Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lies?

Guys, I'm terribly sorry! I thought I had posted this but it looks like I skipped a chapter. This chapter goes after The Sunshine Bistro!! Sorry! again. I hope you still enjoy it. xx

 Lies?
Ryan held Claire’s hand gently. She was working herself way too hard but there wasn’t anything he could do. Winter break was approaching soon and he was worried about her. She had every Saturday off, courtesy of Anderson, and he’d escape with her to the beach or a carnival. Claire enjoyed the mindless folly of the carnival. She was overjoyed by the smells of salty popcorn and cheap cotton candy. The silly games amused her but she would never dare to ride a rollercoaster. Today he had to tell her something. 
“Are we going to the carnival?” He had taken her to the carnival three times already but she expected to be there with the salty breeze every Saturday. 
“No, I need to tell you about something very serious today. You aren’t Claire Hoskins. Marlene isn’t your mother.” There was no other way to say this gently. Claire was sitting in his car and they were parked on the street. She had looked out the window a couple times and didn’t recognize the lush bushes or manicured lawns. Claire hadn’t said anything but now she wished she had. 
“Ryan, what are you talking about?” 
“Just follow me.” He dragged her out of the car and she followed unwillingly. She was clinging on his arm and he saw that the backdoor was open. He carefully slipped in but was alarmed when Claire’s shoes made a heavy thudding sound. He shook his head and made her take them off. They wandered closely around the O’Shea mansion. He heard some voices and pushed Claire into the bathroom. Ryan ran in and locked the door soon afterwards. 
“I thought I heard something,” a feminine voice said. 
“Stop it, honey,” another voice said. “You’ve been doing this a lot more nowadays. What did the doctor say?” Ryan couldn’t hear her muffled response. After their footsteps were gone, he unlocked the bathroom door. Claire didn’t say anything and she followed him up the stairs. They were almost there. Claire froze up and Ryan turned instinctively. Someone had seen them. He couldn’t continue now. As quietly as he could, he ran down the stairs and waited for Claire to follow suit. They were almost to the backdoor until they heard the feminine voice. 
“Claire?” Claire turned around and Ryan clenched his fist. Natasha O’Shea had seen her. She had seen him too. He ran out first and waited for Claire.  
“Natasha, what is it?”
“I saw Claire.”
“Oh not this again,” Ryan heard before Claire closed the door. 
“Who are those people? Why do they know my name?”
“They once had a daughter named Claire. The bank took her away because of a promise that that Claire’s father made. The baby was put in an orphanage and later adopted. I did some research and found that the baby was adopted by someone named Lyle Scott. All the information was falsified but I took a trip to your old house. Everything is gone, all the furniture, everything. It’s been gone for a while too. But on the floor I found this.” Ryan took it out of his backpack and showed Claire. There were two pictures of her, a baby picture and a recent one. A newspaper clipping was attached as well as the information from the orphanage. Claire’s breathing slowed down. 
“Ryan, I don’t know what to do,” she said starting to cry. 
“We can go back to the O’Shea family, your rightful mother,” Ryan said. They were after all parked in close vicinity. 
“I can’t, I can’t,” she said. “I need to find my mom. She wouldn’t have taken off without me.” 
“Let’s get you back to campus,” Ryan said. Claire was shaking uncontrollably and Ryan wondered why he had shown her this. 
“Ryan, everything you said is real?” 
“Yes,” he simply responded. Claire had a right to know. They returned back to campus and Ryan walked with her to the restaurant. Susie was taking orders and Noah was busy cooking. 
