Post Reply I'll Make Things Right: Part 2
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27 / F / In my own little...
Posted 5/23/09 , edited 7/1/09
Find Part 1 HERE

Last Update to he Story ::
Jun 30 {{ Birthday time ;D }}
June 16 {{ The Past Revealed... }} [[ kinda not PG rated. BUT cute ]]
May 31 {{ A Midnight encounter? }}
May 24 {{ Meet Tom <3 Cont. }}

Chapter 5 Cont.

“Well, I do not think it is bad,” he replied, and offered his arm to her. “Shall we, Mari?” She looked at it dumbly. “You take it. Around here, it is proper for a young man to offer his arm to a young lady when they walk; and even if you may not be proper, I am.”

She nodded slowly and then slipped her arm inside his as they walked toward the house.

Okay, so Lizzi was right so far. They are kind people, and this one seems okay, and he called me by my name. I could get used to life here. She also noticed that when Tom spoke, it sounded so smooth and elegant. Her own rough words and slang sounded a bit dreadful in comparison. She was still a bit uncomfortable being so close to the young man. Any man, for that matter.

When they got to the house, Mari slipped her arm out of Tom’s just before reaching the door. She did not want to feel awkward once she got inside; and she knew she would if they were still walking like that. He did not object, and held the door open for her like a gentleman.

They walked into the living room where she had first seen the five guests. Lizzi and Benjamin sat around the coffee table, and looked up when Tom and Mari walked in. Mari had prepared herself this time and could be in a confined room with the man who looked like a young Marty. She took a deep breath.

“Hello, Mari. I see you have met Tom.” Lizzi smiled from where she sat, and motioned for Mari to sit in a chair nearby. She sat, and Tom sat in a chair next to Benjamin.

Soon after, Vale walked into the room and the older men and woman spoke for a while longer, but Tom and Mari staid quiet most of the time, unless they were spoken to directly. Tom laughed a few times, but Mari did not understand what was funny. They were talking about something that happened recently.

After a while, Benjamin got up and said, “Well, we must be going, and let you three get to your supper.” He bowed, and Vale got up to lead him to the door. Tom followed, and waved goodbye to Mari, who flicked her hand in reply. He chuckled silently.

Lizzi smiled, happy to see that Mari seemed to have made a friend.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After supper that night, still unsuccessful in getting Mari to eat all she wanted, Vale and Lizzi sat in the living room with Mari, who was just coming out of her suppertime shell.

Lizzi was reading a book, and Mari sat at a table looking through a large book and trying in vain to understand the squiggles she saw. She was wondering how they would ever make sense to her. Lizzi had said she would start teaching Mari to read and write tomorrow when they got back from town.

She looked up at the grandfather clock that sat in a corner of the room. She was getting tired, and yawned.

“I’m going to go to bed, if that’s alright?” She looked over to Vale, who was the head of the house after all. She may have grown up on the streets, but Marty had beaten into her an extreme sense of the hierarchy of a home.

He realized that she was waiting for permission, and nodded, saying, “Oh, yes. Yes, go ahead. You do not need to ask permission to sleep, Mari.” She smiled and got up, leaving the room. She knew her way around the house enough to make it to her room on her own, so Lizzi staid in the room with her brother.

When she heard the distant click of Mari’s door being opened, she smiled.

“She’s gotten a lot better.” She said happily, slipping her finger on the page she was at and closing her book so that her finger was between the pages to mark her place.

Vale nodded, looking up from the newspaper he’d been reading. He smiled. “But she still won’t eat. We’ll have to show her that she is free to do what she likes in this house.” After a long pause, “I really wonder what kind of life she’s had. It can’t have been good.”

Lizzi nodded. “Yes, she has had a terrible life. Marty, her supposed caretaker, beat her all the time. She didn’t get enough food to eat; you see how skinny she is. She had a closet for a room, and used a bucket for a bath.” She shook her head sadly and sighed. “I can’t even imagine how lonely and sad she must have been.”

Vale chuckled, and said, “based on how she acted at that horrible place that sold young girls to middle aged men for ‘play toys’,” here he scowled, “she was not too sad. She had been hardened before she could be sad. Instead of growing gloomy and depressed, she adapted and developed that attitude. Without it she would have been crushed, I think.”

Lizzi nodded slowly. “But have you noticed the difference in her when she’s outside in the open and when she’s inside or in a small place? She’s much more open and her attitude is very evident when she’s outside. But get her in a building or vehicle and she shuts herself up in silence and timidity. I wonder why that is.”

Vale nodded. “I have noticed. I was watching her in the tree when Tom went to get her. She was very strong-minded.” He laughed a bit, and added, “she even told him not to look up her skirts while she got down.” Lizzi smiled but suppressed the laugh. Mari was definitely strong-minded when outdoors.

