• Chapter 1
    Jackie lifted her head and smelled the air. Perfect. She flung open her windows and took a deep breath. The crisp autumn air flowed into her room, curling around her lamp and settling on her bed. Amber and green leaves fluttered about on the trees, preparing for their yearly fall to the ground. Water from the lake up north, trailing into a river, glittered in the sunlight. It wove around a thicket of trees and scrub, finally ending at a small spring. Fall had commenced, and was in full bloom.
    Jackie smiled. She had never seen anything so beautiful in her life. Even the air smelled…well, real. Hardly anything in her life seemed normal or real anymore. Everything just seemed like one big nightmare.
    Jackie scanned the calendar with her eyes. She ran her finger along the days of the week, and then slid it down to where the date was. Perfect, she thought. It’s Sunday! It was time.
    Almost as if she thought the day would be over in a moments notice, she ran to her bedroom door and flung it open. The wood made a crackling sound as it hit the wall. Her footsteps made an echo in the large house. Marble floor was covering the floors of the whole house. She ran through the living room, with its expensive, antique furniture, and a famous Picasso painting. Even the vases were made by the great glass artist Chihuly. Jackie didn’t even bat an eye at it.
    Her grandmother, cooking fish in the kitchen, yelled at Jackie. She ran up to her, cutting through the furniture in the living room, and stepped in front of Jackie. Her apron had an apple imprinted on it. White hair with streaks of brown covered her head. Her long, blue pants ruffled. Jackie skidded to a stop, but being careful not to make a mark on the expensive marble floor. She knew her grandfather would make a fuss about it, and probably hire twenty people to wipe down the whole area with a one inch skid mark. Jackie giggled to herself at the thought of the idea.
    “Jackie Jessalyn Rodgers, where do you think you’re going?” Her grandmother yelled at her, but her face was relaxed and showed she was not truly angry with her. “You know that if Max caught you running in the halls, he would probably try to use his Kong-fu on you!”
    Well, that much I know is true, Jackie thought. Max was her personal body guard, and the house’s waiter. Coming from her rich grandmother and grandfather, they insisted on giving her a body guard. Plus, with Max’s craziness over cleanliness, he would most likely do a Kong-fu move and swipe her to the ground.
    “Oh, I know, grandma. But he didn’t catch me. Doesn’t that count?”
    Her grandmother chuckled, and then straightened up her face. “Oh, you are a piece of work aren’t you? A chip off the old block…your father used to do that a lot…” Her face got soft, and she hugged Jackie suddenly.
    “Oh honey, I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have mentioned him…” She was right. Jackie just patted her on the back and said its ok. Her grandmother let her go, and she stood up straight.
    “But anyways, where do you think you’re going young missy?” Her grandmother’s voice was less aggressive than before.
    “Just heading out to the forest to clear my head. It’s the perfect day, you know.” Jackie said. Before her grandmother could make a fuss, she quickly added “And yes, I know all the rules of the forest. No running off with strangers. No touching dangerous plants. Etcetera etcetera.”
    “Ok, you can go, but don’t leave yet! I’ll get you a water bottle.” She shuffled over to the kitchen on her purple, fuzzy slippers, opened up the stainless steel fridge, and pulled out and ice-cold water bottle. She shuffled back and handed Jackie the water bottle. She stuck it in her backpack, packed with all the necessities. She wore it wherever she was, even while she was sleeping.
    “Bye, grandma!” Jackie yelled back. She bolted out the front door and ran down the concrete path. In front of here was a large forest that must have covered acres and acres of land. Red leaves crunched under her feet as she finally ran into the grass. A worn out path, made into the grass, marked where she had ran so many times. And here she was, running on it again.
    The trail twisted and turned. In parts of it, overgrown trees or bushes blocked the way. Jackie kept going, evading the obstacles, until she came upon the river. It glittered like a diamond in the sunlight. Rocks and scattered twigs framed it, and small fish skidded back and forth. She ran along the river side, snapping twigs and observing the wildlife. Her long, brunette hair waved back and forth, and sometimes whipped in front of her face. Her faded-out jeans and baggy shirt fluttered in the wind.