“Claire! There you are. C’mon!” Claire nodded her head and got up. She didn’t look back and Ryan. He didn’t know what else to do. She needed time to think and register all these things in her brain. Ryan left the restaurant too. He still hadn’t actually thanked Noah. Noah was living here now and back in New York. Ryan kicked a pebble on the way back to his car. He heard a truck roaring and wondered what was going on now. He cautiously followed the sound of the truck. It was making all sorts of beeps. The noise was around Vanessa’s dormitory. Was she moving something in? He hadn’t spoken to her since then either. Ryan was standing next to the huge fountain. It wasn’t functioning right now since it was already early-December. The air felt icy and he could even see his breath. He hated the winter months and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket. There were more than a dozen trucks but Vanessa was nowhere in sight. 
“Who’s making that entire ruckus?” He heard her shrill voice. She was wearing a long jacket and earmuffs when she came outside.  So this wasn’t Vanessa. 
“Ryan? What are you doing?” Her voice had no hatred or even a slightest tone of sadness. She truly had moved on. 
“I dunno, I was around and heard all this noise. I thought you were moving something in.” 
“No, I was doing some of my homework and couldn’t concentrate with all this noise. No one is moving in my dorm building.” The trucks finally stopped beeping. The drivers got out and started to unload all the furniture. Vanessa’s teeth chattered as they waited. It was all very slow business and Ryan wondered what all of this was for. Even the restaurant didn’t have this much furniture or noise. Other people started to gather until it was a small crowd. Vanessa disappeared from his side. He saw her talking to Mara and Jessie. 
“I heard there’s a new student,” someone in the crowd said. 
“Well she must be really rich,” it was voice of Henry Berne. “I heard she’s moving in to that building.” Ryan saw Vanessa look up once Henry was pointing at her dormitory. 
“No one is moving in my dormitory,” Vanessa shouted. Ryan saw another car pull up. It was a limo and Ryan only knew one person who was tacky enough to actually have a limo. He shook his head. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t happen. The butler opened the door and Ryan saw the sleek and toned leg that could only belong to one person. He heard Vanessa gasp in the background.
“Ryan, did you miss me?” That voice. She was here haunting him. He felt faint. It was Sasha. 
Vanessa called her mother twice. Apparently Sasha Chanel was moving in to her dormitory. Vanessa still had the penthouse and was happy that her mother gave Sasha one of the crummy guest floors. The crowd dispersed. Not many of the people recognized Sasha. Why was everyone coming back at this time? First it was Noah. If that wasn’t bad enough, Sasha had to appear out of nowhere. Vanessa crossed her arms and waited for the movers to lug various pieces of furniture into the dormitory. Sasha was all over Ryan and Vanessa didn’t feel jealous. Since when was Sasha so clingy? There was something off about this scenario. When she was last here, Sasha was always blowing off dates and treated Ryan in a way that he treated Vanessa. 
“Hello Vanessa,” Sasha said in a debasing way. Vanessa couldn’t believe the nerve of that girl. 
“I’m your landlady. You better be nice to me or I’m kicking you out.” Sasha didn’t say anything sassy back. Vanessa scrutinized her. There was definitely something going on and she would find it. Vanessa watched Ryan push her away.
“I can’t do this, Sasha. You left and you can’t just come back expecting things to be the way you left them.” Vanessa felt her heart twinge. Why hadn’t he said that when she was his girlfriend? 
“What have you done to him?” Sasha accused. She faced Vanessa but there wasn’t that edge to her glares anymore. Vanessa wasn’t terrified of her as she once was. Sasha seemed a little gaunter and her bones were slightly sticking out. It wasn’t a good kind of skinny. She also looked haggard. A bad event obviously had occurred forcing Sasha to come back here. 
“I dumped him,” Vanessa said before Ryan could protest. 
“What?” Sasha faced Ryan again. The Vanessa Sasha remembered was gone. “If you aren’t dating her, then why aren’t you responding back to me?” Ryan looked helplessly at Vanessa. Oh no way was she helping him here. He owed that her much. Vanessa simply left and went inside her dormitory. Mara and Jessie were still there. Vanessa was surprised that they hadn’t come out to see the spectacle.
“Who’s that? Is she living here now?”
