Anne had just run out of the school because of a loud crashing noise she had heard. Anne was terrified of who might have been in a crash. To her horror she recognized the blue jeep that was crashed into an old abandoned white van. It was her best friend Conner’s. For some reason every time Conner was in a wreck he had crashed into that old van. She barely noticed that an ambulance had just pulled in. she was racing towards Conner’s jeep. Every time this happened to Conner Anne became terrified about how badly he was injured. Usually he crashed into the van because jocks that scared him would make him nervous and he would start to drive away, and end up crashing. The paramedics got him to the hospital and checked him out to see how injured he was. Anne came in Conner’s room after his examination and learned that he had bruises and his second neck that year. Anne and Conner talked and laughed until eventually the doctor came in and urged Anne to leave because visiting hours were over. Reluctantly she left. When Conner got back to school almost five months later Anne was thrilled. Conner was sitting in his newly fixed jeep, waiting for Anne after school and the Jocks strutted over and started harassing him. Anne stepped out of the school, saw what was going on, and hurried over to Conner’s jeep and got in. The quarterback, Pete stopped bothering Conner while the others continued and walked to Anne’s side of the jeep and said “Hey sweetheart, you want to go out with me tonight?” Anne really didn’t like Pete or any of his friends, but if it would stop him from bothering Conner she would go on a date with Pete. She agreed and asked Pete to have his friends leave Conner alone and he agreed and told her to meet him for their date that night at nine at the local burger place down the block. As Conner was driving he broke the silence and said “You don’t have to go on the date for me.” “Why not?” “Do you actually want to go out with him?” “No, there’s some tall, handsome, and smart guy who I’d want to go out with way more.” Anne said that as she looked slyly at Conner, Conner looked over and smiled. He could see why many guys liked Anne, she was an average height, the perfect size, had a perfect complexion, and her long blond hair was always perfect. Why she still hung out with him after being his friend since preschool, or why she liked him more than best friends puzzled him. Conner knew he was freakishly tall and was a huge nerd; he did dress well, but was still a nerd. Pete wanted to take Anne to her house after their date, but Anne didn’t want to go home, so she had Pete take her to the old abandoned neighborhood which was close to her own. Many neighborhoods around the abandoned neighborhood paid for their own reasons to have the power working. Anne was going to meet up with Conner in house #6 after her date, and was saying good bye to Pete when he forced himself on Anne. Pete was trying to kiss Anne and although she was panicked she got an idea, she punched Pete in the face so hard she made her knuckles bleed. Pete was cupping his broken nose while Anne vaulted out of the car. Anne raced in the backdoor of house #6, found Conner, and went to the top floor of the house. Conner noticed Anne was holding her right hand to her body protectively; he gently pulled her hand towards him so he could look at it, and brushed away the dried blood, so it looked perfectly normal. Anne flinched when Conner touched her hurt knuckles and explained that her knuckles still hurt. Conner looked uncomfortable but said “Well I’ve read of this one technique, I don’t know if it works and it’s kind of…weird. I’ll try it if you want me to.” “You can go ahead and try.” Conner scooted closer to Anne brought her hand to his lips and kissed each knuckle. When he was done he asked her if it worked and Anne looked surprised and said “Yes, but you know he kind of made my lips hurt when he tried to kiss me. Would you mind trying your treatment on them?” Anne looked at Conner while saying that slyly and smiling. Conner mumbled okay moving even closer, grabbed her face between his hands tenderly, and did his treatment on her once again. When it was over Conner asked her if it worked, she said “well I’m not sure, maybe you should do that again.” The two laughed and started kissing again; finally they decided to go to their own homes, reluctantly. Anne had been close with her dad, but he had died and her mother either didn’t care what Anne said or did, or she was angry but what Anne said or did. Conner’s parents didn’t even acknowledge his presence. The next week, excluding Pete the Jocks were once again bothering Conner, and once again Anne had a date. The same thing happened week after week until no Jocks dared bother Anne or Conner. Before anyone could believe it, it was Graduation Day. The day after Graduation, Anne and Conner were hanging out and neither of them wanted to go home, alone or together. They were talking and Anne mentioned something about not wanting to live with her mother anymore and wanting to move out, but she wasn’t sure where and what she could afford. Conner admitted to having the same dilemma and had the idea of moving into the abandoned neighborhood. All of the kids in the duo’s graduation class heard that they had found a place to stay and asked them about it. Conner and Anne told them about moving into the abandoned neighborhood and suggested they leave notes in their empty rooms for their parents. All of the teens moved on the same day and with the identical notes in their empty rooms, and the fact that no one knew where they moved there was a story wondering about the mystery on the local news and in the newspaper. Since it was Anne and Conner who had told their class about moving into the neighborhood they were voted leaders of all of the teens and houses, and the first thing they did was set up phones in all of the houses with the other houses on speed dial in case of an emergency. Some of the rowdier teens passed the idea through Conner and Anne about having a party as a moving in party for everyone. The party was a blast for everyone, Anne and Conner slipped away during it though to their house, house #6. They enjoyed the party, but they wanted some nice alone time, for just the two of them. In the middle of the neighborhood there was a big building and the teens used it as a party place/dining hall and everyone showed up for breakfast the day after the party, even if some people were hung over. Some people would come up to Anne and Conner and comment on how they had disappeared and asked them where they had gone. Anne would just smile and shake her head, she couldn’t tell them that she had broken one of the rules she and Conner had made for the Teen Neighborhood, Rule #12, and people can’t have sex unless they are married.
TWO MONTHS LATER
A group of girls are waiting outside the bathroom in house #6, they are waiting for Anne to come out and tell them the results of what the pregnancy test is. The people of TN weren’t actually upset when they heard that Anne had broken Rule #12. Anne came out and there was a hush of expectancy, she smiled and casually said “Do you think it takes TN to raise a baby?” All of the girls screamed, loudly enough that some guys ran over to see why. Anne called a meeting to announce how majorly Rule #12 had been broken, she went up and it was dead silent. When she made the announcement everyone cheered, when it was finally quiet again someone shouted “So who’s the father?” Someone else shouted “Isn’t it obvious? It’s Conner?” everyone turned back to Anne, expecting her to tell them who the father was. All Anne said was “I’m not saying unless the father wants me to.” Conner stepped forward and everyone thought that he was making a TN announcement, and he told them that he was the father. There was a moment of shocked silence, then everyone was yelling something like “I knew it!” or “Why him? Why not me?” The meeting got adjourned soon after that and all the girls came forward to give Anne an excited hug.
