Thursday, September 20, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan

Hi guys! Here's another chapter. My life is boring but Claire's isn't, so I hope you enjoy it! Tomorrow is Club Day at my school and my lovely club will make its debut. Ha. Oh joys! xx 
Out of the Frying Pan
Vanessa watched Claire crying in the corner. They had had tea together and Claire seemed calm while drinking it. Claire was sleeping over tonight and Vanessa wondered what to tell Claire. She would never believe the truth because this truth was stranger than fiction. Vanessa had seen the truth in Ryan when he had told her that Sasha forced him to drink. They hadn’t slept together but there was no way to explain that to Claire. Ryan actually hadn’t slept with anyone before.
“Claire, he didn’t mean to hurt you. It was all that girl. She couldn’t forget about him even when he had moved on. He really loves you Claire. When I was dating him, he never even thought about my feelings. She forced vodka down his throat.” Claire was still sobbing and Vanessa wondered why she never openly sobbed like that. Vanessa had believed that it would make her look pitiful but looking at Claire, relationships were supposed to have some sort of emotion involved. Vanessa had never wanted to get hurt so she never took any risks. She had never tried to talk anything out. 
“You have to talk to him, please, for me? Just hear him out.” Claire barely nodded but Vanessa still felt reassured by seeing her head bob a tiny bit. 
“Okay, fine,” Claire said wiping her tears away. Ryan was asleep outside Vanessa’s doorway. She shook him and his eyelids flickered. He seemed relieved to see her. 
“Claire,” he said fondly. She sighed and sat down next to him. “I’m sorry.” 
“Why didn’t you call me? You went to see her instead of me.”
“I never had any closure with Sasha. I wanted to cut all ties before definitely moving into another relationship.” 
“Do you still love her?” Claire could barely squeak out any words. 
“No, I love you,” he said leaning in for a kiss. Claire backed away and shook her head.
“Ryan, I think we should take a break. It’s winter beak and you’re going to be in Hawaii anyways.”
“I can’t let you stay here.”
“I’m going to call my cousin.” Ryan nodded before holding her hand. “Okay, we’ll have a short break.” She saw the sadness in his eyes. It almost made her want to reconsider but she had already made her decision. She couldn’t go back now. 
“Good bye,” Claire said going inside Vanessa’s dorm. Claire turned around and saw herself unconsciously reaching for the doorknob. She shook her head and spun away. Vanessa eyed her curiously. Claire saw him get up and eventually leave too. Was it over for them? Claire sighed. He would probably go back to that girl on the second floor. The lights were out and Claire laid down on the blanket that was provided for her. 
She couldn’t sleep and woke up in the early hours. It was time to leave Vanessa’s house. Claire swallowed a couple painkillers that Vanessa had put on the counter. She said a quiet goodbye and wrote a note. She left without any remorse with her apartment key firmly in her hand. Claire took a quick detour to the staff room. There was no noise and she couldn’t find Anderson anywhere. Was he already working? She slung her school backpack and put a couple spare clothes in. The paper with her cousin’s address was neatly folded in the outside compartment. Claire made a quick sandwich and wrapped it up. It was time to leave, at least during winter break. She stepped out the iron gates that marked off Le Cordon Bleu from the real world. The chilly air blew at her face and she tugged her sweater tightly. It wasn’t even close to adequate winter wear but it was all she had. She was too sorry to ask Ryan to buy her anything although he had hinted several times that they should go shopping. Claire shivered and walked along the route that Olivia had described to her. It was a long walk but Claire didn’t have any spare change for a taxi. She had fifty dollars tucked away in her jean’s pocket. It seemed like a lot of money but Claire had to sustain herself for a whole week and a half. She bought a subway ticket to lower Manhattan. The subway platform was covered with homeless people and Claire was slightly frightened. She saw them wrapping themselves in their sleeping bags with unkempt beards. Some had yellowing teeth and Claire felt a pang in her heart. She took out a dollar from the small wad in her pocket. It wasn’t much but the man sitting next to her seemed grateful. 