They were silent for a while longer, and Lizzi went back to her book as Vale took up his newspaper again. After a few more moments, Lizzi got up, slipping a page marker into her book. “I’m going to bed too; goodnight, Vale.”

“Goodnight Lizzi.”

Now left alone, Vale thought about how different Mari already was from when she’d first arrived. But he could not help but be aware of a deep distrust of men radiating from the girl. With Lizzi, she was like any other 17-year-old girl. But around Vale, she seemed hesitant and closed her mind and heart. He pondered this until he finally decided it was time to sleep and got up, folding the newspaper and laying it on the chair.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Mari lay on her back in bed, gazing at the shadows that were the ceiling. She heard a faint creak as the cat pushed her door open but could not hear his paws on the floor, so she jumped slightly when he sprang onto the bed. She patted his head and he curled up on her stomach.

She still gazed absentmindedly at the ceiling and petted the cat’s furry head, drifting into a sleep littered with fragments of her past.

Chapter 6

The next morning, Mari and Lizzi were sitting in the car silently, heading for town to get the boots Mr. Spencer had promised.

They got out of the car and Mari blinked a few times until her eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight after the darkness of the car. She looked around, and was again amazed at the smallness of the town. She had grown up in huge cities, with tall buildings and dirty streets. None of the buildings here were more than two stories and the streets were wide and open; and clean. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and it made Mari feel a bit out of place.

She realized that Lizzi was waiting for her at the door to Spencer’s Shoes, and she hurried to her side.

Once inside the store, they both heard from the back of the building, “Miss Lizzi, Miss Mari! You have not come a minute too early! I just finished young Miss Mari’s boots!” They made their way through the room to the back where Mr. Spencer stood with his hands behind his back. He was smiling brightly, just as he was the day before.

He held out his arm, and said, “If you will follow me, Miss Mari?” Mari recognized the gesture from the day before, when she’d met Tom. She hesitantly slipped her arm into the old man’s, and walked with him to the door behind him. She figured that the man was too old to be of any danger to her. He opened it and they stepped into a brightly lit room with desks and tools scattered about. The table nearest to them was empty though, save a pair of beautiful leather boots.

Mr. Spencer took Mari to the table, and told her to sit in a bench right next to it. She seemed to know what to do, and took off her right boot. Mr. Spencer handed her the boot for that foot, all new and spiffy. The laces were a smart black and very strong, yet still thin and easy to work with. Mari slipped on the right foot boot, and did up the laces with great care. She held out her foot to inspect them, and wiggled her toes experimentally. A perfect fit. The top of the boots went to just above her ankle, the soul at the heel was an inch thick, making her seem a bit taller than she was.

She took off her other boot and put on the new one. She stood, seeing how they felt while moving. She walked around a little, getting their feel. She looked up and smiled at Mr. Spencer.

“Why, Mr. Spencer, they are lovely, as always!” Lizzi stood behind him and smiled.

Mr. Spencer, always one ready to give a compliment to a young lady, said, “ah, but not as lovely as the two of you!”

Mari smiled again and Lizzi took Mr. Spencer’s hand warmly.

They staid to chat for a while longer, with Mari walking around experimentally every now and then, and peering down at her lovely new boots.

When they left, Mari’s stomach was beginning to growl, so Lizzi led them to the same bakery they had eaten a snack at before. They both got a sandwich with fish and lettuce and tomato on it. They sat at the same little table they had sat at before, and waited for their meal to come. Mari looked out the window often, watching the people passing by, asking Lizzi who the more interesting ones were.

“That is Mrs. Hartfurd, the town’s best gardener,” she explained as Mari pointed to a fat and rosy-cheeked woman passing by.


“Yes, she sells flowers and trees to the people living in the area. Some even come from miles and miles just to get one of her plants. They are known to survive longer than most and they hold up even in bad soil. She’s amazing with her plants.” Explained Lizzi.

Mari’s eyes glittered a bit as she remembered seeing a little pot of beautiful flowers once when she was little, and wanting to have her own garden. “Can we get some flowers?” She saw Lizzi brighten. “I’ve always wanted flowers of my own,” Mari thought of the garden back at her new home, but they weren’t hers to take care of. She wanted something all her own to nurture and grow. She’d always felt that longing. It might have been because she had not had any one to be nurtured by.

Lizzi smiled and said, “You want some flowers of your own? How about we get you some tomorrow when we come to pick up your dresses? We can get some seeds and bulbs and you can start a windowsill garden.”

Mari smiled brightly, and was filled with eagerness. At this moment the food came, and she picked up her sandwich eagerly to eat it.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Later that afternoon, Mari skipped up the cobbled path to her new home in her new boots, with her spirits high. She had been silent and withdrawing still in the car, but now that she was out she was happy and free. Lizzi laughed.

They ate an early-ish dinner with Vale and once it was over, Mari and Lizzi went back outside.