TWO MONTHS LATER
TN was having a big Thanksgiving picnic in Grover Park, even the rowdier teens who Anne caught trying to spike the punch, juice, water, etc. Anne was hanging out with a group of girls when she was overcome with nausea and was booking it to the bathroom. Conner saw her and ran after her; right when they got there the maintenance started cleaning the bathroom. They tried to shove past, but he wouldn’t let them. Conner grabbed Anne’s hair and waist as she lunged down and puked on the maintenance’s shoes. He looked at his shoes, then at Anne in surprise. She just kept puking, eventually she straightened up, and the man noticed her slightly swollen stomach. He frowned, and then asked if Anne was pregnant, Anne and Conner nodded, his frown turned to a scowl when he asked how old Anne was and they answered eighteen. Anne and Conner headed back to the picnic, but the maintenance man stayed and watched through slitted eyes until the teens packed up and left. A couple of days later Anne and Conner left to go to Ann’s family reunion and Anne wore a nice looking outfit that didn’t hide her swollen stomach at all. Conner agreed to come, but argued that he wouldn’t be welcomed, Anne argued that he could come because he was connected to her family in a way, touching her stomach. Anne’s Aunt Sophie swooped down on her and gave her a hug as she and Conner were coming in the door. Anne stopped Sophie before she got too close and held on too tight, for her baby’s sake. Her aunt looked at her confused, so Anne stepped back and lovingly patted her stomach. Sophie’s eyes bulged and widened in surprise and she finally managed to rasp out “You’re pregnant? Who’s the father?” Conner stepped forward, holding up his hand; Sophie’s eyes flew to Conner, and then narrowed. Sophie got right in Conner’s face hissing “You knock up my niece, you probably force her to stay with you, and you dare show your face at her family reunion.” Anne pushed her aunt away while saying “I love Conner, so he didn’t knock me up, we want to stay together, and he would have come to this reunion as my best friend and boyfriend anyway, and like it or not he is now connected to this spoke her family!” As Anne spoke her voice raised, so when she was done, she was shouting, and everyone was staring and whispering, wondering what Anne was talking about and commenting on her stomach. Anne lifted her chin then clearly said “More of this family is joining us now, or really in five months.” Everyone’s jaws dropped and Anne’s mother pushed her way to the front of the crowd. When she got to the front, she looked at Anne, then started shouting “You slut, you shouldn’t have come to this family reunion!” Anne stared at her mother square in the face and calmly said “Mother, I’m still a part of this family, I can come to family reunions if I want to.” “Well, when you finally have that child, I won’t help you support it.” “I won’t need your help, never have.” Conner stepped forward and gently pulled Anne away and out the door. They didn’t feel like going back to TN yet, so they went to the park, and munched on jumbo, soft pretzels in comfortable silence. Conner pulled Anne against him, murmuring “It’s okay Anne, relax. Don’t listen to her, you are not a slut.” She looked up at Conner, confusion on her tired face; he bent down and gently and lovingly kissed her. Anne turned her head to kiss Conner closer and wrapped her arms around the back of his neck. When the two came apart, Anne’s face still looked tired, but much less confused. They walked back to the car together with their arms wrapped around each other. A week later Conner and Anne went to Conner’s parent’s house to spread the good news. Conner they completely ignored, but they paid Anne a lot attention, and they were enthusiastic that Anne was willing to have a baby connected to their family. They gave Anne great compliments, but only paid Conner enough attention to call him a “man whore.” That night, as Conner was getting into bed, Anne comforted his, much like he had a week ago. Anne sat Conner down on the bed, pulled off his shirt, and started massaging his back, shoulders, and neck, kissing him in various places. Conner was almost asleep with his arms around Anne’s waist, when he felt a faint tapping under his hands, Conner looked at Anne and saw that she was asleep, which meant… The tapping was the baby, his baby, their baby. He gently shook Anne awake, when she finally woke up, she asked why he woke her up, and he excitedly whispered to her what had happened, she grinned, gave Conner a peck on the lips, and laided back down.
THREE MONTHS LATER
Anne was with Lizzie Delong, who was sobbing uncontrollably as Mike Dunner; her boyfriend was loaded into an ambulance. Mike had gotten into a bad car/bicycle accident and was being rushed to the hospital. When the girls got to the hospital, Anne insisted that Lizzie sit down while she asked how Mike was. When she asked the doctor he asked “Is he…Your boyfriend... And the…” gesturing to Anne’s stomach. Anne let him know that Mike wasn’t, but she had brought Mike’s girlfriend. Mike had a few cracked ribs, an injured shoulder, broken nose, and some road rash, he would be fine. Everyone at TN held a baby shower, the guest consisting of them, and after Anne told them the gender of her baby they were able to supply everything for the nursery. The baby shower was fun for everyone, when the shower was almost over someone dimmed the lights, turned on a slow song, and told Anne and Conner that they were to have the first dance with their baby. They were dancing and other couples joined in, Anne and Conner had to laugh, the girls had shoved fake pregnant bellies under their dresses. While Anne and Conner were dancing a lot of nudges and bumps started in Anne’s belly, smiling they both thought the same thing; their baby was dancing with them.
TWO MONTHS LATER
There was a TN meeting, Anne was sitting in the front of the room with Conner and he was giving some announcements when Anne raised her hand. Conner turned and knelt down to her and she whispered raspily “He’s coming.” She didn’t need to say any more than that, Conner stood up and turned shouting “Someone get the overnight bag, someone else start the car! I’m not kidding.” Everyone jumped into action, while Conner helped Anne to the running car. A caravan of cars followed Anne and Conner’s to the hospital. Everyone from TN went into the waiting room and forced anyone else out. Finally the doctor came out and asked who had come for Anne, and was astonished to see everyone raise their hand, and decided to just let Conner in. as Conner walked in the room, he saw Anne’s tired, but extremely happy face, and then his son, their son, and they decided to name him Carter. Anne and Carter were released from the hospital a couple days later and all of TN was waiting in the meeting hall to see him. For a while things were great, but everyone could see that Anne and Conner were getting fidgety, and a week later Anne, Conner, and Carter were all packed to leave. The small family moved to Western Washington, which was quite a change from Northern California, got Carter all set up to be watched by a friend while Anne and Conner went to a college orientation. The day went great and at lunch they got their food from the cafeteria and sat at an empty table. A group of really pretty girls noticed Anne and sat down, ignoring Conner. Anne finished her conversation with Conner and acknowledged the newcomers. The girls introduced themselves and asked Anne’s name, and eventually said “Is this nerd bothering you? We can make him leave.” “No thank you, I wouldn’t want to send Conner away” “Are you sure?” “Of course I am, Conner is my boyfriend and more.” “Oh...Um sorry, we didn’t know.” Anne looked at Conner, and then said “I’m sorry Conner, can we go now, I’m worried about Carter.” Conner agreed and the girls looked at Conner and sneered “Sounds like you have some competition.” Conner looked coolly back and said “Carter is not competition.” “Are you sure? It sounds like Anne really loves him” the girls taunted and Conner calmly replied “Yes, I am sure and Anne does love him.” “See, she loves him, he’s competition.” “No, Carter isn’t competition, I would know.” “How would you know? Huh” Conner suddenly lost his cool and said “Carter is mine and Anne’s child.” All the pretty girls’ eyes widened and flicked to Anne, waiting for her to deny what Conner had just said. All Anne said was “I told you Conner was my boyfriend and more.” That night as Conner was getting into bed; he looked at Anne and said “I’m sorry I ruined college for you.” Anne looked at Conner questioningly and Conner said “I probably scared off any potential friends by telling them about Carter, and I’m also the person who got you pregnant with Carter.” Anne studied Conner’s face, leaned closer, and whispered “Conner, you have done nothing wrong. I could point out that I got pregnant because we both love each other and I love Carter to death. Those girls looked extremely stuck up and if they will judge you without knowing you, I don’t like them.” When Anne finished her speech she gave Conner a long, passionate kiss. Conner looked at Anne and said “Anne Daisy Jillian, you have no idea how happy that makes me. Also, now I have the confidence to say will you marry me?” Anne looked at Conner, and then threw her arms around his neck, smashing her lips against his. Finally, Anne let go saying “Does that answer your question?” The weeks following that late night proposal were filled with chaos and many phone calls. They invited all of TN, who agreed to come to the wedding immediately, all of the relatives from the family reunion, and all of them agreed, except for Anne’s mother. The day of the wedding was a nice sunny one. Anne was escorted down the aisle by Carter who she was carrying. Everyone gasped at how beautiful Anne looked, her relatives also gasped at Carter. The priest asked Anne “Oh, is this your little brother?” All of TN smiled and was laughing. Finally Anne gave the priest pity and said “Nope, Carter here is mine and Conner’s son.”The priest’s face went from nervous to horrified and he asked how old Anne was and she told him she was nineteen. All of TN was laughing once again and Anne said to the priest “Is it really any of your business if I want to get married to the guy I love, who I have had a baby with?” “Well no, but you are young to have a baby and to be getting married.” “Oh, I didn’t realize that because I’m young you think I shouldn’t get married, even though I have already had Conner.” Anne said that with a smirk on her face as the priest’s face went pale and he started stuttering. All of TN and some younger cousins were cracking up. Conner patiently said “Anne be nice, and if you don’t mind Priest we would love to get married today”. The ceremony was done with some great uncomfortable coughing coming from Anne’s family and quite a lot of quiet whispering. While everyone was eating Anne’s mother burst in, face red and livid. Immediately she started screaming at Anne saying “Anne, how dare you not only have a baby, but also get married without my permission!” “It wasn’t your decision Mother, it was mine and Conner’s” Anne said calmly. “Well someone as irresponsible as you shouldn’t be able to make those kinds of decisions!” Anne’s mother shrieked. Aunt Sophie went to Anne’s mother and said “Well Sister, Anne did take her responsibilities of all of the teens seriously and she dealt with her accidental pregnancy responsibly.” Anne’s mother turned on her sister Sophie and yelled “Don’t reason for why that slut did anything!” Sophie was stunned into silence, but Anne’s mother mistook it as agreement. She ran at Anne and attacked her with a fury and it took five men to get Anne’s mother off of her. Anne had some bad cuts and bruises, but she wasn’t worried about herself, she was worried about Carter. Anne had been holding Carter when her mother attacked her and Carter was in much worse shape than Anne, he was rushed to the hospital. Carter had terrible cuts and bruises that were huge, one bruise covered his whole back. The worst of the injuries was a dented lung and five broken ribs, the doctors didn’t know if Carter would make it because of the extent of the injuries.