“Thank ye young lass,” he said and smiled. He nodded his head and the subway came. It was crowded and she saw all sorts of students still donning their uniforms. They were all listening to music on the same phone that Ryan had. Maybe some of them even went to his school. She found an empty seat and sat down with the roaring sound behind her. No one tried to talk to her and she wondered if she was going the right way. The subway stopped abruptly at her stop and she felt her stomach lurch.  It was her first time riding a subway. Her legs wobbled beneath her and she wanted another painkiller. Claire got out and the scene was slightly familiar. She had looked out the window and saw the park across the street and the old fashioned street lamps that were always lit by hand once night fell. She smelt greasy Chinese food and her stomach growled. She was hungry but that had to wait. Marlene would probably feed her once she got home. Claire wondered what to say when she saw Marlene. She went inside the lobby and not much had changed. No one greeted or asked about her. She pressed the button to the elevator. She went up silently, alone. The apartment was eerily empty but her floor was bustling with movers. They were moving things in. Was Marlene back from somewhere? Claire tiptoed in quietly. The apartment smelt of pine and mountain air, something that was foreign to her. 
“Stacy! Stacy!” A young woman cried. She had one creased wrinkle on her brow but she still had to be less than thirty. Claire turned around and gave her a confused look. “Oh, you’re not Stacy. Uh who are you?” 
“I’m the person that lives here,” Claire cried out in agony. Where was Marlene? Where was all their furniture? The papers Ryan described were gone and everything homey about the apartment was too.
“Well I just bought the house two weeks ago,” the woman said. “A man named Lyle Scott sold the house to me. Is your name, Claire, by any chance?” Lyle Scott. Ryan had said that name before. He was the imaginary man that had adopted her too. Chills tingled down her spine.
“Yes, I’m Claire,” Claire said. Her voice trembled and she felt uneasy. 
“Stacy, there you are,” the woman said briefly looking away. She had such pretty doe like eyes but Claire couldn’t manage to look at them. “Oh that’s right! You’re Claire. Mr. Scott told me that if such a girl as yourself comes that you should go to the new address.” She handed Claire a business card and Claire nodded. 
“Thanks,” she said before leaving. The movers pushed her aside and she ran as fast as she could. Claire stared intensely at the business card. It looked average with the thick paper that didn’t bend quite as easily as regular paper. There was no name, just an address. It was close by the old apartment and Claire wondered if she should call before. She had seen the address somewhere but she just couldn’t place where. She had a horrible sense of direction and wondered how she would find it. There was only one person she could call. 
Lillian Townshend was watching TV when the phone called. It was a made for TV movie and she found the plot predictable and boring.  Her phone was ringing right at the moment where the girl was crying and the guy had somehow found her. The girl was muttering and she was facing rejection in such a Hollywood manner. Her back was crutched by the plastered wall and tears were rolling down. Her mascara had not smudged one bit and Lillian couldn’t help but laugh. This was how they portrayed real life? She had forgotten the phone was ringing for just a second. Lillian was holding the phone in her hand when the guy came up to the pretty little actress in all his good looking glory. He was yelling her name from the hallway right next to her hotel room. He didn’t know she was just around the corner. The guy was saying how stupid he was for leaving her and how much he wanted her back. He finds her, no duh, and leans back to kiss her. Lillian got up and threw the remote in frustration. She shook her head trying to calm down. Why had she wanted to watch this anyway? Oh, that’s right because her ex-boyfriend was in it.  Lillian looked at the phone screen to see that someone was calling for a pay phone. She hurriedly picked up her phone and answered.  Lillian twirled her dark black hair and picked up the phone timidly. 
“Hello?” The anger in her voice had subsided.