Lizzi took Mari to a bench in the garden with two of the books they had gotten the day before. One of them was the alphabet book. Lizzi showed Mari the alphabet and taught her the song that children used to remember it all. It amazed Mari and she smiled and sung along. She learned what the letters were and what sounds they made. She learned that to spell things, the best way was to sound them out, and break them down into the basic components. Her memory was good, so she could recite most of them and even spell out a few simple words by the time they finished for the afternoon.

“Can you sound out 'dog,' Mari?” Lizzi quizzed her pupil.

After thinking it over a little, Mari attempted it. “Dog… D. O. G?” She looked worriedly at Lizzi.

Lizzi smiled wide, and Mari knew she’d gotten it right. Her heart lifted.

“Now try “cat,” Mari.”

In her confidence, Mari only took a few seconds to sound it out in her mind. “Cat. K. A. T.”

Lizzi shook her head. “In this case, that first sound it made by a C, not a K. I still don’t really understand why C and K make the same sound, and why the English language is redundant, but that’s how it is.” As Mari listened, she nodded eagerly.

After the lesson, Mari left Lizzi and went to climb in the tree again, and Lizzi went inside to sort some things out.

Mari was up the tree in no time, and sat there peacefully.

It was another beautiful day, and the sun shown on her face as she lifted it and rested it on the branch behind her head. She closed her eyes and smiled, just sitting.

After a few minutes of peaceful silence, she heard footsteps approaching but did not open her eyes. She pretended to be asleep so that who ever it was would pass right on by. But they stopped right below her. She did not move, and kept the dreamy smile on her face exactly how it was.

“Hello, Miss Improper?”

At the familiar voice, her eyes flew open and she smiled broader. “Hey Tom.” She said, not looking down.

“Why is it that we always meet with you in a tree?” He asked from under her.

Mari smiled and looked down, replying, “'Cause I like trees.”

He smiled up at her. “Would you rather walk with me around down here, on the ground?”

She tilted her head, as if considering it, and said, “No, but I will,” He chuckled his chuckle and she jumped down right from where she sat.

She brushed off her dress and then stood strait. Tom offered his arm and she took it gently, and they walked through the woods and garden. She told him about her brand new boots and her soon-to-be garden. He listened good-humouredly, and told her of what he was learning in school, and of his horse, which he’d just gotten as a present from Benjamin.

From a window on the top floor of the house, Vale watched their progress through the garden for a few moments, and smiled in an odd way.

A few minutes later, Tom and Mari heard a car pull up at the front of the house, and walked around the house to see who it was. Mari was a little reluctant to do it because she knew it would be someone she did not know. But Tom really wanted to, and she sighed and let him lead her there.

The car contained Arnold and Katharine. Katharine saw Tom waving to her, and saw Mari with him looking a little less happy to see her, and walked over slowly.

“Mari, right?” She said, holding out her hand. “I’m Katharine!” Mari shook her hand, and Tom invited her to join their walk. Arnold kept note of this and walked inside the house.

Mari suggested they all sit down at a bench nearby, and so she got to know Katharine. She found that she liked her a lot. They had a few things in common, and Katharine and Tom told her things that made her laugh.

And Mari realized that she was finally fitting in. For the first time in her life, she was fitting in with good people who would likely be her friends for life. It made her heart soar and she was happy and amiable, even as they stepped into the house. She was a little less ready to speak once they entered the main living room, where Vale, Lizzi, Benjamin, and Arnold sat talking, but she still smiled at least.

Vale and Lizzi both noticed this, and smiled inside. Benjamin seemed to notice this too, and was glad to see the girl seeming to be more comfortable with them all. Arnold only knew Mari from when she’d burst out and thought the improvement tremendous but didn’t really take note of it, for he was talking to Lizzi.

Mari sat through the night with Katharine next to her, not talking most of the time. She was still very shy and a bit uncomfortable indoors with many people in a room, even though she was feeling so good that she was fitting in.

When the night was over and the guests were to leave, Tom and Katharine waved Mari goodbye, and headed out the door with Arnold, who had said a polite goodbye to Mari. Benjamin stayed behind a little later, saying a few quick things to Vale. As he passed Mari, he stopped and bowed, saying, “It was a pleasure to see you in such good spirits today, Miss Mari.”

She smiled uneasily and said, “Thank you, and it was good to see you again.”

Benjamin nodded and left, following his younger cousin to their car.

Mari yawned and looked over to Lizzi and Vale, who were sitting on one of the couches again. “I’m going to go upstairs to bed I think. Goodnight, Lizzi. Goodnight, Vale. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Lizzi just smiled over at her young friend, and Vale looked up and said, “Goodnight, Mari. Sleep well.”

Mari nodded and yawned again. She headed to her room, and found the cat already lying down on her bed. She smiled and changed into her nightdress, slipping between the warm covers and the soft mattress. She was asleep in minutes.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Mari next awoke, it was still dark outside. She wondered what had woken her so soon. The cat was still sleeping peacefully next to her. She looked around her room in the dim light, wondering if she’d heard a noise or something. She sleepily got up and walked to the window, which was open. The cool night air brushed her cheeks and she leaned on the windowsill, looking out over the garden a floor below her.