TWO MONTHS LATER
Anne is in a beautiful black dress and veil, sobbing heart-wrenchingly, being supported by Conner whose face was grief-stricken. Carter had fought for nearly two months and everyone was hopeful, but he had passed away in his sleep. For Anne and Conner, the only bright thing was since Anne’s mother had attacked Anne and that’s how Carter got hurt and eventually died, Anne’s mother was taken away for first degree murder. When Anne’s mother was being hauled away, she was fighting hard, and she ended up being put in a loony bin. Conner broke down and started sobbing right along with Anne. The couple were so distressed after their son’s death and upset by the place they had lived in with Carter, they moved back to TN. They tried to dampen their grief by throwing themselves into caring for the members of the neighborhood. Slowly Anne and Conner’s black, white, and gray world started to get color back in it. They finally celebrated their honeymoon, that’s when Anne became with Jenna. Anne’s second pregnancy was easier in some ways and harder in others easier because she knew what to expect, harder because it made her think of Carter a lot. Anne’s family wasn’t too pleased when they heard that she was pregnant again, but they didn’t say anything about it. Anne had Jenna three months early, so Jenna had to stay there for a while. Every day after working her shift at the local movie theater, Anne would walk to the hospital to see her daughter, the walk to the hospital and then home was usually just routine, nothing exciting happened…Until one day in the middle of December, as Anne was leaving the hospital, she was hit by a black, nondescript van. Anne was knocked off her feet and she just lay where she had fallen. Anne could hear the van door open and a man’s voice cussing as he walked towards her. Anne almost blacked out when the man lifted her up off the road and started walking towards the back of the van. When the man reached the back of his van he gently set Anne inside, even though the man was being gentle, Anne moaned and black dots appeared on her eyes. Through the black dots, Anne could see the man pull out a bottle and rag, he pressed the damp rag to Anne’s face, and she knew no more. When Anne regained consciousness her head was pounding and it hurt when she moved, or even breathed. The man was across the room doing something Anne couldn’t quite see. Finally he turned around and saw that Anne was awake and he seemed somewhat surprised that she was even conscious. The man walked over to the couch Anne was laying on with an almost beautiful gracefulness. For the first time Anne got a good look at the man. He was perhaps thirty-five, he was about six foot five, and he had a thin, defined face. The man had black eyebrows over icy blue eyes, a long, straight nose, and had some bristles on his face, like he hadn’t shaved for a few days. He had a gold loop in his left ear, he had short black hair, and he was wearing a pair of faded jeans, and a long-sleeved brown shirt. He was a good-looking man, but Anne couldn’t help feeling a little scared of him, as well as confused to where she was. The man helped her slowly sit up and gave her a glass of water to clear her head and throat. Anne looked at her surroundings and saw that she was in a small, dirty, scantly-filled apartment. The man saw her looking around and said for some reason, in a almost apologetic tone “I know it’s not much, but I moved abruptly, recently, and this is the best I could do. He then introduced himself as Mark and asked Anne’s name, which she reluctantly supplied. Mark apologized for hitting her and for not taking her to the hospital, but with him instead. It was then that Anne remembered the rag and bottle, she felt herself fill with terror as she realized he had used chloroform. Mark seemed to know Anne’s sudden realization when she looked at him, and shrank away, wincing. He tried to explain himself for reasons unknown to Anne of why he would have chloroform in his big van. Anne didn’t want to hear his excuses, so she stood up to run, but the pain overpowered her, and she fell into unconsciousness again. As Anne was unconscious she started remembering things. She thought of TN and how they were more than a class of kids who needed a place to stay, they were a family. If anyone got sick or hurt, there were always multiple people there to care for them. They supported each other. When Billy Barker lost his job, everyone helped him find his current job, which was Parks and Rec. When Mike Dunner, Lizzie Delong’s boyfriend got in his accident, everyone helped pay the hospital bill and took turns taking care of him when he was released from the hospital. Anne remembered the wedding; she had worn a white dress, with a fitted top, and loose, flowing waist and skirt. She had worn red flowers in her hair and Carter wore a cute, little tuxedo. The wedding took place in a church in the middle of town. Conner and Anne had planned on releasing butterflies when they kissed, but the butterflies were still cold, so each of the guests got to take a butterfly back to their table. The wedding had some fancy parts, such as the clothes, the dishes, and the champagne, but there were some casual parts too. The shoes for the wedding party were plain, black chucks, the food was chicken nuggets, hot wings, hot dogs, hamburgers, and for dessert Twinkies. Anne and Conner were so happy, and Carter seemed to be enjoying himself, unfortunately his fun involved the butterflies, there were quite a few horrified guests. The adults liked the fancy parts, but hated the casual parts, and the massacre of the butterflies. TN and some younger cousins, enjoyed the casual parts and were bored by the fancy parts, and they were amused by Carter’s unintentional decimation of the butterflies. Everyone enjoyed themselves for the most part, until Anne’s mother arrived. After the memory of her mother crashing and ruining her wedding, the memories of planning the funeral came to mind. Planning the funeral had been so painful and difficult for Anne and Conner that TN had to step in and do the planning when it just became too painful for them to plan Carter’s funeral. The funeral felt like Hell, having to see that tiny coffin and Carter, so small, pale, and cold. For Anne the pain of seeing her baby’s body put in the ground and buried was excruciating and Anne knew that Conner felt the exact same way, and that reassured Anne in a way because someone else understood what she was going through. Anne was so distressed and upset, that she insisted that she and Conner move back to TN, but even moving wasn’t enough, and she was put on antidepressants. Anne and Conner both had a hard time getting through the pain of Anne’s mother killing their son, especially when they were forced to appear in court to testify against her. The judge and jury could see how heartbroken the young couple was, so they kept the trial short and sweet, and found Anne’s mother guilty. After the ruling was announced, Anne’s mother snapped, she lunged at the judge, which gave her more jail time, and a trip to the nearest loony bin. Slowly Anne started to come back to consciousness and the pain returned with a vengeance. Anne awoke on the couch again and saw that it was dark outside, and that Mark had put a thick blanket on her that she shuddered off her still pained body. She reluctantly drank the water on the table next to her. She listened carefully and since she didn’t hear Mark she decided to look around, and maybe find a way out. Anne got up slowly and gingerly walked around the living room. There were pictures of Mark when he was younger, a diploma from Corban University, some pictures of Mark in front of a newly opened mechanics shop, and some high school baseball championship trophies. Anne walked through a door on the opposite side of the room and found herself in a small, filthy kitchen, the walls were dark brown, the cupboards almost empty, and there weren’t any appliances besides a microwave, an old oven, and a mini fridge. There were some dirty dishes in the sink, the floors needed to be swept and mopped, and the garbage needed to be taken out. Anne walked through the other door from the kitchen; saw a door at the end of the hallway with a peephole on it, which was probably the way out, and another door to the right that was closed. A part of Anne knew that she should just go out the front door, but another part of her was curious and she wanted to see what was behind the closed door to the right. Anne thought over what to do and decided she would just look around, and be gone in five minutes. Anne slowly opened the door, walked in, and froze in her tracks. There was a large, king-sized bed on the opposite side of the room, with an oak frame, the bed had a dark blue comforter on it, and four, large, fluffy pillows. Underneath the large comforter, Mark was curled up, in his sleep he was even better-looking, and he looked peaceful as opposed to worried. Anne was too shocked to leave and