“It seems like my mother rented out a floor. That’s Sasha,” Vanessa said. Mara let out a small squeak. “But you guys have to crush her, not Claire. Claire is old news.” 
“Speaking of Claire, I heard her saying something about that wall earlier. She said that it was your sister’s work.” The Sunshine Bistro became the school It spot. It was probably the most exclusive thing around and they were starting to take reservations for those who wanted a spot to eat inside. The to-go business flourished but Vanessa wasn’t one to be ousted by anyone. She made sure the Claire always had a table reserved for her. Vanessa smiled. She had been perfecting this conversation too. 
“My parents yelled at her to get another commission. I owed her a favor so I got her work. Do you know how much Ryan pays?” Actually, Halle owed Vanessa a favor and she wasn’t working on anything at the time.
“You’re such a good sister,” Mara said. Jessie nodded in agreement. 
“We’ll take down Sasha,” Jessie said without confidence. Vanessa knew that these two would have no chance against Sasha. 
“You guys better leave. It looks like Miss Wicked Witch is coming up.” Jessie nodded and without any hesitation, the two of them were out. Phase one had begun. 
“Hi Sasha,” Vanessa said again on the second floor. It was a lot shabbier than the penthouse. Vanessa hadn’t paid much attention to any of the other floors during construction. She hadn’t expected anyone else to room with her. “You should probably renovate this floor. It’s a bit crummy.” 
“I think that it’s fine,” Sasha said quietly. Vanessa tilted her head. Was it the same Sasha? The furniture was all moved in and Sasha had done her best to conceal the concrete walls with posters. 
“Let’s go eat something. Dinner’s on you,” Vanessa said walking to the lobby. Sasha slowly followed her. “I have reservations to this one restaurant that opened recently.” 
“You have to make reservations? Aren’t we just eating in the crystal dining hall?” 
“No, a lot has changed since you left.” Vanessa led the way. The restaurant was pretty close to Vanessa’s dormitory. Sasha gaped at the fancy exterior. 
“Who funded this?”
“Oh, Ryan did,” Vanessa said nonchalantly. She could see Sasha’s brain whirring. Vanessa was worried for Claire. Over the past month, their friendship had been cemented. It had been the hardest friendship to make. Whenever Vanessa wanted to be friends with someone, they automatically wanted to be friends too. It wasn’t a matter of mutual interest of hobbies but rather a show of status. Claire almost drove her out of the restaurant on the day of the competition. She was blabbering nonsense about Vanessa giving the menu away to the dean. Vanessa had done no such thing and it was the first time anyone had accused her of doing something like that. She had told the dean that a strawberry cake would be a good choice once she found out what Mara and Jessie had been planning. If the challenge had been gnocchi, for instance, Claire would have been done for. Claire should have thanked her.
“Hi Claire,” Vanessa said walking over to the table that was almost always reserved for her. Claire gave her a strange look before subtly glancing at Sasha. They had their own code of communication. Sasha sat down and Susie handed them both menus. 
“I’m not impressed,” Sasha said in her judgmental tone. The fact that she even had to say that meant she was amazed by the Sunshine Bistro. Vanessa couldn’t see why she wouldn’t be. They both ordered and Vanessa saw Sasha’s hands trembling. 
“So why are you back?” 
“France got old,” Sasha said with a nervous laugh. She pushed her hair back. “Who’s that girl?”
“That’s Claire,” Vanessa shrugged. “She runs this restaurant. Noah works here too. Do you remember Noah?” Sasha’s face froze. 
“He works here? I need to get out of here.” Sasha wiped her mouth with a napkin and stood up abruptly. 
“The food is delicious. You should stay. Noah almost never leaves the kitchen.” Noah would know why Sasha came back. 
“I have to leave,” Sasha said scurrying towards the door. She did leave but she left her bag on the chair next to her. Vanessa waited for the food to come out. Once Sasha didn’t return, she poked her finger inside. It was an old bag, from a collection two years ago. Sasha’s plate was untouched and Vanessa hated to see food wasted. 