    The river wiggled around and curved around trees. Jackie kept following it. Approximately twenty minutes later, she had arrived at a spring. The river flowed into a small spring. Little sprouts of water appeared underground, like continuously going fountains. Its just like I was here with her yesterday, Jackie thought. She sighed and sat down on the sand patched grass. The sand moved around under her pants as she settled herself in. Her feet made little crevices in the ground and she put her hands behind her head. The sky was clear except for one little white whisp.
    Somehow Jackie understood that little wisp of a cloud. It was all alone in the sky, with no one to comfort it. People would come and go, but nobody really, truly cared. They were all on their way, leaving the poor little cloud behind. The tips of her knuckles were turning white, and her nails began to dig into her hands. She didn’t even notice.
    A chirping bird woke her from her daze, and she sat up. Her hands were throbbing, and she looked down at it. There were little indentations where nail met skin. Blood oozed from a cut that seemed very deep. Jackie ignored it. She looked back up at the sky again and soon found herself drifting off to sleep.

    A petal landed on Jackie’s nose. Her eyes fluttered open. She sat up quickly, not realizing she had fallen asleep before. Dazed and startled, she looked at her watch.
    “Eight o’ clock?!?!” Jackie yelled. “Ugh, grandma and grandpa are going to be furious!”
    She shot up on her toes and sped off. Reaching into her backpack, she pulled out her water bottle and took a quick sip. Then she placed it back and continued running. The tree branches whipped at her face. This is going to take way too long, Jackie thought. Time for a short cut.
    She took a sharp turn right off the river path. She ran into a large area of bushes and bolted straight through. Thorns clawed at her open skin, hoping to break it. Jackie ignored the growing pain and kept going. If she were to get home by eight fifteen, it was time for a short cut.
    The path of bushes continued on. Jackie kept running, every once in a while jumping over a fallen tree or small tree trunk. Thorns and flowers surrounded the bushes. Jackie quickly picked up a flower as she ran. It was a rose. She placed it in her hair, and kept running.
    The house was finally in sight. Light was being emitted from practically every room. She could see her grandmother pacing back and forth in the living room. Jackie ran up to the door and let herself in. Her grandmother looked up and smiled.
    “I told him you would come back. He never has any faith, does he?” She said softly, and went to greet her. Jackie gave her grandmother a welcoming hug, and then stepped back. Her cheeks blushed as she realized that her grandmother must have been worried sick about her.
    “I’m sorry about that, grandma. I got carried away and…” she trailed off, not knowing what to say.
    “Don’t worry honey.” Her grandmother crooned. “Let’s go get you some hot chocolate. You must be freezing.” Jackie laughed. Her grandmother thought that 65 degrees was cold. She walked with her grandmother to the kitchen and sat down at the island on a wooden stool. It was cold to the touch, and made her shiver.
    “Ha! I told you you were cold.” Her grandmother shouted, pointing a mocking finger at her playfully. Jackie laughed and shook her head.
    “It wasn’t a shiver; it was a…em…exciting shake for getting ready for the hot chocolate you were going to make…” Jackie said, emphasizing the hot chocolate part. Her grandmother laughed again.
    She walked over to the closet and pulled out a small bag that said “Hotto Choco!” and opened it. She pulled out a small bag and poured the cocoa mix into a cup. Then she went to the fridge and grabbed a large Hershey bar. Breaking off a piece, she placed it down and grabbed a pan. She opened the microwave door and placed the piece of the Hershey bar into a bowl and set the timer for 30 seconds. She pulled out a bag of marshmallows and poured them into a bowl.
    All the while, Jackie sat in the stool and watched her grandmother make hot chocolate. It didn’t seem very interesting, but she was watching anyways. It was almost an impulse. The microwave made a small ‘bing!’, and the light turned off inside of it. Jackie looked up to see her grandmother quickly grabbing the hot cup with her fragile hands, then placing it down on the table in from of Jackie. She then sprinkled marshmallows all over the top of it.