too distracted looking at Mark to notice when his eyes had opened, and he was staring at her with a look he couldn’t identify. Anne eventually snapped herself out of her daze and was backing out of Mark’s room, but she had taken too long and, Mark was out of bed, and stretching, while coming towards her. Anne froze again and then started backing up even quicker as Mark reached out a hand towards her. She ran into the doorframe, turned around, and bolted for the front door. Mark shouted for her to stop running, but then he ran and grabbed her by the waist, and carried her to his room where he finally set her down on his bed. Anne was scared and worried, why did Mark have a big van and chloroform? Why did he not take her to the hospital, but to his home instead? Why had he grabbed her just then and put her in his room and lock the door? What did he want from her, was she crazy? Mark could clearly see that Anne was freaked out and he stayed across the room from her as he held up his hands in a surrendering gesture as he asked her to just listen, and let him explain everything. Anne was stilled worried, but she sat up, tucked in her legs, and nodded to let Mark know she would at least listen to what he said. Mark looked nervous, but he started explaining anyway. He told Anne that he used to have his own mechanic shop, but he was late on one of his payments and at risk of losing his shop, so he borrowed some money from some random Mexican loan sharks. He had tried to repay them, but they didn’t want money, they wanted girls, beautiful girls, girls to work in their strip club. Mark had tried to refuse, but they proved how serious they were pretty quickly. They had jumped Mark and smashed up his shop, so he resigned himself to having to do what they wanted him to. Mark bought himself a van and they gave him the chloroform, he just drove around for a while, finding an excuse for every girl he came across to not kidnap her. He became worried though because with the snow and the cold he thought that there might not be any beautiful girls out and the loan sharks would come again. Mark had been lost in his worries and he hadn’t seen Anne crossing the street. He had been panicked after he hit her and he had planned on taking her to the hospital, but as he was getting out, he cursed creatively when he realized that he had a girl to give to the sharks, and it would pay off some of his debt. He had tried to detach himself as he gently picked her up and carried her to the back of the van. Mark’s efforts to be detached and cold were shattered when he set Anne in the back of the van, and actually saw how beautiful she was. When she moaned, he took out the chloroform, hoping to stop her pain for a while and secretly hoping she would slip away while unconscious, so she wouldn’t have to suffer at the strip club. Mark was driving to meet the sharks, but he couldn’t get the sight of Anne out of his head, so he stopped his van. As he sat there thinking, he decided to not give Anne away, but the sharks knew where he lived, so he drove for several hours, found some cheap apartments, and he moved himself in. Mark thought that Anne would probably freak out if she woke up in a man’s bed, so he set her down on the couch, and kept her hydrated by dripping water in her mouth while she was unconscious for three days. He was relieved when she woke up, but was embarrassed when he saw Anne looking around the dump of an apartment’s living room. He introduced himself, got Anne to tell him her name, and told her how sorry he was that he hadn’t taken her to the hospital. Mark saw Anne’s beautiful face go shocked and in pain to horror and fear, and he realized that she had remembered the chloroform and she was probably scared of him. Mark saw Anne wince, stand up unsteadily, and her face go pale and very pained, and then her legs gave out. Mark caught her right before her head hit the coffee table; he was shaken as he set her back on the couch. Mark brushed Anne’s hair away from her face and felt her throat for her pulse, and was relieved to find that her pulse was steady, meaning she was okay. Mark dripped some water in Anne’s mouth and put a blanket on her, he sat for a while with her, waiting to see if she’d wake up. Eventually Mark got up, felt her pulse again, and gently ran his fingers over her face. He headed off to his room to try and get some sleep, but it took him around an hour to fall asleep, and eventually he did from exhaustion. Mark had stirred awake and saw that he had been asleep for four hours, and Anne was standing in the middle of his room. He didn’t know why Anne was just standing there, staring at him with a look that had fascination, but also an equal measure of horror. As she stared at him, he stared at her and he was once again amazed by Anne’s beauty, and he was beyond relieved that she hadn’t left when he was asleep, and that he had changed his mind about taking her to the sharks. Mark got up, was stretching, but that seemed to scare her, because she started backing up and eventually started running, Mark’s only thought was “the sharks may be looking for me and will take her.” Mark started running, caught Anne right before the door and carried her to his room, where the two had been at peace, even if it was only for a few minutes. Mark set Anne down on his bed and locked the door, he would have walked back across the room and sat down on the bed, but he could see Anne was scared of him, and if he came any closer, she would lose it. Mark hated the scared, wary look Anne gave him, so he explained why he did everything. He wanted her to understand that he had no intention of hurting her and she didn’t want her to be scared anymore. Anne had sat through his explanation, didn’t say a word, and she was just sitting there, face blank, and unreadable. Mark stood there against the wall, fidgeting under the scrutiny of Anne, examining him, trying to tell if he was telling the truth, and eventually she asked if there was any food to eat. Mark’s fidgeting stopped as he sighed a breath of relief that she believed him, and he let her know that there wasn’t any food, but he could take her to get something to eat at a restaurant or something. Anne shot Mark a look when he suggested they go get something to eat together, and quite bluntly said “Mark, I just had my second baby and I’m happily married to my best friend Conner.” Mark shrugged and simply said “I’m not going to try to mess that up, I just couldn’t go through with the sharks, so it would probably be the best if both of us lie low for a while.” Anne tilted her head to the left and thought briefly before saying “If we should be laying low, then do you really think it’s a good idea for us to go out to eat?” then it was Mark’s turn to consider the wiseness of them going out to eat and said slowly “I don’t know if it’s wise because the sharks might not have expected me to run this far, but they could be looking anyway. Even if they do know we’re here we have to go out to eat anyway because I don’t have any food here, not edible food at least.” Anne agreed and the two got ready and ended up at a small, cozy restaurant down the block from Mark’s apartment. The booths had red and white seats, the floor was black and white checkerboard, and there was a vintage jukebox in the corner and there was a counter with spinning seats the walls had pictures of Elvis and 80’s bands, the waitresses were forced to wear 80’s waitress uniforms. The two sat and ate in silence when Anne’s face suddenly went pained and devastated. Mark was alarmed and grabbed Anne’s hand , asking what was wrong, Anne pulled her hand away, and wordlessly pointed to the T.V. Mark stared at the T.V. uncomprehendingly, not knowing what was wrong, and asked the waitress to turn up the volume. Conner was at a press conference, in tears, and asking anyone who saw his wife Anne to please call the police. He was clearly distraught and he barely managed to say “Anne, please if you get a chance, come back to us. I need you, TN needs you, and our daughter needs you. Please, I can’t lose you, not after losing Carter.” Lizzie and Mike came up on the stage and helped Conner walk off the stage. Mark turned back to Anne and saw she was crying, and he felt horrible guilt, he reached out a hand to her, but drew it back and said “Anne I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause all of these problems. I know that doesn’t fix things, but I am sorry.” Anne just sat there looking miserable and Mark sat there too, wallowing in guilt and his thoughts. Anne broke the silence saying “We should probably get some groceries and actually lay low. People may recognize me, and start calling the cops and that press conference probably drew the attention of your sharks.” They bought some Top Ramen, frozen pizzas, T.V. dinners, etc. They were putting the food away when Mark’s curiosity burst and he asked her “Who is Carter, Anne? What happened to him? What is TN?” mark turned to look at Anne and saw that she was still facing