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 A Hidden Past

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Missy



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PostSubject: A Hidden Past   12/20/2013, 5:51 pm

Prologue

Could anything be more terrible than forgetting your past? Going through life, wondering who you are and where you came from? But could anything be more amazing than the chance to reform your entire being? Having the decision to be who you want, with no memories to hold you back?

See I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where I came from. I don’t even know my age. I have a past though, I have memories. I remember getting teased in school. I remember all the homes I passed through. I remember the bag I always kept packed, just waiting for them to kick the freak out. That’s what I felt I was; a freak.

I suppose for my story to be clear, I have to start at the very beginning. I call that day my birthday, along with the day I woke up. It happened 15 years ago. It was all very sudden, as if I’d merely slept all my life until that moment.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   12/20/2013, 8:10 pm

When I woke up, it didn't seem odd to me. I had no strong emotion. I was just cold. It was a few days before Christmas. My jacket was thin and didn't keep the cold out. I was lying in a snowbank and a thin layer of snow had gathered on top of me. I stood up looking around me. I think it was then that I realized something was wrong. I was in the middle of a neighborhood so I went and knocked on the door of a house nearby. The woman who answered the door hadn’t expected to see a kid there. “Come in, come in,” she said, hurrying me inside and locking out the cold. “What on earth are you doing out so late? Where are your parents?”

I had no answer for her so I just shrugged. She didn’t seem very impressed by my response and kept asking questions. I couldn’t answer any of them, I simply didn’t know. Finally, she gave up. “Well if you don’t want to tell me just say so, you don’t have to lie about it,” she said.

I smiled a little, hoping to calm her down. “I’m sorry but I really don’t know,” I told her. “I just woke up in the snow and I’m not sure who I am or where I’m from.”

I don’t think even that really convinced her. She still doubted me. She was the first of many to think I was a liar. She was one of the kinder ones though; she didn’t keep pressing me for answers but nodded. “Well I suppose then you can’t tell me your name?” she asked. I shook my head and she carried on, “Right, then anything you’d like me to call you?”

That was the first chance I got to choose something for myself. A name is a defining part of a person. It has meaning, it has value. I didn’t know who I was though. I couldn’t tell if Bella or Sophia would fit better or if both were horrid names. The longer I thought about it, the more names I decided didn’t fit. I could tell the woman was getting tired so I decided I’d just pick a letter and change it later. “Call me L,” I told her. “I don’t know what I’d like to be called so I’ll choose later.”

The lady smiled at me, nodding. “Well it’s nice to meet you L, I’m Clara. Can I call you Ella instead?”

I shrugged, it didn’t matter to me. Ella ended up sticking though and I guess it should have mattered more to me. I was named that day, by a woman named Clara. Sometimes when I think back, I think of her as my mother. My name probably wouldn’t be Ella if I had met someone else. I might not have been the same kind of person without her. She shaped me. I was like a baby, I was open to influence. I had no shape and I was ready to be shaped. Clara was the one who set me on the path.

She fed me and offered me a room. I fell asleep rather quickly, I hadn’t realized how tired I was. While I slept, Clara made calls. I didn’t know what to expect, but while I slept happily, the cops were coming and social services were right behind.

I woke up to find a group of people around me. One of them was Clara. I stared at them all, unsure of how to react. I searched my mind to figure out who they were but I came up short. I still couldn’t remember. “Ella, these people are going to help you,” she told me. “I know you’re probably running away from someone, but they’ll make sure you’re safe and taken care of.”

I left in a cop car. I stared out the window as they drove me down to the station, wondering what was going to happen to me. When we arrived, I got left in a room with a table and two chairs facing each other. When I think back to it, I imagine they were probably trying to find a missing person report with my face on it. I guess they didn’t find anything because after a long time, a cop entered and he didn’t seem to know who I was. I was a mystery to everyone. He sat down in the other chair and said, “Ella, I’m Chris. We want to help you but to do that we need to know something about you. Is Ella your real name? Where are you from? What are you doing here? Stuff like that would be very helpful.”

Once again, I was being asked thing I didn’t know. “I woke up in a snowbank and I have no clue who I am. So what you know about me is pretty much what I know,” I told him plainly.