She saw a dim candlelight a little ways out. She wondered what it was, and the curiosity made her instantly wide-awake. She slipped on her boots and a jacket, and took a candle lamp from her bedside table. She lit it with one of the matches that was next to it, and held it steady in her hand. She quietly opened the door to her room and then closed it again, and slinked down the stairs at the end of the hallway. She found her way in the dark to the door to the garden and opened it.

She could see the candlelight a little way away and started for it. She was not scared, now she was in the open. The fresh night air blew her hair around her neck gently, and her eyes sparkled in the light of the candle she held. Already though, she was beginning to tire again.

Ahead of her the candle stopped moving around the garden and stopped at the spot where she thought one of the benches was. She tilted her head to the side in curiosity and walked toward it quietly.

When she got close enough to see who was wandering through the garden at night, she found it to be Vale. A tiny instinct to silently creep away and stay out of the man’s way rose in the pit of her stomach but she pushed it down. She wanted to know why he was out so late, and besides, he would have already seen her candle light.

Then Vale looked up and smiled in the candlelight. His eyes seemed to sparkle with it. “Why are you up so late, Mari?”

Mari raised her eyebrows. “Why are you out so late, Vale?”

Vale laughed a little and said, “Good question.”

After a pause Mari cleared her throat and Vale looked up questioningly. “I woke up and wanted to know who was walking around in the garden.” She looked at Vale. “Well, aren’t you going to answer the question?” She implored.

Vale smiled sleepily and said, “When I can’t sleep I always do this. I find that a night walk in a garden like this is just the thing.”

Mari nodded and sat on the bench with Vale. Her legs were starting to wobble under her with sleepiness. “Why can’t you sleep?”

“Oh, just lots of things on my mind lately.” Vale yawned slightly.

Mari chuckled and said, “Like what to do with a wild girl you picked up at a slave-girl trade?”

Vale looked over at her, a little smile on his face, and said, “Actually, yes, that’s part of it.”

Mari laughed a bit, and yawned. Somewhere her brain was telling her to be cautious. She was alone and in the dark with a man she barely knew. He could still do anything to her that he wanted. Sure, she could scream, but she didn’t think Lizzi would hear it if she did. And she could kick and punch, but Vale was much taller and stronger than Mari. And they were talking about what he’d do with the girl.

But she was too sleepy to listen to her brain, and was getting sleepier by the minute. Vale noticed that and said, “Well, let’s get you back to bed, Mari. You look tired, and I think I’m ready for bed too.”

Had she been fully awake, Mari would have had hundreds of warning flares going off in her brain. But at the moment, in her sleepiness, she just nodded and yawned again. Vale got up and then helped her up off the bench. He held out his arm as Tom had done before, and Mari slipped her arm into his and leaned on him slightly, and they walked slowly back to the house.

Vale opened the door for Mari and they stepped through and up the stairs. As they walked down the hall, Mari noticed that her candle was almost run out, and so was Vale’s. She yawned again and they came to her door. Vale opened it and led Mari in and to the bed.

By now Mari would have been frantically panicking if she had had all her senses with her. The implications of the situation to her would have been severe and she would have insisted that Vale leave her to herself. But her lulled senses allowed him to lift the cover for her as she slipped in, stroking the ginger cat’s back. She closed her eyes and her head was on the pillow in seconds, and soon after she was asleep, after Vale laid the covers over her.

Vale looked at her peacefully sleeping form and walked slowly and quietly to the door and out of her room. He left the door a crack open so the cat could get out if he wanted to, and then went to his own bedroom to sleep.

Chapter 7

Early morning sunlight streamed into the room as Mari sleepily opened her eyes. She blinked a few times and then remembered last night.

She sat up suddenly, realizing that she’d completely left her guard down. And she’d been all alone with Vale, in the dark, outside of the house where nobody would have heard her scream. She shook her head at her foolishness, but also felt a creeping sense of security. She never should have left her guard down; she told herself this over and over again. But she could not help feeling that she really trusted Vale now. He could have done anything with her in the state she’d been in. But he hadn’t. He’d gotten her back to her room safely and seen her into bed before he even thought of letting himself sleep.

She sat back in bed, unsure of what to think. Her eyebrows came together as she thought, and she resisted the urge to bite her lip. She knew she would trust Vale more now, but could not help the feeling that he was just gaining her trust to break it. She would continue to be weary, just in case; with all men. She could not be sure if they would be sincere or just want to do things she had no wish for. The idea of an honest and sincere man was beyond her comprehension.

Her thoughts were pulled to the past. It was two and a half years ago. She’d known Billy for 4 months now, and though she didn’t know it, she had just turned 15 the day before.