the cupboard, and that the set of her shoulders was stiff. He said her name again and she seemed to unfreeze and she continued putting food away, and avoiding looking at him. He was about to ask again, when Anne slammed down some cans, turned to him, face covered in tears, and said “Carter was my first baby. Conner and I lost him when my mother showed up at our wedding and attacked me, which is how Carter got hurt and eventually caused him to die. TN stands for Teen Neighborhood and it’s all the people from my class and we are more than just friends, we’re a family. We always help each other with our problems, we are a tribe. I can’t reassure Conner I’m okay, that I won’t leave him like Carter eventually had to. Conner doesn’t need help from TN, all he needs is to know I’m okay and is there with him, but I can’t because I’m stuck here.” Anne threw down the cans and stormed down the hallway, and into Mark’s room where she slammed the door in his face. Mark stood there for a while, he leaned his head against the door, and knocked saying “Anne, I’m sorry that you’re stuck here with me and that I made you tell me things that are obviously very painful for you…I, Anne?” he stood there, listening and heard her say “Go away Mark! I don’t want to talk to you.” After she was done shouting at him, Mark could hear her try to stifle her sobs, and he hated himself for hurting her so bad. Mark eventually left the door and sank down on the couch, rubbing his face with his hands, suddenly exhausted. He swung his legs up onto the couch, and pulled the green blanket off the back of the couch, and fell asleep immediately. When Mark awoke, he saw that he’d been asleep for several hours and he was hungry, so he went to the kitchen to make a T.V. dinner. After he finished eating, he made a meal for Anne, he took it to his bedroom door, and knocked. He didn’t get answer and suspected Anne was just ignoring him, so he said through the door “Alright Anne, you don’t have to talk to me, but I’m leaving some food for you. I’ll put it right in front of the door.” He did so and then headed back to the kitchen. He looked around at the disgusting filth left by the former tenant, and decided to clean. He was almost done cleaning the kitchen when he heard Anne shriek and shout “Oh my gosh! Mark I think something snuck in and puked, or took a dump outside your bedroom door.” Anne walked into the kitchen and her eyes narrowed as she saw Mark laughing, he tried to suppress his laughter, but it only made it worse. Finally, he regained composure and was able to say “I’m sorry Anne, I didn’t mean to laugh. I told you I put a T.V. dinner outside the door and I just assumed you were ignoring me. I wouldn’t have just left it there for you to step on if I had known you were asleep.” Finally Anne’s face softened and she sighed saying “Alright, I believe you. Do we have any more of that particular dinner?” mark’s eyes widened in shock and he said in a surprised tone “wait, what? You want to eat a meal, like the one you just stepped in, and thought was animal puke, or waste?” Anne blushed and said “Well, it had gotten cold and the gravy felt gross on my feet. I did get a whiff of it through the door though, which is why I was coming out, and it smelled delicious.” The days quickly passed into weeks, and the two became good friends, but Mark had to start leaving Anne alone for a while because he needed to get a new job to pay for his dump of an apartment. One day Mark was at work and Anne was bored, so she decided to eat, but discovered there wasn’t any food left, so she left for the first time in around a month. Her cabin fever had built up so much that she had completely forgotten about the press conference a month ago or that people might recognize her. She walked into the grocery store that she and Mark had gone to before, that was just down the street from the diner. When she walked in the stored and grabbed a cart, she noticed the cashier was looking at her funny, and kind of gawking. Anne shook off her discomfort at being stared at and started going down the aisles, getting the stuff from the shopping list she made. Eventually she went to check out and the cashier was taking forever to ring her up. He kept “accidently” hitting the wrong buttons and “oops, I forgot to ring up this item. Anne was annoyed because what should have only taken ten minutes to ring up and bag had taken over a half hour. Anne felt a tap on her shoulder, turned, and saw a middle-aged man who pulled out a badge saying “Anne Jillian Tucker? I’m Agent Finnigan, we’ve been looking for you for a while.” Agent Finnigan walked Anne to his car and he drove her to the police station, and took her to the interrogation room. There was a metal table, two metal chairs, and one of those mirrors that you know is actually one-way glass. Finnigan sat down and said “Anne, you know you’re not in trouble right?” Anne nodded her head wordlessly and Finnigan continued talking saying “Anne, we just want to know where you’ve been and that you’re alright. You seem to be well fed and you don’t appear to be injured so were you actually taken, or did you just get overwhelmed and run away. No one has seen you in awhile and you look the same, so we think you have someone who was helping you stay hidden. What happened to your friend Anne? Why did you only appear now? Did you even care about your husband and daughter? You have caused Conner a lot of pain you know. If you’d just gotten out of a place where you were being kept captive, then why wouldn’t you have called your husband, or come to the station.” Anne sat there, staring at Finnigan in complete shock; she was so surprised that he would accuse her of running away. She didn’t know how to explain how she had disappeared and why she had stayed away, so she just said she couldn’t really remember what had happened over the last month. Agent Finnigan gave Anne a look of disgust and unbelief, but he recorded her statement, and released her to the lobby where Conner was pacing restlessly. Anne hadn’t realized how much she had missed Conner, until she saw him and felt his arms wrap around her tightly. She didn’t know she was crying until Conner bent down, and started wiping her face frantically saying “Anne, Anne. Oh sweetie, I missed you so much. Are you okay? Did the person who abducted you hurt you?” Conner’s face went pale and horrified “Anne was it a man? Did he…Anne you would tell me if...You were, if he…Oh did he …?” Conner looked so upset and distraught and Anne didn’t know how to calm him down when he was so wound up because she’d never seen him like that before. She wrapped her arms around him again and said “Can we go home? Is Jenna home yet?” The next couple months passed in a blur of TN being overprotective, and Anne getting to know Jenna. Finally Conner started loosening up and would let Anne take Jenna to the park alone. It was July and Anne was sitting on the swing, gently swaying in a way that rocked Jenna to sleep. Anne was lost in thought and was pulled out of them by a familiar voice saying “Anne, I’ve been looking for you for a while. I was worried when I got back and you were gone, but then I heard on the news that you were found, and reconnected with your husband.” Anne had turned and saw Mark standing next to the support bar and then his surprised face as he saw Jenna. He reached out a hand towards them as he said “Oh! Is this your daughter Jenna?” Anne smiled and nodded, and Mark continued talking saying “Wow Anne, she’s beautiful; she looks a lot like you actually. I can see why you missed her so much.” Mark got a sad look on his face and asked quietly “Anne, did you even miss me after you were found? Did you even think of me?” Anne stood up and walked right in front of him saying “Oh, of course I missed you Mark, we got to be really good friends and really close. I would have tried to call you to tell what had happened, but the cops are still tracking my calls and Conner has only started calming down recently. He would get all worked up again if I even dared to think about making a phone call.” Mark looked less sad, but Anne could tell he was still upset, so she reached out and held one of his hands. Anne pulled him to a blue bench and lit up as she said “Mark, do you want to hold Jenna? I really think she’d like you.” Mark looked unsure, but Anne insisted and he reluctantly took her daughter from her and his face lost any remaining trace of sadness and took on a look of complete wonder and awe. Without even thinking, Mark said “Wow Anne, your Conner sure is a lucky guy. Not only does Conner get you, he also gets to feel all of the benefits of being a father of your children.” Before Anne could say anything to what he’d just said, Anne saw Conner as he walked over. Conner’s face lost the slight joy it had been showing when he saw Mark and saw that he was holding Jenna. Anne smiled at Conner and said “Hey Con, I was on the swing with Jenna and Mark showed up, we’ve been talking since.” Conner reluctantly held out his