“Hi Lillian,” an urgent voice cried out. Lillian recognized that voice even after twelve years. It was Claire, Marlene’s Claire. She seemed so desperate that Lillian had to let her in with open arms. Lillian draped a scarf around her neck and covered her hair with a hat. She drove out to an abandoned alcove of apartments. There was only one person standing by the icy road. Lillian parked her Audi on the side and waited for Claire to get in. Claire was shivering all the way home. She was too cold to even make small talk. Lillian wondered what to do with her. Her mother must have moved away like everyone had thought. There was absolutely no one. Lillian was curious to why she wasn’t with her mother. She sighed and pressed the pedal gently. Lillian made hot chocolate and Claire marveled at her tiny apartment. It had one bedroom and one bathroom but was still extremely expensive because of its location. 
“So what brings you?” Lillian finally asked at the kitchen table. The cherry wood table was round and only seated two people. Everything was squished together in her apartment. 
“My mom left me and gave me another address. I have no way of finding it so I was wondering if I could stay the night and if you could drop me off tomorrow morning.” 
“Sure,” Lillian said enthusiastically. Claire wasn’t asking her to stay during the whole winter break. Lillian smiled and walked over to the kitchen, just one step away. She pulled out vegetables from the fridge and started chopping away.  Simple fried rice was all she could make. Claire looked at her and watched her every motion. Lillian felt conscious of her unevenly cut slices. She turned the heat on and dumped her vegetable medley on to the frying pan. Oil began to jump out everywhere and Lillian dropped her wooden spoon with recoil.  Claire instantly came over once the smell of burning vegetables filled up the room. 
“Let me help,” Claire said grabbing the other spatula away from her. The wooden spoon was still lying on the floor. Lillian plunked it in the sink and watched Claire glide into the kitchen. This was the same girl that cringed at the sight of an oven. Lillian was booted out of the kitchen and into the dining table chair. She watched Claire throw her burnt disaster away with one swift swoop. Claire was chopping vegetables rapidly and Lillian’s eyes widened. Where did Claire learn that? In fifteen minutes, Claire made a proper vegetable stir fry with leftover pasta. Lillian ate it and had never tasted such wonderful food. 
“Wow,” she simply said. She ate another mouthful. “What have you been up to? I was really surprised to hear from you all of a sudden.” 
“Yeah, I’ve been attending Le Cordon Bleu,” Claire said stuffing food in her mouth. Le Cordon Bleu? She said it so casually and Lillian wondered why no one had told her that a poor girl named Claire had entered.  
“Your mom let you?” Lillian still had shivers of that crazy lady. 
“No, I was kidnapped by someone, not really. My mom doesn’t know about any of this. I guess it’s just out of the frying pan and into the oven. I’m trying to find her and that’s why you’re giving me a ride tomorrow.”
“Oh I see,” Lillian simply nodded. The food was oddly really good. Lillian finished her plate and there was not a spare vegetable lying around. 
“What time does your mother come home?” Lillian stifled a laugh. Her situation really wasn’t that funny. 
“I live here alone. My mom lives in her office.” 
“Oh,” Claire said softly. She put her dish away in the sink and Lillian still hadn’t taken off her earmuffs. It was nice having someone else here. Lillian still hadn’t asked anything about how Claire found her. Claire had basically collapsed onto the blanket that had fallen on the floor.  The discarded remote was lying next to it and TV was still on. The credits were rolling and Lillian turned it off before having to see his name. “You’re such a nice cousin.” Cousin?  Lillian wondered what to say. She wasn’t anyone’s cousin. 
“I’m not your cousin,” Lillian said.  Her voice hardened but she wished it hadn’t. Claire immediately sat up. The tired look in her face was gone. Lillian sat down next to Claire while applying lotion to her olive arms. 
“What do you mean?” 