“Well you have to be somebody,” he said. “You can’t just forget who you are.”

“Apparently you can because I certainly did. You and Clara are the only people I have any memory of really meeting. I don’t know what to expect but I’m not going to be able to answer any questions so you might as well skip that step.”

Chris was probably frustrated but he kept on asking and I kept giving him similar answers. When he finally did leave, I almost missed his company. The empty room was lonely and even though we didn’t know each other, he was one of the two people I had met. When he came back though, he brought some of those who had been by the bed when I woke up.

“I’m Charlene,” one of the ladies said. “I’m from social services and it’s been decided that until we discover who you are and who your legal guardian is we will have to put you in a foster home. It’ll be difficult to find a good fit since we don’t know anything about you, but it should be temporary.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   12/22/2013, 6:06 pm

That was that. I was given the first home available. They didn’t have to worry about a good fit and I didn’t have any preference either. Matilda and John were my first foster parents. They didn’t have any children but they did have one other foster kid, Jenny. Jenny and I had arrived within a few days of each other so we were both new there. Jenny and I ended up sharing a room and so we spent most of our time together.

“So you’re the new kid?” she asked when she first saw me. “Is this your first home?”

In the past few days, shrugging had become my most common answer so that was my first response. She kept staring at me though so I had to explain. “I’m not really sure. They’re trying to find out where I came from and I don’t really have a past,” I told her.

“What do you have amnesia or something?” Jenny asked, smiling at me. “Amnesia always sounded nice to me. I wish I could forget my past.”

“I guess you could call it amnesia… I definitely wouldn’t have said that because it’s kind of strange to think of like that but… I guess that makes sense. But it isn’t something to wish for. It’s a pain.”

We didn’t speak much more on that topic. She didn’t ask me questions about my past and I didn’t ask about hers. We spent my first Christmas in that house. I followed Jenny’s lead most of the time. Some things came naturally to me, just as speech had. Other things I had to learn for myself, like what to expect. When I saw the presents under the tree, I hadn’t expected it but I knew we would open them. I knew Jenny was still curious about who I was. I guess I never was an open book, it’s hard when you don’t know yourself.

“So what made you choose Ella?” she asked me one day.

“Clara chose it actually. She’s the first person I met when I woke up,” I told her. “I was just going to go by L for a while but I guess she found it an awkward name so she picked one for me.”

“So how long are you planning to stick around?”

“What do you mean? Do we get to leave whenever we want?” I asked. I was confused by the question; it had never occurred to me that I wanted to leave that place. John and Matilda weren’t the friendliest of people but they weren’t mean or anything.

“Nobody really stays at a foster home too long. I won’t be leaving until it warms up a bit but I didn’t know if you had other plans…” jenny explained. “They’re nice folks here, and you could do worse so I understand if you stay… I guess this time I just wanted to bring someone with me.”

I didn’t make plans to leave until a week after that day. I hadn’t been to school at that point, but it was enough to change my mind. All I knew after that was that I wanted out. I wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere different. Maybe school wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, I’ll let you decide. The kids thought it was funny to ask me about my past, mostly because I couldn’t give an answer and it annoyed me.

“So your our two mid-year foster kids aren’t you?” a kid named Lewis asked on the first day. He’d dragged his posse along with him and I had a feeling we weren’t about to become buddies. “The teachers told us we had to be nice to you guys cuz you don’t have parents.”

“Oh did they?” Jenny asked. “Well I’d hate to get you in trouble so you’d better beat it.”

I was surprised by her reaction to them. She’d probably seen lots of jerks in her time and I figured it’d be easy to hide in her shadow. It wasn’t that easy though. “Oh we got a fighter and a hider,” Lewis said. “So what’s the deal? You guys twins? You sure don’t look like it…”

“We aren’t related but you’re gonna regret it if you lay a finger on Ella,” Jenny snapped at him. “Now get out of my way.”

He just laughed and kept watching us. One of his friends spoke up next, “What ya gonna do to her Lewis? She’s disrespecting you.”

“Well I think we’d better let her get off to class,” Lewis said and the crowd parted to let Jenny past. I kept close behind her but Lewis shoved me to the side. “I didn’t say anything about you,” he told me sharply.