“Hi Vanessa, how’s the food?” Noah had left the kitchen to see her? 
“It’s good, give Claire my compliments,” Vanessa said eating a scallop. She knew that he had prepared it, of course, but it was fun seeing him so agitated.
“Actually she did make that,” he said with a smirk. Vanessa started to choke. 
“That was uncalled for,” she simply said glaring at him. “Do you know Sasha?” 
“What? Sasha? Is she here?” She sighed. He didn’t even notice her anymore once Sasha entered the game. She was too used to it by now. 
“She was, but left at the mention of your name. Do you know her?”
“Hmm, there’s something I have that you want. What price will you be paying tonight, Vanessa?” 
“One date,” Vanessa said heaving a huge sigh. She really did want his information though. 
“Two dates,” he said. Noah knew that he had the upper hand in this. She had to agree to any of his demands. 
“Fine, two dates,” Vanessa said hoping he wouldn’t push it to a third date. Noah nodded and sat down next to her. 
“Yes, I know Sasha,” Noah said as if it was obvious. “I actually came here because of Sasha.” He was a Sasha obsessed person. Vanessa wanted to know if this counted as their first date. 
“Does this count as our first date?”
“No, this is just a share of information.” It was practically three dates. “I’m here because Sasha’s family owes my family big money.” Money? That must be it.
“She’s a rich girl though,” Vanessa said. There were hints that she wasn’t so rich anymore, like her old bag. “This school is expensive though. How is she able to attend?”
“That branch of the Chanel family was disgraced. Her branch has enough money to keep her in style for about a month. Sasha needs Ryan’s money, fast. The ultimatum was given to her immediate family that they either get money or leave. Now since she owes my family money, she tries to avoid me as much as possible. My parents found that they were planning to leave without settling their debt. My mom is actually still in Paris with my sister. My dad came along with me and that’s why I’m here, to track her down.” Everything clicked in Vanessa’s head. 
“She won’t be able to marry Ryan until she’s at least eighteen.”
“Well her grandmother, who has billions of dollars, agreed that if Sasha was able to capture Ryan’s heart, then they wouldn’t be disgraced. Who knows though? They might be disgraced when Ryan blows off the wedding at eighteen.” 
“So the only person in danger is . . . Claire,” Vanessa said. She remembered her own plan with Eugene. Vanessa smiled at how far she’d come before another thing clicked in her brain. “We need to stop Eugene.”
“We?” Noah seemed alarmed while taking a sip of her water. 
“Gross!” She screamed. “Yes, we, don’t you want to get her money?”  
Sasha smoothed out some of her split ends. She wanted nothing more than a trip to the salon. That would be the first thing she did after her family was done being poor. Sasha looked at the illusion of luxury and couldn’t help but laugh. She had to resort to this, pretending to be rich while living under Vanessa. She heard someone knocking outside. Was it Vanessa? The worst thing about this floor was that there were huge spiral stairs in the middle of the living room. Vanessa really hadn’t accommodated for another person. There was an elevator that went straight up and Sasha knew that Vanessa had never even stepped on these stairs. Sasha opened the door to see Eugene. He was holding flowers, how sweet. Eugene was probably the only person that hadn’t changed at all. It was a shame that he wasn’t rich enough to cover her family’s enormous debt. Not even her grandmother would do that but here she was thinking that Ryan would. Maybe he would’ve before she moved but there was no chance that he would now, even if hell froze over twice.  
“Hi Eugene,” she said. She pushed the door all the way open and hoped that he wouldn’t comment on her ratty pajamas. Her parents sold most of her clothes back when they had hope that some stock would save them. They promised they’d buy it all back in a year or so. Two years passed and she was stuck wearing Old Navy, only indoors though of course.
