I woke up slowly as the sun filtered through the blinds into my eyes. I moaned and rolled over.
I knock at the door brought me fully awake.
"I'll be down in a minute!" I called.
I heard Evan grumble. I waited until I heard his footsteps walk downstairs before I threw the blankets off and jumped over to the window letting the sunshine flow in.
I walked over to my dresser and opened the drawer. Dianne had gotten me a ton of clothes. More than I'd ever need in one life time. She had asked me if I had a preference for color and I had told her white so most of the stuff was. A few things with color. I pulled out a pair of white overalls and a pale yellow stretch tee.
I felt a lot better after talking to Justin and knowing that he was going to get me out of this somehow. Pulled on a pair of sneakers and picked up my new backpack and walked downstairs. I knew being cheery would make Evan annoyed so that's why I did it. Dianne smiled at me happily from the stove and Evan glared at me. I plopped down into a chair just as my communicator went off. I jumped and clamped my hand over my wrist. Dang. I thought that wouldn't try to reach me like this. Evan put his paper down and stared at me. I put a weak smile on my face. He reached over and pried my hand off my wrist.
"What's this?" He asked turning my wrist over in his hand inspecting it.
"It's my watch." I answered quickly.
"Why did it beep?"
"It's set to go off at the top of the hour."
"It must need a new battery."
He looked at me for a second longer his eyes burning into mine.
He finally let go of my wrist and went back to his paper. I glanced down to find a slight bruise already forming. I sighed and placed the bruised hand in my lap.
Dianne placed a plate of eggs and bacon in front of me. I groaned inwardly. I didn't want to make a fuss over being a vegetarian, but I was not going to reduce myself to eat meat.
Evan saw me avoiding my bacon and placed his paper down and took a long look at me.
I went on eating my eggs as nothing was happening.
"What's wrong with the bacon Nicole?" He asked.
"Nothing. I just usually don't eat meat." I replied softly.
"Well while you're in this house you'll eat what ever is put in front of you. Understood?"
I was ready to fight but Dianne came to my rescue.
"She doesn't have to eat it Evan. I used to be a vegetarian when I was her age. I'll just make sure I cook a few more veggie meals from now on."
I sighed with relief and picked my plate up ready to take it to the sink, but Evan grabbed my arm.
"I said she was going to eat. And that's what she's going to do." He pulled me back into my chair and thrust a fork into my hand. "Eat it or I will make sure you regret it."
I was trembling as I brought the fork to my mouth. He gave a hard tug on my arm and then let go. Dianne watched in misery as I ate the bacon. As soon as the last piece was in my mouth she picked my plate up and excused me from the table. I ran upstairs before Evan could protest, and entered the bathroom barely making it to the toilet to throw up. My stomach was so unaware of meat that it thought it wasn't supposed to be in my system.
I felt dizzy and still nauseous as I laid my sweaty forehead against the wall. Dianne found me that way and kneeled down beside me pushing the hair out of my face.
"I won't put any meat on your plate anymore so this doesn't happen anymore." She promised.
She helped me up and brushed my hair into a ponytail. She handed me five dollars on the way out of the house to buy lunch. "Don't let Evan know I gave that to you." She whispered.
I smiled and hopped into the car beside Evan.
The drive to school was silent. I started to open my door but Evan stopped me.
"Be out here at 3:00." He ordered.
I turned away from him and exited the car. I had my own plans.
I entered my homeroom and bumped into Kristen.
"Hey Nikki! Can you go to the mall?" She asked hyperly.
I bit my bottom lip for a second. "Yes. I can go. Who's taking us?"
"We can walk. We just have to leave right after school."
We took our seats and I felt my stomach jump. It was either fear or excitement.
The day passed quickly and before I knew it we were a block away from school. I'd never done anything like this before. The worst thing I did was run away from the orphanage once.
Right in front of the a mall my communicator went off again. I clasped my hand over my wrist.
Kristen looked at me strangely but didn't say anything. Once in the mall I told her I had to go to the bathroom and that I'd meet her at the food court in ten minutes. I didn't know where it was but that wasn't important right now.
I escaped into a bathroom stall and spoke into my communicator.
"This is Nikki."
"Nikki! We were so worried when you didn't answer this morning." T.J. answered.
"I couldn't. I was with Evan."
"We need to tell you something. We just found out why the orphanage knew you weren't there."
"Why?" I asked eagerly.
