somehow though, the task always seemed to be more than his wife could manage.
"I'm trying," she said, "What do you want me to do?"
"I don't know," Cal said, "Something. How should I know? I'm not his mother."
"You're his father though," she muttered.
Cal's eyes flashed, and he could feel his nerves standing on edge. For some reason, she always went out of her way to get under his skin.
"I'm sorry, Cal, please," she said quickly, "I didn't mean it."
He looked over at his wife. Corey Delaney was pretty and thin, or at least she used to be, before having the baby. These days though, she apparently couldn't be bothered to try to look decent. She wasn't even wearing makeup and stray bits of hair hung down loose over her face.
The first time he'd seen her, she had been working at a convenience store, and she'd had a face that would've been at home on any fashion model and the kind of body that told him exactly what kind of girl she really was. He had fallen for her immediately.
When they'd started dating, all of their friends had thought their names were so cute together, but if they could see what she put him through now, he was sure they wouldn't think it was so cute any more.
The baby had finally fallen asleep, and Corey kissed him gently on the forehead, before putting him in his crib, in the corner of the small bedroom.
"Let's go to bed," Cal suggested, "It's getting late."
"I can't yet," Corey said, "I still have a pile of laundry to do, and this is the first chance I've had to do it."
"Do it tomorrow."
Corey shook her head. "The baby'll have me up first thing, and I can't afford to let this laundry get behind."
"I have to work," he complained, "I need to get some sleep." She never seemed to understand that he couldn't stay up half the night and still be able to work the next day. He didn't get to just hang around the house all day like she did.
"I know," she said, picking up clothes from the floor, "You go ahead and go to bed. I'll be in later."
Cal started to protest, but then changed his mind. There didn't seem to be much point in arguing with her about it, since even if she did go to bed now, she wouldn't want to do anything anyway. She never did any more.
He grumbled to himself as he set the alarm clock.
"Let me have that shirt, and I'll wash it while I'm at it."
"It has to be ironed," Cal said, peeling off the shirt and dropping it on the floor.
"I know," Corey said, bending over to pick up the shirt, then grimacing slightly and holding her side as she straightened back up.
Cal felt himself stir, as he looked over at her. Her gown had fallen open, revealing her breasts. She might not be the beauty she was when he met her, but she was still far from ugly, and he was suddenly struck by the unexpected urgency of his need.
Noticing his gaze, she hastily pulled her gown closed. "Get some sleep," she said, with a tired smile, "I'm going to be a while, so don't wait up."
No, of course not.
Cal just climbed into bed, saying nothing. What was there to say? Besides, he really did have to get up early.
Corey left, awkwardly shifting her bundle of clothes so she could turn off the light, before walking out, leaving Cal to lie there, feeling frustrated and alone.
[end excerpt from Chapter 4]
Amaya Koeman huddled against the building, waiting for the rain to stop, or at least ease up a bit. The fire escape over her head did little to keep her from getting wet, but at least it kept the largest drops from hitting her directly.
She coughed, which set off another long bout of coughing and left her wheezing and gasping for breath. The doc at the clinic had given her a prescription, but that was pretty much a joke, since she had no way to actually get it filled.
She'd also given her handful of sample pills, although Amaya had ended up trading them for food a couple of days ago. She could put up with a little cough longer than she could go without eating.
She was supposed to go back to the clinic tomorrow, but she didn't really see much of a point. The doctor would just scold her about not taking her medication and maybe give her another prescription that she wouldn't be able to fill.
The doctor meant well, but she had no idea what things were really like out here. Still, compared to some of the other doctors that Amaya had encountered, she was definitely one of the good ones.
Amaya shuddered at the sudden unpleasant memories, and pulled her threadbare jacket tighter, burying her hands inside the long sleeves.
The rain was starting to slack off just a bit. It didn't look to be anywhere close to stopping any time soon, but anything short of a full downpour was a blessing.
After a few minutes, the rain looked to be about as light as it was likely to get, and Amaya dashed out from under her makeshift shelter, shaking her head to divert the rivers of water that were trying to run from her hair down into her eyes.