hand and said in a tight voice “Hello Mark, I’m Anne’s husband and Jenna’s father. If I may ask, will you return my daughter to Anne and ask, how do you know Anne, you definitely weren’t in school with us at any time, and Anne hasn’t really seen people the last couple months.” Mark smiled at the tone in Conner’s voice and handed Jenna back to Anne, and rose from the bench and stood in front of Conner. He said with a laugh “No, I definitely wasn’t in school with you two, I’m thirty-six, and so I graduated quite some time before you two. Actually I met Anne just before she went missing.” Conner’s face went from annoyed and worried to extremely angry. Conner scowled and opened his mouth to say something to Mark when Anne’s face went pale and she made a squeaking noise, while tightening her hold on Jenna. Both boys turned to Anne, knelt down, and asked her what was wrong. She opened and closed her mouth wordlessly and pointed across the park, and finally managed to say “M-mark, are those guys over there, by the rock wall your sharks?” Both boys turned and looked and Mark cursed, saying “Yes, they are. I’m sorry Anne; I didn’t mean to bring them to you. I’ve been looking for you and it has taken a while since all I knew was you lived somewhere near the hospital.” Conner was frowning, opened his mouth to say something, shook his head, and finally said “Alright, Mark I’m guessing that black van on the other side of those men is yours, so you can come back with my girls and I, and come get your van later.” They all ran to Conner’s car and drove to TN. Apparently Conner had been hiding his anger well because when he and Mark got out of the car, he walked quickly around the front, and slammed Mark against it and said “I don’t know how you and Anne net before she disappeared, I don’t know how you knew it was her, or how you knew what park she goes to. I don’t know why she trusts you when she was kidnapped by a man a couple of months ago, or why she would let you hold Jenna. All I know is you had loan sharks coming after you, they scared Anne, and I swear to all that is good and holy, if my girls, or anyone here at TN gets hurt because of you, I will make you pay, and regret ever meeting my wife. You got it?” Mark looked at Conner with much admiration and said “Yes, I do get what you’re saying. I don’t want Anne or your daughter to get hurt either. I can’t explain much of anything that you’re wondering about because unless you trust and believe me, you’ll think I’m disgusting, a psychopath, and will call the cops so quick, I won’t even have time to blink. I’m glad that Anne ended up with you, you’re good for her, both are you are lucky to have each other, and your daughter.” Conner released Mark, coughed an apology, and mumbled “Mark, you can stay here as long as you think is necessary before you go back for your van. Anne will probably drive you as long as you’re sure they won’t be there, and won’t get hurt.” Conner kissed Anne gently, pecked Jenna, and walked away. Mark and Anne watched Conner leave and Jenna started fussing, so Anne turned to Mark, and said “I’m going to go put Jenna down; you can come if you want.” Anne gave Jenna a warm bottle, burped her, and eventually she fell asleep. Anne walked into the living room and saw Mark looking at her wedding picture with a sad look on his face. She walked closer and said “That was Carter, my first baby, my little boy.” Mark jumped and tried to cover the look on his face, somewhat unsuccessfully, making Anne wonder why he’d been upset, and why he’d tried to hide it from her. Anne was about to ask him when Emily, a loud, bluntly honest girl came in already saying something to Anne, she stopped in her tracks, and smiled saying “Anne, you naughty girl, what are you doing with this hunk of hotness?” She winked, waggled her thin black eyebrows, and said “You know you’re married and have a daughter right? I’ll help you keep your affair a secret though, as long as I get some action too.” Mark and Anne were speechless for several minutes and finally Anne managed to say, somewhat coherently “I am loyal to Conner. This is Mark, I met him a while ago and he doesn’t really date, so sorry, he’ll probably not pursue you in return. Why not just save yourself the energy and just go after someone else, from TN?” Anne said all of that in a whisper in Emily’s ear so Mark wouldn’t hear what she said. Emily looked disappointed, but shrugged, nodded, and without a look towards Mark left. Mark looked at Anne, cocked an eyebrow, and with a grin opened his mouth to say something, but Anne interrupted saying “You hungry? I am, let’s go to the dining hall, I think we’re having subs for lunch.” The two walked to the Dining/Meeting hall, got their subs and sat down. Conner walked in, looked around, saw Anne sitting with Mark, walked across the room, and sat on Anne’s other side. The trio ate in silence for a while and Conner had a weird look on his face, and eventually he set down in his sub and said “Anne, love why is Emily telling everyone that you’re having an affair with Mark, and that he is your mister, and you won’t share him with her, and let her get some action?” Anne laughed and said “Con, she jumped to the conclusion that I was having an affair with Mark and I told her otherwise. She’s probably spreading that because I told her she shouldn’t try to pursue Mark and that upset her.” Mark looked at the couple and said to Anne “Why’d you do that?” “She’s a bit of a man-eater an I get that you’re thirty-six, so you can handle yourself, but since we’re friends I figured I’d just watch your back, and keep you from making a mistake by going after her. I love her to death, but she really is a girl player, and you would have ended up getting hurt.” Mark smiled and stood up saying “Thank you Anne for looking out for me.” He turned to Conner and shook his hand saying “Conner, thank you for getting me away from my sharks. It was very nice to finally meet Anne’s husband, she spoke of you a lot. It was very nice meeting your daughter as well, and you are very lucky to have gotten such a wonderful girl as Anne for your wife. I should probably be heading home; I have some stuff I have to do. Anne I’m glad you’re okay and it was amazing seeing you again, and would you mind driving me to my van?” Anne agreed to take him and the two left. They didn’t see the sharks by Mark’s van, or even in the park anymore, so they figured he could get to his van. Anne insisted on walking Mark to his van and they were halfway there when a deep, Mexican accented voice said “Marky baby, we’ve missed you.” The duo turned and saw two other Mexicans, along with the middle one who had just spoken. Mark looked quickly from the sharks to Anne and grabbed her, pulling her close to him protectively. The middle shark looked at Anne, grinned, and looked at Mark saying “Oh. That’s why you’ve been so busy.” He took a step closer and laughed when Mark pushed Anne behind him and said “Mark, you were suppose to be looking for girls for Rico, not getting one for yourself. She’s pretty Mark, she’d make business boom for Rico.” As he spoke, he came closer to Anne and Mark and the duo backed up to stay away. The man noticed them backing up and smiled, looked at Anne and said “Chica, he must really like you. He has a lot of girls to give Rico and he has really tried to keep you hidden. Why don’t you leave him and come with me?” He lowered his voice and said with a twinkle in his nearly dead-looking black eyes “I could make you really happy Chica. I could take you for myself and give Rico a different girl.” Anne shuddered into Mark’s back and the man laughed saying “Guess not huh?” He turned to the other two sharks and said “Alright, looks like Marky here won’t give up his girl, so we’ll just have to take her and give him a lesson on keeping his promises.” The two hulking Mexicans ran towards Anne and Mark, they turned and ran to Mark’s van, quickly started it as they went screaming away. They decided to drive around for a while to make sure the sharks weren’t following them. Eventually it got dark and Mark surprised Anne by driving them to TN, instead of his apartment. They got out and Anne took Mark to house #6 to tell Conner what had happened. Conner sat next to Anne in shocked silence and finally said in a shocked, strained voice “Anne, are you okay? You look a little pale and you’ve been quiet, did you recognize them? Were they the ones who kidnapped you?” Anne got up, sat on Conner’s lap, hugged him close, and started crying and trying to talk, but he couldn’t understand her through her hysterical sobs. He held her tight, kissed her forehead and face, and let her cry, he whispered to her, telling her that it would be okay. Conner looked over at Mark, who looked guilty and miserable and the boys came to a silent agreement that Mark would tell him what had happened at the park. Anne eventually calmed down, kissed Conner, nestled Mark’s hair, grabbed Jenna from her crib, and curled up on her bed with her, and fell into an exhausted sleep. Conner went and checked on Anne, covered her up with a blanket, and went back to the living room. He sat down in his former chair, cleared his throat, Mark looked up, nodded, and proceeded to explain the day. When Mark was done talking Conner had a worried and conflicted look on his face. He looked towards his bedroom where his wife and daughter were sleeping together and looked back at Mark as he said “Mark, I think you should stay here at TN. It would be safer for you if you don’t go back to your house, and if we just leave our car at the park. Also Anne seems to really care for you and it would upset her if anything happened to you.” Mark nodded in thought, agreed, and went to bed in the extra room, on the second floor.