“I’m not your cousin, Claire,” Lillian repeated. She wondered how to explain it to her. Her mother was the lady at the bank who had taken Claire away from her family in the first place. There were always a couple problems with the file after the adoption. Her mother had wanted to know what happened to the man who adopted Claire and how Claire got into Marlene’s possession. The problems were settled with a couple lies. Lillian’s mother hadn’t cared about ethical problems as long as Claire was away from the O’Shea family. Lillian wasn’t supposed to know any of these things. She had gone over to Claire’s house when her mother needed to adjust the file. When the files were all fixed, Lillian was no longer able to see Claire. She hadn’t meant to find out the true purpose of any of these visits. It was just a normal day when she was thirteen. She was at her mother’s office like any other school day. Her mother had told her that there was a ticket to the VIP only Manhattan fashion show. Lillian dug the files diligently but stumbled upon Claire’s file. It was then that she decided she wanted to move out. She lived with her father, a Hollywood movie producer, in LA for a while. He and her mother had divorced when Lillian was just five. Her father had willingly took her in, excited for the opportunity that her mother had never granted. She lived out in the West Coast for two years leaving only after her devastating breakup.  Lillian hadn’t wanted to leave but her father forced her out saying that she was bad publicity. She returned to Manhattan and settled in her own apartment with her father’s money. It was always a bad idea leaving bank account passwords out in the open and betraying revengeful daughters. Lillian didn’t know how to say any of this to Claire. 
“Lilly, my mom told me we were cousins. That’s why you visited all those times. You moved away, right? That’s why you couldn’t visit anymore.” 
“Claire, listen, I don’t know how to tell you this but your mother is a basket case, okay? She locked you up in an apartment for fifteen years! I don’t know why you didn’t ever think of leaving.” Lillian saw the shock on Claire’s face. Claire turned away from her and Lillian retreated into her own room. 
Lillian woke up early to find Claire flipping pancakes and making eggs. She sat down at the table and wondered how to apologize to Claire. 
“I’m sorry,” Lillian blurted out. Claire brought the food to the table and warmly smiled. 
“I know,” she said. “I guess we aren’t cousins.” Lillian slowly nodded. They ate breakfast and left Lillian’s apartment. Lillian put the address into her GPS and found them drifting into the shady parts of Manhattan. She already missed the glittering skyscrapers and neon light infested streets. These streets were littered with garbage and Lillian wondered why she was dropping Claire off in this dangerous place. She could feel Claire’s nervousness. 
“We’re here,” Lillian said. The car stopped and there was only one apartment complex. “I’ll go with you.” Claire opened the door and tried to avoid any contact with the pigeons. Lillian touched the doorbell and heard the ferocious barking of dogs. 
“Are you sure it’s here?” She asked Claire again. Claire seemed unsure herself. 
“Yes,” she meekly nodded and Lillian rang the doorbell again. The door opened just a crack and Lillian tapped her boots impatiently.
“Who are you?” The voice was deep and parched. 
“Claire’s here,” Lillian answered. The door opened completely and Lillian felt a shiver go up her spine. The man seemed familiar from somewhere. He had a hunched back and carried himself on short stocky legs. He was a shorter man wearing a dark turtleneck. The lighting in the whole apartment was bad. It was an apartment composed of only three floors. It didn’t seem like anyone else lived there except for this man. He glanced at Claire and Lillian moved to block his gaze. 
“Who are you?” She asked. Pepper spray was nestled in her pocket. She couldn’t see any outline of a gun or other weapon on this man. He hadn’t opened the door to harm them, just yet. 
“Claire’s father, if you will,” he said with his raspy voice. It sounded like he hadn’t drank anything in a week. Claire looked up at him surprised. She backed away and the sound of dogs barking filled the room. “Are you disappointed dearest?” Wait, wait. Lillian could almost recognize this man, but where had she seen him before? It wasn’t in New York that was for sure. 
“I asked for a name,” Lillian demanded. He laughed at her before grabbing Claire’s arm. “Let go of her arm.” The man shrugged and Claire’s arm fell back to her side. 