“Sorry I’m visiting so late. I didn’t get to say hi earlier.” The thought of Eugene visiting her at night made her feel sick but she didn’t have a choice. She needed some kind of ally and he was the only one wholeheartedly willing to help her. 
“No problem,” she said trying to look glad that he stopped by.  “Should I make some tea?”
“Oh no, I brought some food from the Sunshine Bistro. They have the most amazing food, even if Claire runs it.”  
“I’ve been hearing her name everywhere. I haven’t been able to meet her yet. Moving is such hard work. Who is she? Do you have any personal ties to her?” Already the name Claire made her blood boil. She was running a restaurant that Ryan funded. Ryan was very careful with any of his funding. Everyone thought that rich people give money out generously to everything and everyone but rich people are rich because they never spend an extra penny. “Does she have any ties to Ryan?”
“Well she did like me, but she’s not up to par with my standards. Somehow Ryan fancies her and they’re casually dating now.” Giving someone half a million dollars never counted as casual dating. Ah, but Ryan found a new love interest. Sasha just nodded. How could someone have the qualifications for Ryan’s standards but not Eugene’s? “Claire’s not like Vanessa. She cries a lot and isn’t too smart. She’s very easily duped.”
“I’m only staying here for a month unless I can get Ryan to like me. That doesn’t mean I actually like him, Eugene. That just means I’m going to take his money, so will you help me? You seem to know Claire better than anyone.” 
“You promise that you don’t still like him?” Eugene was another person that could easily be duped. 
“Of course not,” she said poking him. He was blushing. This was ridiculous. “So I have a plan, it’s foolproof. I need you to distract Claire just one day. It’ll be winter break soon and the restaurant is closing since most everyone goes home. I don’t expect Claire to. I’ll call Ryan one of these days and tell him I just want to talk. We lef things really abrupt when I left and he’ll definitely agree to talk it out. It’s not hard getting him drunk and then I’ll pretend to sleep with him. You place an order at her restaurant. She’ll deliver the package straight to me, in this room. Got it? Tuesday night, first Tuesday of winter break, this will all happen.”
On Tuesday, the first snow fell on all of New York. She had missed the cold, iciness of New York snow. Nothing was as bitter as New York. It was a city with people all looking out for their own good. It was finally Tuesday. Sasha just wished that winter break whizzed through. She didn’t much enjoy school but she felt so alone here. Eugene was taking a quick trip to his grandmother’s house in the countryside of New York. He would be gone for a couple days after today. This was the first time ever that Sasha would not be welcomed home. Her mother hadn’t even called. She had to stay here, which was an option only the poor took. The word poor stung when it tumbled out of her lips. It was a word she hated especially now. Reality was harsh and she was . . . poor. Sasha took a deep breath in before laying down on one of the comfortable pillows. She wouldn’t be poor for long. She looked outside and saw that the campus had gotten larger. It seemed like everything had progressed except her. Sasha ambitiously walked around campus. The old buildings had been repainted and extended. The parking lot was bigger and they were already building another parking lot. Sasha grabbed a tray from the cafeteria. She hadn’t remembered the glass tables and chandeliers. Had they been here before? The only option for lunch was spaghetti but Sasha couldn’t resist lifting all the lids to make sure. The Le Cordon Bleu branch in France wasn’t as gorgeous as this campus. People there were more concentrated on food than image that was for sure.  She sighed before heaping a small serving of spaghetti on her plate. Sasha missed France and Paris. She had been disgraced from the French campus. Sasha had slept with a gorgeous guy who said that he was single. His girlfriend walked in on them, the most popular girl on campus. Since Sasha was only an eighth grader, she couldn’t do anything to a popular senior who ruled the school. She was promptly kicked out and then she learned that her parents had failed at the investment game. She didn’t know why she was recalling that memory as she sat alone in the huge dining hall. Sasha finished eating and wandered around the empty shops. It was finally five in the afternoon and she was ready to call Ryan. He seemed slightly shocked out when she called but he agreed to meet her. Sasha had stocked up on beer and vodkas and she sat seductively on her couch holding a martini glass when he knocked on her door. 