She ducked around the building to the back, taking a moment to look around before rooting through the trash bin, until she found several soggy, recently-discarded pizza boxes. She quickly opened them, taking out two barely-touched slices of pizza and as many abandoned pizza-crusts as she could fit in her jacket pocket.
Dumping the rest back into the trash, she scurried off to the darkest corner of the alley that she could find, and sat down with her back against the wall to eat.
The pizza was greasy and cold, but it took up space in her empty stomach and that was all she cared about for the moment. Another day or two and she would've had to resort to other means of getting food, and those were much less pleasant than eating garbage.
Amaya finished the pizza and then choked down the dry pizza crusts, unwilling to let any of the food go to waste. There was no way of knowing how long it would be before she came across something else that was edible.
When she was finished eating, she wiped her hands on her wet jeans, and looked around for the safest spot to try to sleep for the night. There didn't seem to be any place any better, or worse, than any other at the moment, so she hunched back in the corner where she was, and curled up in a ball, hugging her knees.
With her stomach full, or at least far less empty, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
[end excerpt from Chapter 5]
David Anholts was dying.
No one had come right out and said it, of course, but David was smart and the signs were there. Even if it hadn't been obvious from the expressions on his parents' faces and the hushed conversations in the hallway, the fact that one of them was constantly by his bedside would've given it away.
Every time he woke up, day or night, either his mother or his father, sometimes both, were sitting in the chair next to his bed. It was reassuring to see them there, but it was also a very clear indication of just how sick he really was.
David's parents had him late in life, but they'd never let that slow them down. They attended almost every school event, no matter how minor, and were usually the first to volunteer for parent activities.
His father had opted for early retirement, so he could stay at home and take care of him, which allowed his mother to continue running the small bookshop she'd started just a few years before he was born.
If David's family was unusual, he'd never noticed it. Sure, his mom and dad were closer to his friends' grandparents' ages than to their parents', and it was his father who baked cookies for school bake sales, but none of that ever seemed to matter. Besides, his dad could make up a pretty wicked batch of chocolate chocolate-chip cookies.
It helped that they lived in a very diverse school district, where there were so many different types of families, that it would have been extremely difficult to identify any particular type as defining what a 'normal' family was supposed to be.
Even though he was only 9-years-old, they'd already saved up a fairly substantial college fund, although at this point, he imagined that most of it had already had to be used to deal with the mounting cost of his medical expenses. After all, it wasn't like he would ever actually be going to college.
David wasn't sure how long he had left, but based on all of the things that everyone was trying so hard to keep him from seeing and hearing, he was pretty sure that it wasn't very long -- weeks maybe, possibly even days.
The truth was, he didn't even know exactly what it was that was wrong with him, only that it was something very bad, and that it hurt a LOT. He had a million questions he would've liked to have asked, but it seemed to be very important to his parents to protect him from the terrible truth of his situation, and he couldn't bring himself to shatter their illusions.
He glanced over at his father, sleeping uncomfortably in the chair next to him. This whole thing had been so hard on them. Other than the physical pain, which was almost unbearable at times, David sometimes thought he was having and easier time of it than they were.
He didn't want to die, of course, but he had faced the fact that he was going to, and since he realised that there was nothing he could do about it, he was simply waiting for it to happen.
His eyelids felt heavy. He was so tired, and sleep was never very easy or pleasant any more. Each time he closed his eyes, he wondered it he would ever open them again, and if he would even know when it finally happened.
His thoughts felt as heavy as his eyes, too huge and oppressive for someone as young as he was, but there were so many things he didn't know -- and would never know, that his brain seemed to be trying to cram all of the questions of a lifetime into the small span of time he had left.
Pondering the nature of life, death and the afterlife, David fell into a shallow, restless sleep.
[end excerpt from Chapter 6]
Wanda Klossner checked the lane next to her, signalled, and then pulled over. Her exit was coming up soon, and she needed to be in the far lane.
She glanced up at the road sign announcing the entrance to the National Park and turned onto the exit.
She had really been looking forward to this weekend, and she wanted to get as much out of it as she possibly could. The election was Tuesday, and she had pretty much done everything that she could do before then, so she planned to spend the next three days worrying about nothing more earth-shattering than where to set up camp for the night.
Wanda stopped at the Ranger Station and bought a weekend parking pass, then picked a suitable place to leave her car.
