A/N Again I want to thank Daysfan for her encouragement, for being an idea bouncer, and for helping me write this
And now, the next chapter of my original fic series (which I am totally enjoying writing)
Melissa sat on the edge of her bed in her room, clasping her hands together, knitting her fingers together. She leaned forward slightly, her elbows on her knees, and rested her chin atop her folded hands.
She had just recieved news from the hospital. Her father had suffered a massive heart-attack, and even though the medics who came to his aide at the Town Christmas Party were able to stabilize him, and even though it looked promising... he died just a few hours after he arrived at the hospital. The doctors had done everything they could, but it just wasn't enough. The damage had been just to great.
Melissa felt numb inside, as she replayed the events in her mind. There was nothing she could have done, and yet as she pondered the events, and thought over every little detail over and over again, she couldn't help but wonder if there was *something* she could have done. Something which would have helped save her father.
"Maybe if I hadn't been so pre-occupied with the Lewis girls, and wondering what it would be like to be with them," she muttered under her breath. "I-I might've noticed something... I WAS standing right next to him, after all..." Her voice sounded shaky even to her own ears. She straightened, unfolding her hands and allowing her arms to go limp at her sides. She drew in a breath, only when she tried to release it, it became a sob.
Tears flowed freely down her face as she collasped on her bed, burying her face into her pillow. She never liked to cry in front of anyone, especially her family. But now, in the privacy of her own room, the tears flowed freely, and the sobs erupted from her throat, as all that pent-up emotion was permitted to run free in a combination of soft wails and drops of water. However, the sounds of her cries were muffled due to the fact that her face was pressed into the pillow, and she preferred it this way. She hated people seeing or hearing her cry.
Dad.... she thought, anguished. How could he possibly be gone, just like that?! This was just too much for her to bear, too quickly. Her family had just barely moved to Knights Town, and they were just starting off their lives here... and it was Christmas Day! NOTHING terrible could EVER happen on Christmas day, especially not something so tragic. HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO HER, HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN SO SUDDENLY?! HOW COULD HER LIFE CHANGE IN JUST A FEW HOURS?!?!?!
Her sobs intensified as she silently continued to ask these questions, almost prayerfully, her heart crying out for an answer, any answer. But none came to her--it was like God wasn't even there. Her heart pleaded for an answer, or some kind of acknowledgement to her deep loss, and to her pain... but there was nothing. Apparently God wasn't even there right now, and He didn't even care. She and her parents had always been Christians... so why would God let this happen? Had He left? Was it that He didn't care anymore? Or maybe He never was there, maybe He never did care...
She turned over in her bed, onto her back, so she could stare up at the ceiling. Her face felt hot, her eyes ached and her vision was blurred from crying. "You're there, aren't you?" she whispered--at least she thought she had spoken, but she couldn't even hear her own voice now. However, she did feel her lips moving, as she continued. "God, tell me you're here... give me SOME sign that you're here, and you still care. Tell me there's... a reason for this, that you still have a purpose for my life, even though you let this happen."
She stopped, and continued to stare up at the ceiling. Her vision was slowly clearing now, and she could see the light that hung from the middle of the ceiling, as well as the places where the paint was starting to flake away. She lay there silently for several minutes... or was it just a few seconds, or an hour? She was no longer aware of passing time, she was simply lying there, staring upward, waiting for something or other.
What am I waiting for? she thought, blinking her eyelids. What exactly did she expect to see, anyway? A flicker of light in the ceiling? Or maybe a crack to form and cause the room to cave in on top of her?
She gritted her teeth, then sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. This was silly. What was she expecting to accomplish, anyway?
She sighed deeply, and leaned forward again, resting her elbows on her knees, then clasped her hands together and rested her chin on top of them. She was now back in the exact same sitting position she had been before she had started crying. And with the exception of her puffy eyes, which she could see in her reflection in the little mirror on her jewelry box, she might not have been crying at all.
Melissa grimaced. She was having a hard time breathing through her nose, because it had been stopped with mucus, and she didn't have any tissues. So she attempted to wipe it on the edge of her sleeve, not even caring that she was getting it dirty. There was one reason why she'd always hated crying, and it was simply because her always plugged up her nose, even if she only cried for a very short time.
Her mind, again, went back and replayed the events that had happened at Mr. Lewis's mansion, at the Town Christmas Party. Her brother shouting for someone to call an ambulance, and someone whipping out their cell phone to do just that. Everyone forming a circle around her father, as he lay there almost lifelessly on the floor... her mother nearly in tears. She also vaguely remembered seeing Mr. Lewis standing nearby, wearing an expression on his features that she could not place, although it didn't seem to be one of sadness or concern. In fact, if anything... now that she thought about it, it actually looked... hostile?