“Sasha, I can’t do this,” he said when he saw her. She was surprised by his instant dismissal. She was even wearing a tight body hugging dress for him. 
“Just one drink, Ryan,” she purred in his ear. 
“No,” he said almost leaving. “I’m not with you anymore. You aren’t going to ruin this like you did with Vanessa.” 
“You can’t blame Vanessa on me,” Sasha said raising her tone. 
“I’ll just get out now, have fun drinking.” She lunged at him and pushed him aside. She locked the door and stood with her back to it. 
“Ryan, I’ll ruin your relationship with that cute little girl of yours if you don’t. What do you even like about her anyway? She looks like a fourth grader. I’m surprised Vanessa didn’t have anything to say about her.” Ryan shook his head aggravated and crossed his arms. He knew he couldn’t win now. 
“Go ahead but I’m leaving.” He had never said that to her ever. This was the way she had gotten him in the first place. “Stand aside, I’m tired of you.” She kissed him and he actually pushed her away. “I knew this would happen. I’m Claire’s, okay?” And then she did the deed. Sasha punched him in the face. Ryan was never good with fights. He stumbled backward and she could see the rage on his face.  He was squatting on the floor with both hands on his eye. It was the perfect opportunity. She grabbed a bottle of vodka and emptied half of it into his mouth. Sasha put her hand on his mouth and watched him forcefully swallow. He was only slightly tipsy but he didn’t look angry with her anymore.
“Ryan, have a drink,” she said cordially. He seemed to have forgotten that the fight had occurred. Ryan didn’t refuse her and accepted the beer she was handing him. He didn’t even make a snide comment that it was a beer and not some fancy cocktail. He drank it two shots and smirked at her. 
“I’m leaving now, Sasha. Thanks for the drink. I’ll probably get in a car accident on the way and I’ll blame you.” She had thought it worked so brilliantly. He was extremely tipsy, just about ready. 
“Ryan, have another one before you go. We wouldn’t want any chance of survival now would we?” He seemed to understand her messed up logic and drank another three shots of vodka. 
“Oh what the hell hand me another beer,” he said loudly. Sasha knew that the right thing to do was tell him no but she shrugged and popped the lid open. He was chugging it loudly and Sasha hoped he would be okay tomorrow. He couldn’t possibly die now. She heard her phone ringing. It was Eugene. Ryan was almost passed out on her couch. Sasha pushed the beer and vodka away into a cabinet. No one had to see that.
“Hello?” 
“Sasha, the restaurant is closed. I can’t get a hold of Claire. She’s not in the staff room either.” 
“Got it,” Sasha growled and hung up. That might be the one problem. Well she could find Claire later. Sasha pulled off Ryan’s shirt and felt giddy just staring at his abs. He had told her he worked out. She dimmed out the lights and put candles on the floor. It seemed just cheesy and romantic enough for this occasion. Sasha threw her own clothes next to Ryan’s. She tossed her lingerie somewhere in the pile. She was still wearing some but Claire didn’t have to know that. Sasha pulled Ryan onto the hardwood floor. That was when the miracle phone call arrived. 
“Hello?” There was no voice on the other line. As the phone call progressed, Sasha learned that Claire was coming with Ryan’s backpack straight into the hands of the beast. Sasha positioned everything once again and sat on top of Ryan’s chest. After about ten minutes, she heard soft footsteps. 
“That was just heaven,” Sasha said.  Those were the words she had used her first time. His eyes were flickering open. She just rolled her eyes. He probably did want this more than her. 