"It seems that after Zordon was taken captive the power of the sort of spell he put over the people at the orphanage, started to ware off as Zordon's power was drained. They figured you had run away and didn't send too many people to search for you. It happened all the time with teens and they thought you would come back when you were really in need of food or shelter. Anyway. After they found out that you had a living relative they sent out a bunch of people to search for you."
"That's it? I thought you had good news!"
"We promise we're going to get you back here, Nikki we promise."
"Well just teleport me!"
"That would only get us in trouble. We have to think smarter. Is there anything wrong with Evan?"
"Besides being an abusive, ignorant, rude jerk?
"Did you say he's abusive?"
"Yeah. Nothing big. You know how easily I bruise. But something that neither of us could prove is, he told me the only thing he wants with me is my parent's money! He can't have it until I'm 18. I don't know why. But he said that if I get to be to much to handle he would just kill me so he could have the money quicker."
There was a long pause.
"Yeah I'm here. Nikki. You know how you always seem to annoy the heck out of Quantrons?"
"Of course. Than they leave me alone if I scream like a little banshee."
"Maybe you could some how do that with Evan."
"But he's dangerous!"
"Well make sure you have back up. Like what you did with Zhane when Astronema kidnapped all of us."
"Well Justin told me he was coming out here yesterday."
"What?! Did you try to stop him?"
"Of course I did. He told me he was coming and that I couldn't do anything to change his mind."
"One of these days that kid is going to get himself killed." T.J. mumbled.
"I would have done it to if he was in the same situation."
"I know. You're just like another Justin."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"Listen to me. You need a time every day when I or one of the others can contact you. How about 3:30 your time?"
"That's what time it is now. Why aren't you in school? It's only 1:30 over there."
"I had study hall last period so I asked to leave early."
"And they let you?"
" Well I am a senior. They do tend to do that for seniors."
"We're getting off track."
"Right. Ok. Just find a way to be able to talk to us at 3:30 ok?"
"I'll find a way."
"Good. Don't do anything drastic until you talk it over with us. I've got to go see if I can stop Justin."
"He said he was leaving last night."
"He was in school today. But he did look very peculiar."
"Tell him I said hi. And not to come. It'll only get us both into to trouble."
"Will do. T.J. out."
I walked out of the bathroom and wandered around the mall for a bit finally finding the food court. Kristen sat a table reading a mall calendar in the middle of the table. I sat down across from her.
"There you are. I was getting worried." She recalled.
"I'm fine. Let's go shop." I replied avoiding her eyes.
We stood up and headed down to a few large department stores looking at clothes and trying a few things on. Before I knew it was 5:30.
"I really should be getting home." I told her rubbing my communicator.
"Do you want me to walk you home?" She asked.
"No I'm fine. Just a little tired." I lied.
She nodded. "I'll see you in school tomorrow."
I waved and left the store quickly finally realizing that what I had done was completely dumb. I was going to get in so much trouble. My stomach felt woozy as I made my way up the steps to the front door.
I opened the door and stepped in ready for the worst.
Evan sat at the table while Dianne made dinner.
He turned his head toward me, his face grim and hard.
"Nikki. We were so worried. Where have you been?" Dianne asked wiping her hands on a napkin and coming over to hug me.
"Yes Nicole. Do tell." Evan dared.
I felt like throwing up. "I was at the mall with a friend."
"Oh is that all? I thought you'd been kidnapped or something horrible." Dianne said relieved.
Evan was deathly silent.
"Dianne will you go pick up a pizza? I want to celebrate Nicole's safe return." Evan asked trying to put happiness in his voice.
Dianne nodded. "Of course. I'll be back in a half hour or so."
She picked up her coat and purse and walked out the front door.
I stood still, staring at my feet, wondering whether or not to make a run for it. I was fast and could probably make it out the front door. But that would just make things worse when he managed to catch me.
If he tried to hurt me I'd just use a little black belt skills.
He sat for a second longer at the table then stood up progressing toward me.
I picked my head up and dropped into a fighting stance.
"What are you going to do Nicole?" he taunted.
"Just give me a reason to my dear cousin." I snarled. I kept myself alert ready to strike at any second.
He laughed again and lunged at me. I easily side stepped him and watched as he tumbled into a table knocking a vase over that crashed to the wooden floor entry.
He stood up bringing his fingers to his lip where a small stream of blood ran out of a thin cut.
He mumbled something unintelligible and came at me again.