The crowd moved together once Jenny passed, forcing her to the door. I was trapped with Lewis and Jenny couldn’t have saved me. In that moment, I had to either tough up or give in. I gave in. “So who are you?” Lewis demanded. “What happened to your parents?”

I shrugged, looking up at him. “I wouldn’t know,” I told him. “Maybe I was abandoned, maybe they died, or maybe they’re out there searching for me. In any case, I don’t remember them and I shouldn’t know them if I passed by them in the street. My parents are as much a mystery as me.”

Lewis didn’t seem satisfied with my answer. He glared at me and I recognized the confused look in his eyes. He didn’t understand what I meant. He was another person who would not believe my tale of amnesia, no matter how much I tried to explain. “So they died when you were a baby? How many foster homes have you been in?”

“I may have passed through many or this may be my first, once again, I wouldn’t know. I’ve forgotten my past. Amnesia,” I told him. I realize now that to him I must have sounded strange. For as I look back I never spoke very clearly and it is understandable that people were often confused by me.

“So you don’t remember who you are? I bet you did something horrid and begged to forget. So many do you know, I bet your friend wishes she could forget,” he said. “Get out of here then, the teachers will be furious if they find out we made you late. So don’t let them hear about this.”

His friends cleared a path and I hesitantly walked through the crowd. Since then, I’ve often wondered how many had endured similar conversations with Lewis. I imagine Jenny had seen many schools, spoken to many bullies, and gone through many homes. She was already experienced by that time but I don’t think she’d ever had a friend to protect before.

Foster kids don’t often make friends. They all know soon they will leave and soon there will be new people to befriend. Jenny and I though, we were instant friends. I was hopeless without her and she knew that. If she had kept her distance, I might never have escaped that dreaded school. I might never have made it free.

Lewis and his friends loved the knowledge that I knew nothing of my past. They asked me question after question, knowing full well I had no answers. Soon I was counting the days till spring and more eager to discuss an escape with Jenny.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   12/31/2013, 4:28 pm

“We don’t plan it Ella,” she told me when I did approach her. “Escape is a difficult thing to manage. If they hear you talking about it, they’ll just keep a better watch. Keep your bag packed, and keep it light. One day, we’ll try it and we just might get out, but be careful. I’ll let you know when the time comes.”

I wasn’t so sure that she knew what she was talking about but since she knew more than me, I trusted her on the matter. I packed my things that very day and I kept waiting for the day when she’d come to tell me we were leaving. I kept waiting and waiting. I endured Lewis and his friends. I ignored John and Matilda. I trusted her. I trusted Jenny.

Then one morning she was gone. She left without me. She didn’t even bother to take me and that crushed me. I was hurt to the center of my being. Jenny was the only friend I knew and she just left me there. She made a promise…Then she broke it. I couldn’t understand why she did it. I couldn’t even escape after that, I was stuck because they watched me more closely.

Her leaving changed me though. I got tougher. No one was left to protect me at school. The teachers didn’t care anymore and Lewis only got worse. Now I fought back though. Some days, I screamed and yelled at him until my throat started hurting. His friends started backing away a bit but Lewis didn’t care. He seemed determined to make my life miserable. He succeeded too. I used to cry for hours on end.

Then one night I slipped out the window, taking my bag with me. It mostly just had food and money. I only took one change of clothes. Jenny had said to travel light and that’s what I did. I took what I needed and I ran. I ran long and as fast as I could. When morning came, I was exhausted. I kept moving though, stumbling and trying to keep from falling asleep.

“You look horrible,” a voice said, making me look up. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep in the ditch and when I saw the speaker it surprised me more than anything. It was one of Lewis’s friends. “Come on get out the ditch Ella,” he told me.

I didn’t even know his name. Something in me told me he wasn’t the same as Lewis though. He may have stood by while Lewis bugged me but I don’t remember him ever following Lewis’s lead. He helped me up and I could tell he wasn’t going to send me home or hurt me. “Who are you?” I asked.