“Claire!” He abruptly shouted. He was leaning up and she knew that something bad was about to happen. Sasha leaned back down and pinned her weight on him. She heard him yelping in pain. His back was back on the floor. She kissed him wishing that he would play along with her. He did no such thing and even tried to push his face away. Claire was crying and tears were rolling down her face. Well Eugene was right about one thing. She ran out and Sasha moved off of Ryan. 
“What’s your problem?” Ryan yelled. He turned on the light and put his shirt back on. 
“Tell me you didn’t like that,” Sasha said sarcastically. “I remember little seventh grade you. You were practically begging me to strip.” He was shaking his head and it seemed like he had recovered from his brief hangover. He was calling her all sorts of profanities. And then Vanessa marched in. Sasha pulled her clothes on behind the couch. 
“Ryan, I thought you’d take good care of Claire! You can’t go around being a dick bag to everyone!”
“That bitch drugged me!” He called her a bitch? Sasha wondered what to do now. There was no way he’d give her any of his money. He was supposed to fall in love with her all over again tonight. 
Claire finally had a day off. She had enjoyed exploring the school. It was a privilege that she hadn’t had time for before. Her days were so relaxing without any work. There was no one to even work her. The dean had said she should rest. He wasn’t so quick to drive her out because now she making him business. Winter break had already started yesterday and the restaurant was closed. There weren’t enough students to feed and Noah had left. Claire couldn’t possibly run anything without him. He acted cocky and brash but inside he cared a lot for cooking and food. She didn’t work for the school anymore as a maid or dish washer but rather in the Sunshine Bistro. As long as the profits were up, that was her job. She could even keep the extra to herself. Olivia and Jonah had already left for home and there were barely any other people here. Even Lola and Grady left. Vanessa treated to her ice skating yesterday and it was a wonderful way to start off the break. She was leaving on Thursday but had wanted to spend a whole day with Claire. 
Claire was also thinking a lot about her trip with Ryan to the O’Shea house. He wanted her to act fast and make a decision during winter break. She wanted to push it off for as long as possible. Being an O’Shea wasn’t important to her. She had lived fifteen years without the truth. Claire knew that she could live another fifteen or thirty without it. Claire had never had a life of luxury and it wasn’t something she needed. Ryan didn’t understand that. Marlene was constantly on her mind too. He had given her the key to her old apartment. The bet was called off.  He had never thought that he would end up dating her. Life threw the most unexpected curveballs at you. 
She went about organizing her few belongings. Claire was rummaging through old scraps of paper and found the newspaper clipping about Claire O’Shea. The clues were there but she wasn’t totally convinced that she was Claire O’Shea. Claire wondered if she should call Marlene. If what Ryan said was true, she didn’t have a way to reach her. She saw his backpack next to where she had found the newspaper clipping. He was helping her study for a final exam and must have left his backpack. Claire was too curious to resist. Anderson was cleaning up the cafeteria kitchen and no one else was there. His phone wasn’t here but she didn’t even expect that. There was just a bunch of junk, from old candy wrappers to homework dated three months ago. She was afraid to dig any deeper but her fingers managed to pull out a small leather notebook without encountering anything else grimy. Claire had never seen such a book in Ryan’s possession. She opened it immediately and found that it was an address book of some sort. Most of the names weren’t familiar. He had Vanessa’s address and even the address of Marlene’s house. She felt a bit creeped out but continued to skim the pages. Ryan had so many people’s names listed but there was one name that stuck out. Lillian Townsend. That was her cousin’s name. How did Ryan know Lillian? She wanted to call Ryan but tomorrow he was leaving for Hawaii. He would be busy packing and she didn’t want to disturb him. He always took out so much time for her. That was probably why he hadn’t called her or shown up in front of the staff room. Claire transferred that information onto another piece of paper. There was no way she could keep this but she wondered what to do with his backpack. Claire uneasily grabbed the phone in the staff room and dialed his number. She knew it by heart now. He had even offered to get her a phone but she disliked the feeling of so much technology. Ryan called technology progress but Claire had doubts about that. 