Ron had tried to talk her out of taking this trip, but it was one point on which she stubbornly refused to yield. Ronald Medwin was a great campaign manager, but he would find little ways to micro-manage every aspect of her life, if she let him.
In the end, there hadn't really been anything for her to do anyway except sit around and wait, so he hadn't really had any valid grounds for his argument.
Her husband, on the other hand, thought it was an excellent idea. Alan Pierce was an amazing husband. He knew how much she loved hiking and camping and it seemed unlikely that she was going to get much of a chance to do it again any time soon, so he had suggested that he watch the boys so she could have this weekend to herself.
It wasn't that she wouldn't have wanted Alan along. It was just that the boys were still a bit too young for this sort of thing, and besides, if she was honest, she was really looking forward to simply not having to deal with any other human beings at all for a few days.
Wanda looked through her pack, just to make sure that she had everything she might need. She'd checked it before leaving the house, but she didn't want to take any chances on getting out there and suddenly finding herself without something important. After all, it wasn't as if she could just run down to the corner store.
She filled her canteen, and put an extra water bottle in her pack with the other gear. She knew of two clean, safe sources for drinking water where she was heading, but it was a pretty long and gruelling hike to get there.
Lastly she made sure the battery on her mobile was fully charged and verified that she could get a signal, before turning off the ringer and placing it in her pack. She had made it clear that she was going to be completely out-of-contact for the next few days, but that didn't mean that she intended to leave herself with no way of calling for help, if there was an emergency.
She hefted the heavy pack onto her back, and shifted her centre of gravity to adjust for the awkward weight and bulk of it. She'd done this so many times before that she didn't even really have to think about it any more. Her body simply knew how to compensate, and did so on its own.
Wanda made a final check of the car, then locked it up, making sure that her parking permit was clearly visible, and headed off towards the woods.
[end excerpt from Chapter 7]
Kenzie Brennan peered over the roof of the building, looking down at the city far below. There was something strangely calming about viewing the world from this high up, and during the difficult times of his life, he had always sought out such places.
When he was young, it had been the roof of his house, then later the building where he lived, and now the roof of his office building.
The wind swirled around him, chaotic and brisk, drawing his thoughts back to more unpleasant things. He didn't know what he was doing up here anyway. It was stupid. He had a 3 o'clock appointment that he really shouldn't be late for, and besides, no matter what kind of clarity he thought he gained up here, he would still be going home tonight to the same empty flat.
Ken had been with Gareth Donnelly for 23 years -- more than half of his life, and he could feel the loss like a hollow cavern in the centre of his being. The world seemed somehow wrong, broken, without Gareth in it.
His tears fell freely, spiralling down towards the streets below. They had made so many plans, never stopping to think that one of them could be gone in the span of an instant. Now the future seemed so endless and bleak, that there hardly seemed to be any point.
Ken wiped his eyes. This was crazy. He should know better. He knew that these emotions, however terrible and overwhelming, were temporary. If one of his patients had been talking to him like this, he would have known just what to say, but he felt powerless to do anything about it when it was him.
Therapist, analyse thyself.
He looked down again. It would be so easy to just let himself drop over that edge -- just to let it all be over. It wasn't the first time he'd had those thoughts, but of course he never let himself give into them. He was, after all, trained to deal with this sort of thing.
Gareth had always been the practical one. It had been his idea for them to both make wills, so they could clearly specify the arrangements they wanted to have made upon their death. Ken tended to avoid thinking about such things, but he'd realised of course that Gareth was right.
It was too bad it hadn't made one damn bit of difference. Gareth's family, who had disowned him years ago, had challenged the will, and a judge had ruled that Ken was not a relative and therefore had no say in the matter.
They'd been together for 23 years, but he wasn't a relative. How could that be?
So, instead of being buried in the small side-by-side plots that they'd purchased together, Gareth's body had been flown back to his home town and he was being buried in a family plot. Ken had even been informed that he wasn't welcome at the funeral.
According to Gareth's sister, who was the only member of his family who would even talk to Kenzie, they'd even had an open-casket 'viewing of the body', which was something Gareth had BEGGED Ken to make sure didn't happen.