Mari walked along a dark alley one evening. She was counting the money she’d obtained that day.

She sat down on an abandoned mattress, and crossed her legs. She had in her hands a picture. Today, she’d gotten yet another picture of a happy child. She looked longingly at it, wishing for all the world that she could have been one of them.

She sighed, and when she looked up, there was a young man leaning against the wall nearby. “What’s eatin’ you?” He asked, concerned.

She hesitated. The young man was probably 20 years old, and he had a slight five-o’clock shadow. But his eyes seemed sincere. “Oh, I’m just looking at a picture.” She decided that this man didn’t need to know her life story.

The man frowned, and said, “And it’s making you sad?” He stepped closer.

She looked down and nodded.

The man smiled and said, “I can make you happy again.”

Alarmed at the man’s tone, Mari looked up and saw the wicked smile on his face.

Before she could reach for her knife, he’d pushed her onto her back and sprawled her out on the mattress. He got on top of her and pinned her down.

She tried to scream, but the man covered her mouth with his grubby hand. She tried to push him off of her, but he was too strong, and threw her arms out at her sides.

Someone! Help me!

Her mind was racing and she was panicking. The man lowered his head to her neck and he whispered menacingly, “This wouldn’t happen to be your first?” Mari shut her eyes tight and tried one last time to fight the man off. But it was no use.

He was kneeling on her, and he lifted his head and viciously ripped her shirt. It lay in shreds around her as the man laughed and prepared to do something unforgivable to Mari.

Mari’s body was shaking and she shut her eyes tighter, trying to block out her surroundings and escape into the solace of her mind.

And then she heard a very familiar and welcomed voice. “Get away from Mari!” She heard a thump, and the weight of the man pressing down on her disappeared. Still with her eyes shut tight, she scrambled against the wall and huddled there. She heard Billy yelling. “Stay away from her! You are scum! To take advantage of someone like that!”

She heard a few more thumps and didn’t open her eyes again until she’d heard Billy say, “Mari, are you okay?” She felt a little hand on her arm, and broke down. She opened her eyes and tears fell. She saw the metal bar that Billy had used to beat the man off of her.

“I was so scared! Billy!” She could not stop the streaming tears, and just let them flow freely. She hugged Billy tight, crying.

The little boy hugged Mari tight and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll always protect you.”

And ever since then, she’d not trusted a single man in her life.

Until now.

She sighed and closed her eyes, staying like that for a few minutes more, fully waking up.

Lizzi soon stood in her doorway, dressed. “Are you going to get dressed so we can go to town and get your stuff, Mari?”

Mari smiled and nodded, remembering the grand plans for the day and pushing the horrible memory away.

She got dressed, and walked out into the living room, where Lizzi was waiting for her.

“All ready?” She asked, and put the book she’d been reading down. Mari nodded slowly, and they headed out. The car ride was the same as usual, if not worse, and even as she stepped into the open air, she seemed hesitant. Lizzi made no comment at first, but was worried at the girl’s hesitation.

They walked into the dress shop, and met Mandy in the back.

“Lizzi, Miss Mari. Come and see the dresses.” She led them to some dummies near the back of the store. There were four of them, and each one had a dress on them. One was a light blue, one was a deep green, another was a pale orange, and the last was white. Mari gasped as she saw them.

“You’ve done a wonderful job as usual, Mandy.” Lizzi nodded and went to stroke one of the dresses. “Let’s go see how they fit.” She turned with a smile to Mari, who nodded timidly, scanning the room nervously.

Lizzi and Mandy led Mari to a little room with a curtain drawn over the entrance. She went into it and put the pale orange dress on hurriedly, not wanting to be in the small space any longer than she had to. It was made quite the same as the one she wore now, so it wasn’t too confusing. She examined herself in the mirror in the room, and then walked out for the other two to see, again scanning the room nervously.
Lizzi smiled and clapped twice. “It’s lovely! And it fits perfectly, it seems.” She turned to Mandy. “Well done.”

Mandy nodded and put the other three dresses into a bag, along with the one Mari had been wearing. “You can keep that one on and walk out of the shop in it.” She handed the bag to Mari, who took it somewhat timidly.

Lizzi and Mari went out of the store quietly, and once into the open, Mari relaxed visibly. But she was still uncomfortable, having the memory of that day fresh in her mind.

Lizzi looked over at Mari and said, “How about we head over to Mrs. Hartfurd’s place now. We’ll have to drive there, since she’s out of town.”

Mari frowned, and stepped into the car after Lizzi. The ride was silent as usual, and Lizzi seemed to notice Mari being worse than usual about the small space. She was fidgety, rather than the usual timid stillness, and she looked up as if startled at nearly every sound.

When the car rolled to a stop outside the Hartfurd Nursery, Mari eagerly got out of the car, and stood in the open air for a moment before being led by Lizzi to the same lady she’d seen through the shop windows yesterday.