“Hello?” It was a girl’s voice. Was it Melanie? “Hello?” The voice sounded irritated. 
“Er hi, may I speak to Ryan?” It was already six at night.  Was he eating dinner?
“Ryan’s . . . busy. Can I take a message?”
“Um yeah, this is Claire and Ryan left his backpack near me. He’s leaving for Hawaii tomorrow and I was wondering where I should bring it.” 
“Oh easy fix, bring to Vanessa’s dormitory, floor two.” The phone hung up before Claire could ask who it was. It must have been a secretary. Maybe Vanessa was going to Hawaii too. Yesterday, Vanessa had said she was going to Europe and other places. Other places could have meant anywhere, including Hawaii. Claire zipped up the backpack and slung it on her back. It was about a five minute walk to Vanessa’s dormitory. The lights on the first and second floors were on. Had someone moved in? Vanessa hadn’t told her anything about that. Should she be going to the first floor? Usually the first floor meant the bottom floor but in Vanessa’s dormitory everything was flipped.  The very top floor was the first floor. Claire decided to follow directions and opened the doors to the dormitory. She had been here a couple of times but never the second floor. Claire pressed the elevator button and waited. The elevator finally reached the lobby and Claire pressed floor two. It was probably the only elevator that moved so slowly and played music. Claire found that the door was ajar. She slipped in quietly. The lights were dim and candles were scattered everywhere. Claire squinted her eyes and saw a guy with a girl lying atop him. She was embarrassed and wondered what to do. 
“Sorry, sorry,” Claire said. She was closing her eyes. 
“Claire!” She opened her eyes. It was Ryan. It was unmistakably him. His shirt had been discarded. Claire couldn’t see any outlines of beers or wineglasses. There was no excuse for this. Tears started to form in the corner of her eyes. Claire didn’t want this girl to have the satisfaction of seeing her cry. The girl’s clothes had been flung far away with Ryan’s shirt and she was kissing him now, very aggressively. He didn’t try to fight her and didn’t say anything else. Claire closed her eyes again and tried to block it from her thought. Somehow she hadn’t noticed that Claire had come in.
“Excuse me?” Claire yelled. The girl flexed her back and turned her head. Claire let the backpack slide off her back. It handed with a thud. 
“The door is that way, why don’t you let yourself out. You let yourself in without knocking.” It was that girl! Claire knew that voice sounded familiar. She had seen her at the restaurant briefly with Vanessa. 
“I’m out, okay, I’m out,” Claire screamed. She was being so loud that eventually Vanessa came down. Vanessa saw Claire’s tear stained face and wondered what exactly had happened. Claire was choking on her own tears and unable to talk. 
“What happened? I can’t leave you alone in here. Do you have any relatives?” Ryan had told her he loved her a week ago. 
“He doesn’t love me,” Claire sobbed. “He was . . . he was . . . she . . . that girl!” Claire was crying uncontrollably. 
“I’ll go talk to him. You go upstairs and eat a cake.  I’ll be there soon.” Claire looked up meekly at Vanessa. She was glad to have someone like Vanessa as a friend. Vanessa wasn’t always a true friend who sat by her during every lunch but she was there when Claire needed her most. Claire trudged up the stairs and felt betrayed by the one she had trusted most. She sat down on Vanessa’s plush couch and wondered what Vanessa would say to him. Claire wrapped herself in a soft blanket and walked to the kitchen. She poured some water into the kettle that was already on the counter. The tea bags were in the counter just above her head. The sound of water boiling calmed her nerves. She even cracked a smile when the kettle started to whistle. The lid was popping up and steam was pouring out. When the water was done boiling she poured it into one of Vanessa’s nice tea mugs. She plopped a tea bag in after and stirred a bit of sugar into it. There was no way she could stay here at Le Cordon Bleu during the break. Maybe she could stay in her old house. Claire pulled out the key from her pocket, just maybe. 

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