These people, this family, didn't know Gareth at all. They had no idea who he was, or what he wanted. They had simply swooped in and claimed his corpse, like so much property, and then ignored all of his wishes.
Ken clenched his teeth. He was trying not to hate them. After all, they were Gareth's parents, but how could they have so little disregard for the people and things that had been important to their son?
Gareth's father had kicked him out of the house at 17, and told him never to return. Now they suddenly wanted him back? Ken understood it, of course. He'd seen it before, many times. Regret is a powerful force, and it can make a person do things they'd never otherwise do. It was just unfortunate that Gareth's parents' grief was causing them to show him the same mindless disregard in death that they'd shown when he was alive.
[end excerpt from Chapter 8]
Elyssa Toivonen yawned and stared down at the page. She'd been trying to work this same problem for so long that the numbers and symbols were all starting to swim around in front of her.
She rubbed her eyes and stood up, walking over to the small coffee maker to refill her empty cup.
"Oh coffee," she said, breathing in the rejuvenating vapours, "My one, true, best friend."
"Gee, thanks" a voice said from the doorway.
Elyssa turned around to see her dorm-mate, Trish, wrapped in towels, returning from her shower. "You're a close second," Elyssa said, smiling, as she sat back down at her desk.
"Hey, at least I know where I stand," Trish replied, furiously drying her shoulder-length hair with another towel. "What are you doing anyway?" she asked, looking over Elyssa's shoulder and showering her back with tiny droplets of water.
"Trying to get ready for Monday's exam," Elyssa answered, frowning slightly.
"You do realise it's Saturday night, right?" Trish shook her head, and started rummaging through the outfits in her closet.
Trish and Elyssa had been randomly assigned as dorm-mates during their Freshman year, but had quickly become friends, and had chosen to room together ever since.
"I think I might've heard a rumour to that effect, yeah."
"What do you think of this one?" Trish asked, holding up a dress.
"Well..." Elyssa said, "Uh, I think it's mine."
"I know that," Trish said, rolling her eyes, "I mean what do you think of it for the party tonight."
"I don't think it'll fit you."
"For YOU, silly," Trish said, with an exaggerated look of exasperation.
Elyssa shook her head. "I can't go." Responding to Trish's glare, she added, "I still have to go to the library and verify my references on the paper I have to turn in Monday morning."
"Come on, Lee..." Trish begged.
For reasons that Elyssa had never quite figured out, Trish seemed to think that Lee was a logical shorthand for her name.
When she was a child, her parents had called her Ellie, but that nickname had pretty much died out once she started school. Since then, everyone had called her Elyssa... except for Trish, who had called her Lee from the first time they'd met.
"I can't, sorry," Elyssa explained, "I would've gone to the library earlier, but this Calculus has been kicking my butt all afternoon."
Elyssa was currently an English major, although she was constantly going back-and-forth in her head, between English and Journalism. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in Journalism, but several people had advised her that a more general major was a better idea, in case her Journalism career didn't pan out.
Fortunately, the two majors shared a lot of classes in common, so she hadn't been forced to make a final choice yet. Pretty soon though, she was going to have to decide, one way or the other.
If she could've afforded it, she would've simply declared a double major, but that would've meant at least two extra semesters of school, and she just barely had enough money without the extra time.
"Benny will be there," Trish taunted, as she slipped on her clothes.
"Yeah, so?" Elyssa said, trying to sound casual and uninterested.
"Don't EVEN try that with me," Trish said, laughing, "I've seen you talking to him."
"I talk to a lot of people," Elyssa shrugged.
"Well, there's talking, and then there's TALKING," Trish said, with a knowing grin.
"I have NO IDEA what you mean," Elyssa said, with exaggerated innocence. She looked back down at her Calculus book and frowned. "I really need to get back to this though. These equations aren't going to solve themselves."
"You know what they say," Trish warned, as she stepped into her shoes and headed towards the door, "All work and no play..."
"Keeps my GPA up?" Elyssa suggested.
Trish stuck out her tongue. "I'm off," she said, "You know where it is, if you want to drop in later."
"I'll try, but don't count on it."
Trish nodded and left, leaving Elyssa to sip coffee and struggle with her Calculus.
[end excerpt from Chapter 9]
[end excerpt from Chapter 10]