The lady looked up and saw the guests. She stood up from where she’d been working on her garden, and called, “Come to look for some flowers, Lizzi?”

Lizzi nodded, and once she reached the woman, said, “Mari here wants to start her own garden.”

Mrs. Hartfurd smiled and looked Mari up and down. “What kinds of flowers would you like?” She asked in an immensely kind voice.

Mari thought about it, and eventually said, “I don’t really know. Something colorful…” She trailed off, as she had in Mandy’s dress shop when asked the same sort of question.

Mrs. Hartfurd smiled and led Lizzi and Mari to a table that had red and orange flowers. “Like these?” She asked
Mari looked at them, and tilted her head. “Not quite…”

Mrs. Hartfurd nodded, and walked along the table. As they walked, Mari looked at all the flowers.

She stopped at a bunch of bluebells. “These are pretty. I like these ones, I think.”

Mrs. Hartfurd nodded kindly, and reached under the table for a bin of seeds. “Would you like the seedlings, or do you want to start growing them from the beginning?”

Mari barely had to think about it this time. “From the beginning.”

Mrs. Hartfurd smiled and handed Mari a little pack of seeds.

Lizzi and Mari also picked up some soil and a windowsill garden box.

By the time they arrived back at the house, Mari was in a little better state than she had been in that morning.

She went up to her room to get the alphabet book and the easiest book they’d gotten, and headed out to a bench in the garden to study. She quizzed herself on the alphabet and what sounds they made, and found that she could read the simple book she’d brought, though painstakingly slowly. When she’d finished it, she set it down on her lap and closed her eyes, leaning her head back so that the afternoon sunshine warmed her face.

But she could not get the event of two and a half years ago out of her mind, no matter what she tried.

She could still remember the panic she’d felt, the feeling of her whole world falling apart. And she remembered the futility of her struggling.
Her thoughts were broken when she heard footsteps approaching. She did not open her eyes, and soon heard a rustle as someone sat on the bench next to her. Must be Lizzi, she thought, and opened her eyes. But sitting next to her was Vale.

She immediately stiffened and said, “I’m going to go climb a tree now…”

She got up and would have walked hastily away, but Vale said, “What’s wrong, Mari?” It was more the way he’d said it than the fact that he had. His voice was soft and kind, and that made her stop, to the protest of her brain.

She looked back at him, and didn’t say anything. But she didn’t walk away.

“Why don’t you trust me?” His soft voice was deceiving, for his gaze was piercing. She looked away, but went back to the bench and sat down.

They sat in silence for a while, until Mari broke the silence. “It’s because you’re a man…” She said it very quietly, but he heard it and his suspicions were verified.

“Why do you mistrust men?” He was almost afraid of what her answer would be. He assumed that Marty was a great factor in her mistrust, but there could be other reasons…

“Two and a half years ago,” she said quietly still, “A man tried to rape me.”

Vale’s eyes widened, and he looked over at Mari. She had a stern face on, but he could see the pain beneath, and the effort she was putting into keeping from breaking into tears. He put equal effort into keeping the sudden rage from showing.

After another short silence, Mari continued. “I had been sitting in an alley, and I was looking at a picture of happy children. It made me sad, because I knew I’d never have a chance to get a happy childhood anymore. A man probably twenty years old approached me, and asked why I was looking sad. I didn’t suspect anything and said I just was. Then he told me he could ‘make me happy again,’ and he pushed me to the ground and pinned me down. I couldn’t fight back and he covered my mouth with his grubby hand so I couldn’t scream for help either.” She scowled. “Not that anyone would have come if they heard me.”

Her body shook a bit, but she went on. “He ripped off my shirt, and was about to…” She shut her eyes, and shook more violently, with the memory so vivid in her mind. There were tears in her eyes now, and Vale gently touched her shoulder. She jumped only slightly, so he drew closer and hugged her tight. Billy… Mari could not help the thought. Billy had been the only one to care about her before, and he’d hugged her just like this on that day.

With her face buried in Vale’s jacket, she cried more. “If it hadn’t been for Billy…”

Vale was puzzled. He’d never heard of a Billy from Mari. “Who was Billy?” He asked softly.

“My only friend! The only person in my whole life who ever cared about me! He’s the only reason I even have a name now!”

Vale rubbed Mari’s back and said, “He saved you that day?” She nodded, and her crying calmed down a little.

He was still hugging her, until she sniffed and pulled away to wipe her eyes.

Vale looked at the girl, his heart full of hatred for men that would do something like that, and full of compassion for all the girls who suffered from it. “And you haven’t trusted men since then?” He asked softly, and Mari nodded again and sniffed a bit.

Vale sighed, and looked out at the garden, his eyes troubled.

“Mari, you won’t have to worry about that anymore. No one here would even think of doing such a thing.”

Mari could tell he believed what he said, but she just couldn’t bring herself to do the same. That day had maimed her, and no matter how kind men were to her, she would always have that underlying insecurity and fear.