    Jackie’s mouth drooled at the sight. Hands immediately reached for the hot cup, and brought them up to her lips. Chocolate surged down her throat with intense flavors and filled her up. She pinched a marshmallow from the top of the cup and flicked it in her mouth. As she was chewing it, she felt something hit the bottom of her chin. Looking up, she saw her grandmother smiling mischievously, like a 5 year old who just stole a cookie from the cookie jar.
    Snickers spilled from her grandmother’s mouth, and soon she burst out laughing. Jackie, unable to help herself, laughed along with her. Suddenly another sound filled the room. Elvis, Jackie’s grandmother’s faithful companion, waddled into the room on his short legs. The small beagle ran up and, noticing their laughing, started to bark madly. That only made them laugh even harder.
    Jackie grabbed a marshmallow and flicked it at her grandmother. She flicked one back, and soon it was an all-out war with marshmallows. Marshmallows flew across the room in flying colors. Elvis happily ran around the room, yipping at marshmallows that hit him and then lapping them up from the floor. The room was filled with fun.
    Footsteps joined the laughing and barking. Only Elvis heard them with his keen ears, and stopped in his tracks. Jackie and her grandmother, however, were too caught up in their enjoyment to notice. The footsteps came closer, and soon a shadow was visible.
    A figure stepped into the room, dressed in a fancy Italian suit and carrying a large briefcase. He avoided Elvis’s hard stare and stood on one end of the long dining table, at this point covered in marshmallows. A marshmallow hit his cheek, and he grimaced.
    “Ahem.” He said to call attention. The laughing ceased. Marshmallows seemed to stop in their tracks and fall to the floor lifelessly. Jackie turned her head slowly, not really being excited to see the look on the man’s face. Her grandmother just smiled innocently and shrugged at him. He frowned disappointedly.
    “I thought you were working on keeping track of the finances?” He hissed. Jackie’s grandmother smiled another innocent smile.
    “Well, financing can wait another day, can’t it?”
    “Mary, you know how much I hate it when you do that. You’ve been putting off the financing for a week now.”
    “But, Paul, I’ve been so busy lately…”
    “What? Having marshmallow fights with your granddaughter?”
    “Its family time!”
    “Family time that doesn’t keep the bills getting paid!” With that, he stormed out of the room. Jackie’s grandmother turned her head slightly and frowned.
    “Sorry you had to see that.”
    “Oh no! Its fine, don’t worry about it.” Jackie reassured her. This happened practically every evening. Her grandfather would come home from work every day, for he owned a business, and rant about something about bills or financing. The two would argue, and then he would leave. Then they would hook back up and apologize. It’s just the way they were.
    “Well,” her grandmother started. “You might as well be getting to bed.” Jackie looked at her watch. She’s right. It’s eleven o’ clock already. She had to be getting to bed…she had to rest up for her test in school tomorrow, which she knew she would pass but it didn’t matter.
    “’Night grandma!”
    “Goodnight, darling. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Under her breath, so low only she and Jackie could hear, she muttered “Or the Paul bugs.” Jackie laughed and continued down the hall into her room.
    She swung open the door and smiled, relieved to be back in her room. There was only one other place she could be where she felt at home other than the forest, and that was her room. She flopped down on her queen sized bed, with sheet coverings as plush as can be. She let her body sink into the mattress and relaxed for a moment. Then she got up to get the remote for her light
    She placed the remote on her bedroom stand. She walked over to her dresser and pulled out a pair of pajamas. After getting changed, she settled back into her bed and pulled the sheet over her body and left her head poking out. Her quilt she covered herself with was made by her mother nine years ago, when she was just four. It had been a present for her birthday. It was covered with pictures of her and her mother, some from theme parks. Others were from their house themselves.
    Jackie sighed. She pushed away her covers to straighten the sheets out. Then she grabbed the light remote and clicked the switch. Before she turned it off, she decided to check on her arms. After all, she had cut them up pretty bad while running in the woods.
    Jackie scowled and turned off the light.

    There were no cuts on her body.