He laughed quietly, smiling at me. He had expected me to recognize him I’m sure. “You didn’t get amnesia again did you? I’m David… I went to school with you and Jenny…”

I smiled back at him, laughing when he mentioned amnesia. “I’m sorry David, I never really knew your name. I did recognize you though. You used to hang out with Lewis…”

I don’t think he was proud of his friendship with Lewis… He really did seem sorry that he had let me get hurt. “Lewis was a jerk, but I’m not him,” he told me. “So before you judge me, get to know me.”

“I don’t think I’ll be around that long, I’m on a journey you see,” I told him, smiling and starting to walk away.

He followed me though and for a bit we walked together in silence. I would have left it that way, but he wasn’t happy with that. “Do you even know where you’re going?”

It was the first time the thought of choosing a destination had occurred to me. I stopped and looked at him. It was the first time I’d really noticed a guy’s features. Well, that I knew of. He was almost a foot taller than me, slim with a fit build. He wasn’t scrawny or anything, he looked really fit. He had wavy brown hair and green eyes. He wore a soft smile on his face, giving him a gentle appearance.

“I’ll take that as a no,” he said, laughing again. “You didn’t plan very much did you?”

“Jenny told me that this kind of thing isn’t planned,” I replied quietly. I couldn’t help but think of her. Her betrayal… She’d left a wound that would never be healed… Not unless I forget again.

“Well Jenny was wrong,” David told me. “I’ve run away a few times and a plan definitely goes a long way.” That part shocked me. I hadn’t even thought of him as somebody who’d runaway. “You can’t go the same way twice, they’ll expect it the second time. So if you head to Vegas once, you are never going back there.”

“Wait, wait, wait! You’ve run away from somewhere? Why? Do you have mean parents?”

“Nah, they’re dead,” he told me. He didn’t sound very upset about it and it’s probably because he didn’t know them very well, or maybe at all. “There was a car crash and that was that. Foster homes aren’t good for a kid you know… It isn’t surprising we all end up running.”

Then a wonderful idea occurred to me. It was that idea that I hoped would keep me from being alone again. “Are you running right now David?” When he nodded, I asked, “Where are you headed?”

“Well… I know it’s pretty far I’m planning on going to Tallahassee,” he confessed, sighing a little. “A character in this show wanted to go there and… I figured it’d be cool if I could too… Plus it’s warm down south…”

“Mind if I tag along?”

“You sure you’re up for it?” he asked. “We’ll never make it you know… And it’s a lot of walking.”

“Well I don’t have anything better to be doing and… I always planned on making this journey with a friend but… Since she’s gone I’m alone…”

We started walking again and we kept heading to the South. I know David didn’t have much hope for making it, but I kept wondering what Tallahassee would be like when we got there. David and I didn’t talk much when we walked. He was usually listening for sirens and cars and stuff. He kept reminding me that people were looking for us and we couldn’t get caught. A few people did stop and ask who were and we told them were siblings. It wasn’t a very strong lie since we didn’t look very similar… I had blonde hair, he had brown hair. He was tall, I was short. He had green eyes, I had blue. It worked though; they’d offer us a ride, which we always declined, and then they’d carry on.

After the first week, I seriously thought we would make it. David never got his hopes up and that usually helped me keep mine in check, but inside, I was a fountain of excitement. I felt free, as if I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted. I understand now why David never got his hopes up; he didn’t want to face the disappointment. I hadn’t faced it so I didn’t have any fears then… It would have been easier if I had.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   1/20/2014, 9:31 pm

It was three weeks into the trip when we got picked up. We were caught stealing from a shop. We needed the food and we were out of money. I admit, stealing probably wasn’t our best choice, but when you are young and desperate you do some pretty bad stuff. I was still pretty useless when it came to stealing, so I usually was more of a distraction. I’d buy the cheapest thing I could find with what little money we had and David would get what we needed. We must have been seen once or twice because it we’d hardly walked into the store when he was calling the cops and David was yelling at me to run. It was too late at that point, we were hopeless.

I think we’d been running about 5 minutes when the police car pulled up beside us. We really didn’t have any choice but I still looked to David to see what he would do. When he gave in and climbed in the backseat, I followed right behind him.

