“What?! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Brian demanded into the phone.
“I tried to call you several times, but I couldn’t reach you,” Nick said. He had just told Brian what happened to Elizabeth.
“Where did they take her?” Brian asked quietly.
“I don’t know, Bri. They wouldn’t tell me.”
“She hasn’t called or anything? It’s been two days.”
“I haven’t heard from her. I’m so worried,” Nick said.
“I’ll be on the next flight home,” Brian said.
Disgusting, Elizabeth thought as she looked around the small, dirty room that would be her home for God only knew how long. This was worst place she had ever been. Nothing was familiar to her and she was scared. I hate it here. I just wanna go home. She wasn’t that far from home. They had taken her to a foster home is Orlando. The lady she was living with, Betty, seemed nice enough; but her husband, Bill, seemed to be always drunk and scary. The whole house was filthy. It hadn’t been cleaned for a really long time. As soon as she arrived, Bill made it her responsibility to clean it up.
Elizabeth felt alone for the first time in her entire life. She wished she could talk to Brian or Nick. Just hearing their voices would make her feel better. It seemed like they were so far away. There was no phone in the house, though; and Bill rarely ever allowed her to leave the house.
Elizabeth headed downstairs to leave for school. It was her first day and she was a bit nervous. She had only been to one school her entire life, with the same kids through every grade. She had never had to make new friends before.
Betty was still in bed because she worked at night. Elizabeth had only seen her twice in the week that she was there. Elizabeth was always home alone with Bill. He frightened her. Bill was a big man in his early forties. From what she had seen so far, he had a violent temper and was set off easily.
Elizabeth found Bill passed out in the recliner in the living room. The little black and white television was still on. She turned it off and quietly headed for the door.
Bill woke up. “LIZ!”
She grimaced at the sound of his gruff voice. “What?”
“Where do you think you’re going?” he demanded.
“School, sir,” she responded quietly.
“You better clean this place up,” he warned before passing out again.
Elizabeth quickly left. She walked down the front steps and onto the sidewalk. Without any transportation, she was going to have to walk. Luckily, the school was only a few blocks away.
“Hey!” she heard a voice call from next door.
Elizabeth turned around to see a girl about her age, maybe a year or two younger, running toward her. She was very pretty; half-Asian, half white. She had chin length auburn colored hair that had red highlights. She had brown eyes and was about five foot four.
“Hi,” the girl said when she caught up to Elizabeth. “I’m Jenny Wright. I live next door.”
“I’m Elizabeth Whitter. I just moved here.”
“Foster home or relatives?”
“Foster home. My parents died last week,” Elizabeth said quietly.
Jenny’s face saddened. “I’m so sorry.”
Jenny was a very warm and friendly girl. She seemed very outgoing and was very easy to talk to. She was someone Elizabeth could easily become friends with, and that was something she needed desperately.
“Hey…Would you like a ride to school?” Jenny asked.
“Sure…Do you drive?”
“No, my boyfriend, Alex, drives me.”
“Do you think he’ll mind?” Elizabeth asked.
“Nah… Come on. Alex should be here in a few minutes.” They walked back to Jenny’s house and sat down on the front steps. “So… Are Betty and Bill treating you okay?” Jenny asked.
“I guess…Bill really scares me. And it’s so filthy in there, Jenny. I hate it.”
Jenny gave her a sympathetic smile. “Just watch out for yourself, okay?”
Elizabeth studied Jenny’s face. “You trying to tell me something?”
“Yes. Watch out for Bill. He’s violent. You’re not their first foster child. The others ran away because of him.” Jenny saw the terror in Elizabeth’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I just wanted to warn you. You seem like a really nice person and I don’t want you to get hurt. I want to be your friend.”
Elizabeth smiled for the first time in days. “I'd like that a lot. I want to be your friend, too.” A silver BMW pulled into Jenny’s driveway. “Wow. Sweet car!” she exclaimed. A guy with short spiky blue hair stepped out of the car. “Oh, my,” Elizabeth murmured.
Jenny giggled. “That’s Alex. He may look like a freak, but he’s not.”
Elizabeth took a closer look at Alex. He was wearing a pair of Oakley sunglasses. His ears were pierced several times. He was wearing a white tank top, which showed off his many tattoos, and baggy blue jeans.
“Hey, babes,” he said to Jenny in a raspy voice as he hugged and kissed her.
Elizabeth smiled sadly. She was reminded of Brian…and Nick for that matter. She missed them so much it hurt her inside.
Alex pulled away from Jenny and looked at Elizabeth. “Sup? I’m Alex McLean.”
“Hey. I’m Elizabeth Whitter. You guys can call me Lizzie. It’s nice to meet you, Alex,” Elizabeth said with a smile.
Alex lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. Elizabeth giggled. “You, too, Lizzie,” he said.
“Lizzie just moved in with Betty and Bill, Alex,” Jenny said.
The smile disappeared from his handsome face. He looked over his sunglasses at Elizabeth. He had pretty brown eyes with long lashes. “That guy is bad news. Don’t let him hurt you, Lizzie. If he touches you, let me know and I’ll take care of him, okay?”
Elizabeth nodded. She felt good inside to know she had people watching out for her. “Okay. Thank you, Alex.”
“No prob…You’re my new little buddy now,” Alex said with a smile.
“Mine, too,” Jenny added.
“You guys are great,” Elizabeth said.
“We know,” Jenny and Alex said at the same time, causing Elizabeth to laugh.
They got into Alex’s BMW, Alex and Jenny in the front and Elizabeth in the back. Jenny turned around in her seat so she could see Elizabeth. “That’s a really pretty locket, Lizzie,” she said.
Elizabeth reached up and touched the locket. “Thanks. My boyfriend gave it to me for Christmas.”
“Can I see it?” Jenny asked.
Elizabeth took it off and handed it to Jenny. Jenny opened the locket and looked at the pictures inside. “Aw…Sweetness. You guys are so cute together. He’s a hottie. What’s his name?”
“Brian Littrell,” Elizabeth said.
Jenny handed her back the locket as Alex pulled into the school parking lot. “I’ll pick you two up after school. Good luck, Lizzie,” Alex said as the girls got out of the car.
“Thanks, Alex,” Elizabeth said. Alex left and the girls walked into the school. It was much larger than Elizabeth’s old school. Elizabeth was a bit intimidated but tried not to show it. “So Alex doesn’t go to school?” Elizabeth asked.
“No, he graduated a few years ago. He’s twenty. You’re probably gonna say he’s too old for me…everyone says so.”
“Actually, my boyfriend is even older than that. Brian’s twenty-three.”
“Wow…He doesn’t look it.”
Jenny walked Elizabeth to the office. She got her schedule and found she had every class with Jenny. She was glad to know she wasn’t going to be alone.
“You doing okay?” Jenny asked Elizabeth at lunch.
Elizabeth sighed. “Yeah…but I miss Brian and Nick.”
“My best friend,” Elizabeth said, taking a picture of Nick out of her wallet and showing it to Jenny.
“He’s a hottie, too.”
Elizabeth told Jenny about everything that had happened in her life over the past few months. Jenny listened attentively until she was finished. “Ya know…It sounds to me like you’re in love with both Brian and Nick,” Jenny said.
“I think I am, too.”
“So, who ya gonna choose?”
“Brian,” Elizabeth said without having to think about it. “I choose Brian.”