No matter what.

But she had the feeling that she would come to trust Vale even more after this.

And what will he do to me when I fully trust him? She couldn’t help thinking, her thoughts dark. He’ll be like all those other men; he’ll betray my trust. Just like all the others.

Chapter 8 {{ Note :: I haven't done much editing past this point, so bear with meh :3 }}

And so time passed, and Mari grew to know and love all of her friends. She and Katharine had grown into especially great friends. She considered Lizzi as a big sister, and was always looking to her for guidance and always wanting her opinion before she did anything. She thought of Tom as one of her best friends of the group. He reminded her the most of Billy.

Now that she’d been spending time with the group, she could read them well. She noticed the ways Arnold treated Lizzi, how he always ensured her comfort before his own, and how he always smiled when she did. She noticed the brotherly compassion he showed to Katharine, and the way Katharine looked up to him so much.

She noticed how Tom would sometimes quarrel with his cousin, too. They would disagree on things; Benjamin was always very formal and had very strict ideas of what was proper, while Tom liked to be casual when in the company of friends. The properness that Mari had once thought so formal she now knew to be not so. Tom was very laid back compared to Benjamin.

She noticed also how Anne and Lizzi seemed to be two peas in one pod, for they were always whispering together about one thing or another. They had inside jokes that no other knew the meaning of, and they always sat together.

And to her discomfort, she noticed the special attentions Benjamin was showing herself. Though she trusted all in the group, she did not want the kind of attention Benjamin was determined to give her; it brought back memories of that day. She also saw the way he sometimes looked at her. He’d look for a long time sometimes, seeming to think how pretty she was. Though she was flattered, she could not say that she liked the meaning in his gaze, and the desires it so openly showed her. She knew that look, and she didn’t want any of it.

Three months had passed since her first day in her new home. Her little window garden was in bloom, and the summer sun was a pleasure to her fair skin. Her time outside had given her a healthy tan, and she had gradually grown accustomed to eating more. Still she would not get second servings, but she was not afraid to take more from the beginning.

Lizzi had been working hard with Mari with letters, and by now she could write in a scribbled, uncertain hand, though recognizable. Mari was quite proud of her ability to read and write; she’d never even thought that she would ever learn, and now she was reading longer and longer books, with bigger words. She was learning things as she read as well. She had read a book about birds, and now knew the difference between the calls, and from the book about automobiles, she understood how they worked.

And Vale had taught her much. After dinner, she would ask questions she’d thought up during the day, and either Vale or Lizzi would answer the best they could. She’d learned much of the way of the world in this manner, and was eager to learn more all the time.

And now, she would use the skills and knowledge she’d gain to repay her guardians.

It was Vale’s and Lizzi’s birthday soon. There would be a party for them later in the evening on that day. Mari had to say that she was very excited. She couldn’t wait to give them the presents she’d made for them. They were a new cane for Vale, and a book she’d written and put together herself for Lizzi.

She’d carved the cane out of a bit of dark cherry wood, using her old green knife. When she’d finished carving it out, she’d etched little patterns into it along the knob at its top, and had written his name on it. The handwriting was actually good, and she’d tried her best to make it look nice. Then she’d gotten Lizzi’s help to stain it dark. The knob at the top she stained lighter though, so they would be different.

She’d written a story book for Lizzi. Vale had helped her with the cover and bindings, but everything else was her own work. She had even made the paper. Each page had a part of the story and a little picture and decorative border. It was a very simple story, since she was still learning words, but over the past few weeks, she’d discretely asked Lizzi how to spell all the words she needed for it. The story was titled The Two Flower Girls.

She sometimes wondered why she’d chosen to make Vale a cane. She knew that he liked carrying around the black one he had. It was the straight kind that just barely touched the ground when he stood at full height. It was more to show that he was high in stature. She hoped that he would like the new one, and also that Lizzi would like the story. Deep down, she knew they’d love them just because of the effort and thought she’d put into the gifts.

It was the night before, and she’d stayed up and wrapped the presents in shiny paper, and put bows and ribbons on them. She sat at the edge of her bed, and examined her work; one long and skinny, the other short and stout. She smiled, and hid them in her dresser, then flicked the light off and got into bed. A few moments later, the fat ginger cat jumped onto her bed and curled up in her arms.

She awoke to the sound of birds chirping and the sight of light rays on the walls. Lizzi must have come into her room silently to open her window, for the light breeze blew in and caressed her cheeks. She’d closed it last night because of rain.

She sat up in bed, and smiled wide. Getting up hastily, she nearly fell over, but righted herself in an instant to keep from falling. She dressed and ran the brush through her hair hastily.

She examined herself in the mirror and smiled again, then checked on her presents. They were safe, and she skipped to the door of her room and threw it open. She flew down the stairs at the end of the hall, and came into the living room, where Lizzi and Vale both sat reading.