FIVE MONTHS LATER
Conner is watching Anne walk around the TN kitchen, preparing the lunch for everyone, and having to work around her slightly swollen stomach. Conner was uncomfortable with Anne being pregnant again because she was pregnant with someone else’s baby. Conner had been unsure about Mark staying in the same house as Anne, but he soon realized that as much time as his wife and Mark would spend together and talk, they were just friends. It was Mark who Conner blamed because he guessed that it had been him who had put in Anne’s head that she should do artificial insemination for single men who wanted children. As uncomfortable as Conner was seeing his best friend and wife’s stomach swell with someone else’s baby, he was reassured that she didn’t know the man and may never meet him. Eventually Anne stopped wandering around the kitchen, saw Conner staring at her, and gave him a smile so completely filled with love that he felt bad for having even felt a little uncomfortable with the situation. Anne gave Conner a hug so he couldn’t see the look of guilt that spilled out of her. She knew how hard this was for him to see her pregnant with another man’s baby, feel the baby under his hands nudge and know it’s not his. Anne also knew that the only reason Conner was even remotely okay with the insemination was because he thought she didn’t know who it was, she was afraid of how hurt Conner would be if he knew the truth. Just then Mark came in, he greeted Conner friendly, grabbed a cucumber slice out of the salad Anne had been making, and gently patted Anne’s stomach, while calling her “Annie”. Mark had started out in TN kind of awkwardly because the girls would hit on him and the guys were protective of their girls, and of Anne. The majority of the people had eyed Mark with suspicion because he was new and absolutely no one new came into TN from elsewhere because it consisted of their graduating class. Mark showed he fit in well with them and eventually everyone warmed up to him. He had been thrown off that everyone did and paid foe everything for each other, but found his way to contribute quickly. Mark worked on everyone’s cars and if there were any problems in the houses he would fix them. Mark started taking care of so many things that had been so time-consuming for Conner and Anne and both were grateful for the additional time they now had for each other. Things had quieted down for only a little while before Anne announced her pregnancy plan. Everyone had freaked out, wondering why Anne wanted to have another man’s baby, if she was still truly in love with Conner, and if Mark had anything to do with her new and radical idea, but they supported her anyway.
FIVE MONTHS LATER
Anne had her baby, Jacob exactly on the due date, which was a huge relief for Anne after having Jenna early. Anne was able to go home and bring Jacob with her a week after he was born. Anne bringing Jacob home both confused and slightly worried Conner. Conner waited a week and when Jacob still hadn’t gone to the man who had wanted him, he questioned Anne. Anne called a TN meeting, what she said shocked almost everyone. She told them that the biological father wanted her to keep his baby because Anne must have become attached to Jacob. She also told everyone that he did still want to get to know his son, but that it would be better for Jacob to live with Anne. There was a stunned silence, and then everyone started shouting questions. Anne heard a few and answered them saying “Jacob’s father came and visited me in the hospital and it was him who came up with the name. Yes, I do actually know who it is, but he wants to stay anonymous, so I can’t actually say who it is.” The answers Anne gave made an even bigger out roar than the statements she’d made before the questions had been made. Conner’s face went from worried and concerned to panicked and distressed, in part because Anne hadn’t told him she’d recognized Jacob’s father and also because he wanted Anne to keep the baby and be able to visit him, and wanted to see Anne quite often. Anne turned and looked at him and gave him an upset and apologetic face before she turned back to the crowd to answer more questions. Jenna toddled over and crawled into his lap, making his heart melt. Mark scooted over next to him with Jacob and whispered “It’ll be okay Conner. Jacob’s father won’t try to steal Anne from you and you shouldn’t worry about that anyway. Anne loves you so very much, no guy has a chance of getting even a fraction of the love, she has for you.” Conner looked at Mark and he relaxed because he could tell that the older guy was right and it meant a lot coming from him. Conner nodded at Mark and said “You’re right Mark, thanks. I probably would have worried myself into depression thinking about this new situation. You’re a really good friend, not just to Anne, but to me as well.” Anne and Conner were already really close, Anne and Mark were close, and after a while Mark and Conner got to be pretty close friends. One day in May, Anne set up Jenna and Jacob with Conner and Mark at the newly built sandpit a few of the other guys had built and left to go on a much needed walk. She got tired of just walking around town, so she decided to walk in the park. She never saw them coming. Conner and Mark enjoyed playing with the kids, but after several hours had passed and Anne still hadn’t come back, they were starting to get worried. The boys asked everyone to keep an eye out for when Anne came back and anxiously awaited a couple more hours. When Anne still hadn’t come back, Conner drove to the police station to ask them to start looking for Anne. Conner quickly became frustrated when the cops told him that they couldn’t start looking for her because she hadn’t been missing twenty-four hours yet, and that she would probably be back soon anyway, and if not, then he could come back. Conner and Mark were too anxious to eat and the mood in the Dining hall was tense and quiet. The boys went back to house #6 and put Jenna and Jacob to bed, and sat down in the living room, lost in their own worried thoughts. Conner insisted that Mark stay with Jenna and Jacob and he returned to the police station to try to get them to start looking for Anne. All of TN anxiously waited to hear if the cops had found Anne for three days. Everyone tried to work, to be distracted to keep from worrying about Anne, but they kept getting in each other’s way, and causing even more stress. On the third intense day, the cops called Conner… it wasn’t good news, they asked him to come to the coroner’s office to try to I.D. a body they’d found. Conner didn’t think he could safely drive himself, so he asked Mark to drive him and Mark agreed, but he only drove slightly better than Conner could have. Mark unspoken let Conner know he’d come in with him and help him through it. The coroner opened the drawer and pulled the sheet down, and both boys fell to their knees and leaned on each other. The girl was Anne; she looked just as she always had, perfect. There were some bruises on her face and arms, but besides that she looked like she could be sleeping. The coroner looked apologetic as he asked if they recognized her as Anne. Conner was still in shock and speechless, so Mark rasped out for him “Y-yes, that’s Anne, that’s our girl. How …how did it happen? Did she, did she suffer?” The coroner looked uncomfortable, but said “It was a bit painful I believe. She was strangled, but it appears that, that wasn’t the cause of death. After she was strangled it seems that she was asphyxiated by a pillow maybe.” Mark’s face paled to go back to the same color as Conner’s and they both leaned heavily against each other again. The coroner looked uncomfortable again as he pulled out a bag with some of Anne’s things and asked which of them was Anne’s husband. Mark managed to point to Conner, as Conner managed to raise his hand slightly. Somehow the boys got home safe without incident and they wandered to house #6 and he collapsed in the living room. TN didn’t need a big announcement to know what had happened, it was written all over Conner and Mark’s faces. Anne was buried next to Carter. Anne’s death struck TN even harder than Carter’s had and for a while things slowed down and came to a stand-still.