I again moved out of his way and he went sliding into the kitchen.
I don't know how long I would be able to protect myself from the goon, but I sure as heck wasn't about to give up.
He stumbled over to a drawer and pulled out a very sharp knife. It scared me and I lost my perspective of protecting my self as he ran at me again. I snapped out of it just as the blade ran a line down my arm.
I screamed in pain and fell out of the way. If I hadn't it probably would have gone straight through my arm.
I pulled myself into a ball and pushed my hand over the cut trying to stop the bleeding.
Evan picked me up and carried me into the kitchen. He set me down on the counter and pulled out a dishcloth. He pushed it against my arm.
He held it there for a while and then pulled my chin up toward him.
"Are you going to be good now?"
I wanted to say no and challenge him but my mind said differently. I nodded glumly.
The bleeding stopped and he bandaged it and sent me upstairs.
My arm hurt a lot but now I had the proof I needed to get Evan in trouble. I sat on my bed as one thick tear rolled down my face followed by an opening of the flood gates.
I laid my head down on the pillow and let the tears run down into the blankets.
I just want to go home.
The thought escaped my mind and came out my mouth. I might have lay there for hours choking on tears, if it weren't for the tapping at the window. I sat up and found Justin's face outside my window.
I ran over to the window and pulled open the window. He eased himself into the room and immediately hugged me.
I didn't want the tears to come back but they did, flowing down onto Justin's blue jacket.
I started trembling as the tears became bigger and heavier. He finally pulled back and took my arm.
I let out a soft moan and he instinctively let go. "What's that matter?" he asked.
I bit my lip and then lifted up the sleeve of my shirt. The cut had started bleeding again it the blood soaked through the bandage and onto my shirt.
His tone of voice was more of a 'tell me' than a question.
I was quiet for a sec and then all the words tumbled out. I explained about what had happened, being threatened, almost getting a much worse slice on my arm.
He shook his head and looked ready to go down stairs and beat up Evan. He probably could.
"He didn't even bandage it right." Justin mumbled.
He looked around my shoulder toward the bathroom connected to my room, "Come let's go wrap it again."
I sat patiently as he unwrapped the white cloth. The blood began to flow heavily once more and he pushed the cloth against it. I flinched.
"Sorry." He apologized, "I need to get it to stop bleeding."
I nodded and ignored the pain. I had lost a lot of blood and it was starting to make me feel weak. The blood finally stopped coming and pulled the cloth back to look at my arm.
"It needs stitches." He muttered.
I began to shake my head. I knew he could probably do it. He'd taken a really good first aid class last year where it taught him to put stitches in if necessary. But I really didn't want him putting a needle in my arm.
He saw my face, "No I can't do it. It looks really deep. You have to go to the hospital. I don't know how long it will be before it decides to start bleeding again."
"Evan won't take me."
"Then I will. It'll be a good way to turn him in. We'll climb out the window the way I got in."
I shook my head vigorously. "That's why I got the cut. Because I left when I wasn't supposed to."
His face held pure stubborn. "I could honestly care less. If you don't get it closed up, it will start bleeding again and you could die. You're coming willingly or I'll drag you there. It doesn't make a diff. to me."
I sighed. "Fine, dictator. Lead the way." I mocked holding my hand out.
He smiled and took my hand and helped me out onto the roof under my window. He jumped down and held his arms out.
I looked down doubtingly. It was only like 7 feet but I hated heights.
"I promise I'll catch you. There are no windows here. No one will see you. Come on." Justin called up to me.
I took a deep breath and slipped over the edge holding onto the gutter with one arm holding my injured arm close to me.
"Jump Nik! You're only like half a foot above me!"
I let go and was air borne for a milli second. Justin caught me and set me down next to him.
He took my hand once more and we walked quickly out of the yard and down the street.
"How did you get here? And how did you find where I was?" I asked about a block down.
"Well…I have to admit. It wasn't easy getting here. T.J. tried to stop me. He kept me after school and talked endlessly about baseball. I had already had the ticket for the plane ride and I knew I was going to be late so as soon as he turned his head to talk to Ashley I was out of there."
"Did he say he knew that you were coming?"
"No. But I knew you had told him."
"I had too! If this doesn't work out, we're both in serious trouble!"
"It will work. We're going to the hospital and telling on Evan and then you're coming home with me."
"Ok fine. How did you find where I lived?"
"Phone book. I asked Carlos what your cousin's name was and then I looked it up in the phone book."