“Good morning!” She hummed cheerfully. She ran to Lizzi and threw her arms around her neck. “And happy birthday!” She sat down next to Lizzi and offered a smile to Vale. This was rare, for even though she trusted him more and more, she didn’t smile too often at him.

Vale’s lips curved up into a gentle smile and he said, “Thank you, Mari. You seem quite cheerful today!” Lizzi nodded.

“How could I not be? Today is a festive day! Everyone should be happy today!” She sat back in the seat, and closed her eyes.

At first, when Lizzi had told her about the birthday, Mari had been anxious, frightened. She’d only ever experienced Marty’s birthdays before, and those were never pleasant for her. He would usually drink himself silly and end up beating her extra hard. But Lizzi had assured her that birthdays here were vastly different. As soon as Mari understood what birthdays here meant, she had been looking forward to it immensely.

“I’m gonna go outside for now,” she said, getting up. She could not sit still for very long. Lizzi and Vale nodded and watched her leave.

Mari spent the morning roaming the grounds, and up in her tree with the book she was currently reading. When she was called in for lunch, she made sure to eat very little, so she would have enough room in her for the feast they were preparing in the kitchens for tonight.

She spent her afternoon helping to prepare for the party; she put up decorations, she helped a little in the kitchens, and above all she helped to make sure Lizzi and Vale did nothing to exert themselves. She made them enjoy themselves and do as they liked, and did anything they asked of her.

The previous night, she had said to them, “tomorrow is your day! I’ll do anything you ask me to, tomorrow only. ‘No’ will not be an option.” She had had some worries about this afterward, though. As she sat in bed before she fell asleep, she had thought about it a little. What if Vale asked her to… But no, he wouldn’t would he? She had been battling herself a lot on this subject. She trusted him, but he would betray her, she knew it. She often didn’t know what to think, or would go between the two sides of her mind.

Today, her suspicions would be proven right or wrong. So far, Vale had asked nothing of her. Lizzi had asked for a few small things; one of which was to smile. Mari had gladly done it.

But now, Mari sat with Vale in the living room, and both were reading a book. She was so absorbed in her book that she hadn’t been thinking about Vale at all, until he’d spoken.

“Mari, can I ask you something?” Mari looked up, and nodded. “You don’t know when your birthday is, right?”

Mari nodded, and shrugged. “But I’ve never really needed to know.” She looked down at her book again.

“What day would you like your birthday to be, then?” He looked over at her and smiled at her surprised expression.

“What day…?” She thought for a few moments, and then said, “The day I came here… I was given another chance that day… almost like I was reborn. That’s the day I want my birthday to be on…”

Vale smiled, and said, “Then that day it shall be, from now on.”

There had been silence for a few moments, and then Vale had spoken again. “Mari, you said you would do anything I asked today?”

Mari looked up, and suddenly the fear was back. What is he going to ask me to do...? She nodded slowly.

Vale put his book down, and stood up. He walked across the room, and sat next to Mari. “Then I ask this of you. Will you let me hug you, Mari?” The last time he’d hugged her had been the day she told him about her past…

Mari stiffened for a few moments, then nodded. She’d promised.

Vale leaned closer, and wrapped his arms around Mari. She was still stiff at first, but relaxed within moments. He isn’t going to do anything…

Vale smiled, and said, “Thank you, Mari.” He let her go, and stood up. “I wish you would let more people hug you.” He said as he sat back down. “I’ve only ever seen you let Lizzi or Katharine hug you before.”

When the party started, Mari was ready for all the people.

Mostly she stuck with the people she knew best, but she tried to talk to others as well, for the sake of Lizzi and Vale.

But she waited until after the guests had left to give them their presents.

She found them both sitting in the living room relaxing, and shuffled in, with the present behind her back. “I know these aren’t much… but I want you to have them. Happy Birthday, Lizzi, Vale.”

She held out the presents to them, and watched for their reactions as they opened them.

Lizzi was the first to get hers opened, and her eyes widened at the sight of the hand made book. “Oh, Mari!” She leafed through the hand-pressed pages, and got up to hug Mari. “Thank you so much! It’s lovely!”

Mari smiled and hugged her back, and then glanced at Vale. He’d gotten his open, and was looking at it with a warm smile. He looked up and said, “Thank you, Mari.”

She could tell by the way he spoke that he meant it, and he liked the gift. She smiled, and scampered off to bed.

Find Part 3 HERE
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21 / Desert Bluffs
Posted 5/24/09 , edited 5/24/09
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27 / F / In my own little...
Posted 5/24/09 , edited 5/24/09
Soon, soon ^^
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28 / M / with Dampé by the...
Posted 7/14/09 , edited 7/15/09
Very nice read ^^ now onwards to part 3 >:D
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27 / F / In my own little...
Posted 7/15/09 , edited 7/15/09
That's where things start getting INTENSE >__<
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