TWO MONTHS LATER
Conner has drunk a whole case of beer and is being kept an eye on by Mark to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. Conner starts mumbling and when Mark leans in to hear what he’s saying he hears Conner saying “Hells found me” over and over. Mark started cleaning up the living room and he found the plastic bag from the coroner’s office that had the belongings of Anne. He picked it up and walked over to Conner and handed to the bag to him. Conner’s head snapped up and flew to Mark’s face in outrage, but he calmed down when he saw the look on his older friend’s face. Conner took the bag and nodded; Mark sat down across from him and gestured for Conner to open it. Inside was a gold locket Anne had gotten from her father before he’d died that had a picture of them together inside. There was other various and familiar objects: Anne’s red cell phone, the little backpack she always carried instead of a purse, some keys belonging to the neighborhood houses, various car keys, and a diary key. The last object was a light blue notebook with a lock on it, Conner used the key and opened the notebook, a slip of paper fell out onto the floor, Conner looked at Mark in confusion, and he in return shrugged back. Conner opened the piece of paper and saw Anne’s familiar handwriting and it read “Conner, I’m sorry. I just needed to go for a walk and I’ve gotten tired of walking around town. I started walking through the park, I didn’t even hear them coming, I was taken by a loan sharks goons. I have some bruises, but they haven’t hurt me any other than that. I promise Con, that they didn’t take me because I’m in trouble, but because someone else is. The goons are getting angry with me, so I don’t think I’ll be here much longer. Babe, it breaks my heart that I won’t see you again, or see Jenna and Jacob grow up. I love you with all my heart and please tell Mark that he’s safe now, if he wants to he can reopen his mechanic shop, and move back into his old place, the not pig sty one, but the one he loved. Conner there is some things you need to know and that I was afraid to tell you because I know how you’d react. Conner, baby I need you to finally learn the truth about how Mark and I met. Before you continue reading this, have Mark tell you it all, then there will be another thing you need to know and Mark knows what it I, but I want to be the one who tells you, even if it is only my writing.” Mark told Conner how he’d met her and how they had become friends eventually, and she had stayed hidden, for his sake. Conner got really angry at Mark and upset that Anne had never told him, and he accused him of being the reason she’d died, because that sharks was obviously his and if Anne had never met him she wouldn’t have been killed. He finally realized though that Anne had been protecting Mark because everyone would think he was a sicko, who had forced Anne to be his prisoner. Conner was almost speechless, but did manage to say “I think Anne must have developed Stockholm syndrome, she actually started liking you, even after you hit her with a car, drugged her, took her to your house, and grabbed her, and taken her to your room.” Mark’s face got sad as he nodded, and said “You’d better continue reading the letter, part of me wants to keep you from doing so because you’ll hate me, but Anne was right, you need to know everything.” Conner became extremely nervous by what Mark said and by what Anne had said in her letter so far and how bad the next part would hurt him even more than the first part. Conner continued reading somewhat reluctantly. “Con, if you’re still reading this then you must have forgiven Mark, and I hope me as well now for the second part, which involved Jacob and some talks with Mark. Keep an open mind, Conner, and remember this, I love you, you were always the guy for me, and I’ve known that since that first day of preschool together. Mark loved living in TN, truly he did, but he felt left out, like the odd man out. Everyone at the neighborhood has someone; a boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, cousin, friend, and I had more than most. I had friends, Jenna, and of course, best of all you, he just wanted someone, besides me, and sort of you. It was just killing me that he was so lonely, so I made him this offer: I will have an artificial insemination and you can have one of the best, but most painful joys in life, a baby. I knew that it would worry you if I told you that I was having Mark’s baby, so I just didn’t tell you, and I’m sorry for that. I had Jacob and Mark did come up with the name, but he isn’t on the birth certificate because in most cases, the father is unknown, so I played dumb. I did mean to tell you before the TN announcement that I knew who the donor was, but I just kept putting it off, and ended up telling you at the same time I told everyone else. I am sorry for that and neither one of us wanted to have to deal with the shock waves that would happen if I announced who Jacob’s father was. Con I know that right now you are furious at Mark and you probably hate me, I deserve that, but please don’t hate Mark, because since I’m probably gone, he’s all you have. You both have the babies, but you guys need each other. I promise there is nothing else I kept from you and I wish we would have had more time. Good-bye Con, I know that everyone will help you get through it, just remember Mark is in pain too, so don’t be too hard on him. Love you always.” The boys sat in silence and Mark opened his mouth to apologize when Conner interrupted him yelling “Why didn’t you tell me!?! I thought you were my friend and instead I learn in my dead wife’s last letter that she had a baby with one of my best friends!” Mark stood up and walked over, but Conner jumped up and punched him in the face again and again, Mark just stood there and let him. Conner finally stopped from exhaustion and Mark held him up and apologized again and again. Conner mumbled “You really did love her didn’t you and not just as her friend.” Mark teared up and nodded and said “But she was never and could never be mine. She was always all yours.” Losing Anne had been painful for everyone, but especially for Mark and Conner. Things were a bit rocky for Anne’s boys for a while, but eventually they worked out their issues, and things calmed down. Mark and Conner became like brothers and they decided it would be best to raise Jenna and Jacob together, and tell them constantly what their mother had been like.
SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER
It is the Senior Prom and the head cheerleader, a pretty blonde who is at the top of her class is voted Queen and the King is announced, and is the Quarterback for the football team. The King is tall with black hair and blue eyes. The two laughed extremely hard at being crowned with each other, much to the confusion of everyone else. The two are forced onto the dance floor and they laugh and talk. The boy looks at his friend who he is dancing with and grins while whispering “You know that everyone here expects us to get together right Jenna?” The girl laughs in return and replies saying “Ya, they do, if only they knew the truth huh Jacob?” Jacob laughs and continues to dance with Jenna and says “Ya Jen, I know. How is it that no one has figured out we’re siblings?” “I dunno Jac, I mean we’ve both emphasized that our mother’s name was Anne and she died, but they all seem to think it’s a coincidence.” The two roll their eyes at their classmate’s stupidity and keep dancing.