She narrowed her eyes, focusing on the memory for a moment. She remembered he had turned away, but not before muttering something aloud... something like... "How could someone have a heart-attack HERE, at this party, on Christmas Day! Really!"
Melissa gulped. Her heart turned to ice as she remembered those words, and it was like she had heard them for the first time, and they were amplified.
However, before she could ponder the thought further, a knock on the door shattered her train of thought. She straightened, and a small gasp escaped her lips. "J-just a minute!" she exclaimed, and wiped her eyes on her sleeves--she didn't want anyone to know she had been crying, not even her mother. And she figured it was probably her mother at the door, checking on her.
Finally she stood up, smoothed her clothes, then faced the door, forcing an expression of serenity on her features. "Come in," she called out.
The door opened. It was indeed her mother, and her face bore tear stains, as though she had just finished crying. "Honey, are you alright?" she asked gently.
"Yeah, just dandy," Melissa muttered, although she heard the tremble in her voice. "How are you doing?"
Her mom came into the room and wrapped her arms around Melissa, embracing her tightly. "Oh, Baby... I'm not okay," she said, and drew in a shakey breath. "But I will be... I will be in time." She remained motionless for a moment, and tightened her embrace on her daughter, as though drawing support and strength from Melissa.
Melissa relaxed and melted into her mother's arms, returning the hug as affectionally and empathically as she was recieving it. Finally, her mother pulled away, and placed her hands on Melissa's shoulders, holding her daughter at arm's length and looking straight into her eyes. "Your father was so proud of you," she said. "And he would still be, if he were here."
Melissa pressed her lips together in a thin line, feeling emotion stir within her chest. She *wouldn't* cry in front of her mother. She just wouldn't.
Right at that moment, Melissa caught a slight movement out of the corner of her eye. Someone had just peeked into the room, then backed out again--someone was apparently waiting just outside the door!
"Who's out there?" Melissa asked her mother quietly, staring toward the door.
"Oh, yes," her mother side, and seemed to compose herself. "You have a guest," she said. "I just wanted to make sure you were up for the company, before I let her in. But... perhaps I also needed to hug my daughter," she added, her voice thick of emotion.
Melissa smiled. "Anytime, Mom."
Her mother returned the smile. "Well, I'll leave you with your guest, now," she said. She turned toward the door, and said, "Alright, you can come in now!" With that, she left, just as the guest came in.
It was a girl around Melissa's age, though maybe a couple of years younger. She had short black hair, and a pretty, roundish face, and friendly dark brown eyes. She was dressed in a pair of blue jeans with a green T-shirt. "Hello, you must be Melissa Howel," she said. "I'm Katherine Fisher, the assistent editor at the Knights Daily Times, although most people just call me Kitty."
Melissa blinked. The Knights Daily Times was the paper where she'd published her first article. She felt her throat constrict at the mere thought of it--she had been so, so happy this morning, when she had proudly shown her father her published article on the front page. That moment had felt like one of the happiest moments of her life, and it seemed like things could only get better from there.
"I'm sorry, it seems like I may have caught you at a bad time," Kitty said, her mildly pleasent expression changing to one of concern and sympathy. "You look like you have been crying."
"Nah," Melissa said immediately, wiping at the corner of her eye instinctively. However, there was something about the way Kitty looked at her made her just want to tell the truth. "Well, I guess I have... a little."
Kitty nodded in an understanding manner. "If you want, I can come back later."
"Nah," Melissa said again. She gestured toward her bed. "Sit down."
They both sat down on the edge of the bed. Melissa folded her hands on her lap and glanced sideways at Kitty, who pulled a notebook out of her pocket and flipped through it. She seemed to make a little note of something or other, then she slipped the notebook and pencil back into her pocket.
"So, what's this all about?" Melissa asked, in what she hoped was an even tone of voice.
Kitty folded her hands in her lap, in what seemed to be a rough imitation of Melissa's current posture, and seemed to be all business. And yet at the same time, she was somehow rather friendly and pleasent about it, in the way she talked. It was almost as though they were matter-of-factly discussing something important, but at the same time, they could have been talking about the last movie they had watched at the local theatre.
"Well," Kitty began, "that article you wrote for the paper was well-recieved by the public, and plenty of people seemed to like it. And," she added with a smile, "I'll say that I was rather impressed by it myself. The creation vs. evolution issue has always been a touchy subject, but you were fair on both sides, pointing how each point of view had valid points. And although you made it clear that you favor the creation theory over evolution, you didn't allow your personal beliefs or opinions to bias what you wrote about evolution." She nodded, looking thoughtful. "It's hard to find someone who writes the facts, without being biased."