“Would Lyle be sufficient enough for you?” Lyle? The name was familiar. This man was familiar. Why couldn’t she put two and two together?
“Where’s Marlene?” Claire’s nervous voice pitched in for just a second. She was cowering again. 
“Marlene, Marlene,” he said loudly. He was straining his voice. Claire perked up at the sound of Marlene’s name but Lillian heard something else in his voice. He was calling for her. Lillian stepped back and felt better knowing the door was just behind her. 
“Have you ever been to LA?” The man’s eyebrows leaped up at the mention of LA. He had, he definitely had. He inched away from her. 
“No, that’s ridiculous,” the man said. Why was he lying to her? All of his confidence was gone.
“Do you know who I am?” She had the upper hand. 
“No,” he said visibly shaking. So she knew him from LA. She didn’t remember any Lyle’s but she had seen him before. A woman appeared and the lobby light was turned on. Lillian’s attention shifted to her. There was a pistol in her back pocket. Lillian could tell by the way she walked. 
“Claire, we have to leave,” Lillian whispered into Claire’s ear. Claire didn’t say anything until the lady was just a few feet away from them. This woman needed Claire alive. She wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of leaving another address behind. Claire wasn’t in danger but Lillian was. She was an outsider, an outside who made Lyle feel uncomfortable. She knew their secret location and knew about Claire’s birth too. Lillian was probably the worst person who could have walked through that door. 
“Mom?” Claire asked the lady standing in front of her. Marlene came into full light and Lillian saw that it was the same Marlene. 
“What are you doing here Lillian? Where have you been Claire? We’ve been searching for you everywhere.” The one piece of the puzzle that hadn’t fit was why Marlene had Claire. Lillian’s mother hadn’t been able to figure it out. Wait. Wait. Wait. Marlene hadn’t adopted Claire. A man had, a man named Lyle. That was the whole issue with the papers. That was why Lyle said that he was Claire’s father. Lyle. Lillian closed her eyes. That nagging feeling wasn’t gone even after identifying Lyle. Why was he was so scared of her? Why did he cringe at the mention of LA? 
“I’m just helping Claire return home,” Lillian answered. She didn’t want to die. 
“Some guy kidnapped me, Mom. I was so scared and . . .”
“Where were you?”
“He wouldn’t let me go anywhere else except Le Cordon Bleu.” Marlene froze.  Lillian wrapped her head around Lyle again. 
“Do you know a Sasha Chanel?” She asked. She hated the sound of it on her tongue. Claire tensed up at the mention of Sasha’s name as well. Marlene tapped Lyle and Lillian crossed her arms. She forgot about the imminent danger of Marlene’s gun. Lyle’s eyebrows went up slightly. He was trying to control his emotions. So he lived in LA, he obviously didn’t want her to know that he knew her, and now he knew Sasha.
“No,” Lyle said. His voice wasn’t as raspy and his back straightened out.  He was at least five inches taller. Lillian felt scared of him for the first time. He was a holding a whistle and her thoughts raced back to the dog. 
“I know who you are,” Lillian shouted. Everything finally clicked. She was breaking down and everything she had repressed was tumbling out. Tears were rolling down her face. He had a sneer on his face. “It was you! I found you. What are you going to do about that?” Marlene pulled out her gun. Claire screamed. Lillian sprayed the area with pepper spray and heard Lyle coughing. He was a despicable man. “I will ruin your life like you ruined mine.” Lillian grabbed Claire and they ran back towards her car. Claire closed the door without any other words and Lillian drove at full speed. In her rearview mirror she could see Marlene chasing after her. Her gun only had a couple bullets. Lillian was relieved that none of them shattered her car windows. Marlene was screaming but Claire was oddly silent. Dogs were howling and Lillian swiftly turned onto the freeway. 
“How do you know that man, Lilly?” Lillian had an urge to correct Claire. Her name was Lillian. 

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