"I didn't think they would tell you anything."
"They weren't going to. I had to drag it out of them."
I smiled and was silent once more. Half way to the Hospital my arm started bleeding again and I almost passed out. Justin slipped his jacket off and wrapped it around my arm.
"Justin! It's like forty degrees. You'll freeze to death!"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Your arm is more important right now."
My insides warmed instantly and felt the burden on my shoulders lift.
We reached the hospital and walked up to the receptionist.
She glanced at us. "What's the problem kids?"
"She needs stitches." Justin answered pulling off the jacket.
The nurse flinched. "That's a pretty bad cut. What happened?"
My mouth opened, but some one behind me interrupted.
"She bumped her arm against me during dinner. I was just parking the car. She cut it on a knife."
It was Evan.
He placed a firm hand on my shoulder along with Justin's and held them there.
The nurse led us down to a room and told me to wait patiently while she ran and got a doctor.
The doctor came in the room checked my arm over began stitching it up. I swung my feet back and forth trying to block out the sound of Evan cracking his knuckles over and over again.
He finished told me to come back in a week to get them out and we left. Evan led us to the car and harshly pushed into the backseat. The ride was quiet and it scared not wanting to what Evan was thinking.
Justin inched his hand across the seat and reached mine and held it tightly. I could tell he trembled.
We pulled up in front of the house and walked inside. Evan led us into the family room and told us to sit down.
Justin flopped down on the couch next and grasped my hand. "That guy is a jerk." He mumbled.
I nodded in agreement.
Evan came back with the phone in his hand. "Call your parents." He ordered Justin.
Justin's hand shook as he punched in the number and waited while it rang. He doubted his dad was even home.
His dad answered because Justin began to talk softly at first and then yelling as if fighting against his dad.
He told him he was in Chicago. There was a long pause and you could actually hear Mike yell. Justin slowly brought the phone away from his ear as his dad and then brought it back.
A moment later he hung up.
"He's coming out to get me tonight." Justin explained.
"Tonight?" I asked.
"Yeah. He's taking the next flight out. I'm a dead man."
"Go sit in your room Nicole." I turned to Evan.
"No!" I dared to say it wondering what he would do in front of Justin.
He looked surprised but quickly regained composure.
"Don't start with me Nicole. Go to your room now, or I'll make you regret you ever lived."
"Come over here and make me." My voice was nearly a whisper. I narrowed my eyes at his.
"Nicole Thompson go to your room now!" He screamed and I jumped.
I still didn't move. He stomped over and grabbed my arm.
"If you're not in your room in ten second's I'm going to do just what my dad did to me. Put his belt to me."
Justin watched in astonishment.
"You wouldn't dare in front of Justin." I challenged.
That when it happened. He brought his hand up and brought it down hard across my face.
I fell to the ground and felt blood inside my mouth. He hauled me upstairs and locked me inside my room.
I pounded on the door with my fist and screamed. I screamed until I thought my lungs would burn. I finally stopped and flung myself onto the bed crying. I felt such anger and hatred. I wanted to do something to get the heck out of here. But I just didn't know what to do. A few hours later I was still awake and heard the front door open. I slipped off the bed and wiped my soaked face across my arm. I listened downstairs.
"I'm sorry Mr. Roberts. It won't happen again."
That was Mike.
"I'm sure it won't. I don't want Nicole to have any memories form her former life. It will only make it harder for her living with me."
That was Evan. I pounded on the door and began to scream.
I stopped to listen.
"Can I just go say good bye to her?"
That was Mike again.
There was a hesitant in Evan's voice. "I suppose a good bye would be ok."
I heard the footsteps up the stair and Evan unlocked the door.
Mike entered the room and I jumped into his arms.
"Please don't make me stay." I cried into his shoulder.
He held me close.
"Evan is your relative. You need to accept it. I'll make sure that you come up during the summer."
He put me down in front of Justin. His eyes held fear and sadness.
He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me.
When he let go and looked at me his eyes were glistening with tears. "I'll find a way. I promise I will." He whispered softly.
Than right in front of Mike and Evan leaned forward and kissed me. The world seemed good for that half second but then it all crashed down on me again as his lips left mine and he walked out of the room and out of my life.
Evan walked down with them and watched as the drove away in the taxi. Evan than walked back up into my room he closed the door behind him and reached for the belt, laying over my desk chair, which I had borrowed from Dianne.