"Well... thanks," Melissa said, feeling the corners of her lips forming into a small smile. "I... try to be fair."
"And that's why Ms. Chiara sent me here, to talk to you," Kitty said. "She would like you to work for the paper on a regular basis, and get the inside scoop whenever something newsworthy happens. She said that someone like you would write the truth."
"I..." Melissa stammered, absorbing the news. "I just... wow..." She released a breath that was the cross between of a chuckle and almost a sigh. "This is so sudden."
"Just think about it, and give me your answer soon," Kitty said. "Maybe in a couple of days, at the latest. But we really want you on the newspaper staff. Also," she added, "I noticed you sometimes have trouble with spelling and grammer... I just wanted to say that if you need any help in the future, I'm here for you. As the assistent editor, it's my job to make sure everything looks alright in the papers, and I can certainly give you a few tips on spelling, and how to organze sentence structures."
"That's... that's a very nice offer," Melissa said genuinely. "I appreciate it."
"No problem," Kitty said, rising. "Okay, well, I need to get back to the office... but here's how you can get in touch with Chiara," she said, handing Melissa a piece of paper with a number scribbled on it. "Oh, and..." She handed over another piece of paper. "Here's my cell phone number, if you ever... want to get in touch with me."
"Alright," Melissa said, "thanks."
Kitty nodded, then turned and headed for the door. She stopped just outside, and turned back to look at Melissa, and added, "Oh and... if you ever need to... you know, talk or anything... you can call me." She smiled, then departed.
Two days later, after considering all of the pros and cons, and after talking it over with her mother, Melissa called Ms. Chiara and told her that she'd accepted the job. Chiara was quite pleased and enthused by this news, and said she was happy to have Melissa on the newspaper staff.
But when Melissa went to the office to finalize everything, and when she recieved her first official assignement for the newspaper... her heart sank into her toes.
"You're kidding," she blurted, hoping that this might have been a joke, or that she had heard wrong.
"No I am not," Chiara said cheerfully, seemingly oblivious to Melissa's shocked reaction. "You would be the perfect person to cover this story, because you were there. So I want you to go there and get the interview, and write down what happened from your own point of view. Have the article on my desk by 7:30 tonight. Now, get going!" With that, she turned her attention to shuffling through the mess of papers on her desk, and seemed to forget that Melissa was even in the room.
After Melissa left the office, she withdrew her cell phone from her pocket and dialed up Kitty's number. When Kitty heard the news that Melissa had accepted the job, she sounded very happy. "I knew you would!" Kitty exclaimed. "Oh you're going to be awesome, I just know it!"
"Yeah, I guess," Melissa said, deadpan.
A short silence followed. "Melissa, um, what's the matter?" Kitty asked, puzzled. "I thought you'd be happy--"
"I just got my first assignment," Melissa said hastily. "I'm supposed to go to the Lewis Mansion and interview Mr. Lewis on what happened at the Christmas Party, and I'm also supposed to write about how my dad's heart attack crashed the party, from my own point of view."
Another short silence followed. "Um... I see," Kitty finally said. "Wow." She was silent again for a few seconds. "Okay look... maybe I could go with you. I mean, I'm a good friend of Vivian and Daphne, and I know Mr. Lewis pretty well. And listen, Melissa, Mr. Lewis is... kind of rough around the edges, and maybe he's even a bit harsh sometimes, but he's a good, decent man, and a caring person. Once you get to know him, he's not all that bad."
Melissa frowned. For some reason, a warning whistle seemed to be going off inside her mind. It was as though a voice, deep down, was telling her, "Don't believe a word she says--remember what your father warned you, and remember what Mr. Lewis said at the party."
She narrowed her eyes, her fingers gripping tightly around the cell phone as she held it closer to her ear. She still remembered Lewis's words, where he sounded offended that her father had had a heart-attack at his party, as though it was some personal insult aimed at him. But at the same time, she felt like... maybe what Kitty said made sense. Maybe if she just got to know the Lewis's, before she tried to judge them... maybe they wouldn't seem so bad.
"Okay," she finally answered, and nodded, even though she knew Kitty couldn't see the gesture.
"Great!" Kitty said. "Okay, I'll meet you outside the Lewis Mansion in half an hour. And," she added chipperly, "don't worry. Like I said, once you get to know them, I'm sure you'll see they're alright. Talk to you soon, bye!" Then the connection closed.
Melissa shut off her cell phone and stuck it back in the pocket of her britches. She blinked, and left the building, feeling almost like a zombie. In half an hour, she was going to meet Mr. Lewis face to face. Kitty's words echoed within her mind, and seemed to make perfect sense... but why did she also have a bad feeling about this?