Our adventures had to end sometime. We’d made it a fair distance, we were in South Carolina and Tallahassee wasn’t all that far… as the car drives or the plane flies. We still had a ways to go as the kid walks.

I was so hurt and David just didn’t seem to care. When the police asked us questions, he answered plainly. He didn’t seem upset, just empty. I begged them to let us stick together. I didn’t want to lose another friend…My only friend.

Nothing I said mattered. David didn’t even try to keep us together. I always wonder if it was because he didn’t care about me or just because he’d already given up on us. It doesn’t really matter because he didn’t try and I couldn’t do it on my own. We ended up in different homes, in different cities.

This time, I was on my own in the home. My care takers were Josh and Caroline, pleasant people who seemed to want my stay to be overly enjoyable. They had driven me crazy within an hour. Josh wasn’t bad; he just sat back and gave me a sympathetic smile while Caroline tried to make me more at home.

“I hope you like dogs,” she said as her golden retriever jumped up on me. “Her name is Ryder and she’s quite friendly.” She dragged the dog off me before going on, “Your room is just down the hall. Ours is right near it and if you ever need anything don’t hesitate to ask.”

At this point, she looked at me expectantly. I was starting to think I was the first kid they’d fostered because she seemed to be waiting for me to ask for something. “I’m okay,” I choked out.

“Well we can go shopping this Saturday and get you some new clothes and stuff… I hope you like your room, I didn’t really know how to decorate it so you can change it if you like,” she told me. “We can look for decorations and all that on Saturday too. What do you like to eat?”

I stared at her for a minute before realizing I had tuned her out and she had asked a question. I immediately looked to Josh for help. He seemed like the calmer of the two and I had already figured it would be in him that my safety would be found. To my relief, he stood up and put his hand on his wife’s arm. “Caroline I think she just needs some time to settle in. Give her a few days, you’re overwhelming her.”

Caroline shut up, which was fine by me. She guided me to my room and left me there in peace. Unlike when I was with Matilda and John, this room actually had some life. The walls were a bright blue, not disgusting brown, and there was a painting of a horse on one wall. Despite how annoying Caroline had been, I could see myself staying around. Josh wasn’t too bad any way.

I started school again the next day. There were only a few weeks left until summer, and I did my best to convince Caroline that I didn’t need to go. Even Josh wasn’t on my side this time. They didn’t understand why I didn’t want to go, and I couldn’t explain. It wasn’t the learning, teachers or even the people. It was the part where I still didn’t really know who I was.

When I walked into the doors for the first time, I was immediately ushered to the principal’s office. I went through the normal first day chatter. It was mostly just rules that wouldn’t matter anyway so I took time to study the bland room. It had pristine white walls, making me wondering if it was janitors or poor students who diligently kept them clean. The desk was a bit of a mess, decorated by papers and a computer.

When I finally was set free from the meeting, Caroline wished me a good day and Josh waved good bye. I was alone at school. I headed straight for my locker, expected some jerk like Lewis to push me around again. I guess maybe I got so much heat from him because I walked in on the first day with Jenny.

“Hey new girl, what’s up?” the girl at the locker next to me said.

I looked around the deserted halls, wondering why she wasn’t in class. “Oh hi, I’m Ella,” I told her.

“I know,” she informed me with a laugh. “You are all the school was talking about yesterday. Not very often a new kid shows up with only the slacker weeks and exams left to do. What’s with that?”

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” I asked her, hoping I could avoid a long conversation. She just stood there looking at me so I threw my bag in my locker and pulled out my books. “Which way and I’ll let you in on what’s up with Ella.”

“Deal!” She pointed down the hall and we started walking towards the class together. “We have the same class and the teachers will overlook me being late when they see you. Oh and I’m Natalie.”

“Well I just got put in a new home and Caroline deemed school still necessary… She’s probably worried about getting reported as a bad foster parent but she’s better than the last one,” I explained, trying to keep it simple.

I bet she had more questions but we were already at the door and I was determined to avoid spilling my amnesia story so I walked right in. The teacher turned around and I could tell she was about to yell at me for being late. She didn’t though, she switched her expression to a smile and gestured me to the front of the class. “Thank you Natalia, for helping our new student, please sit down.”

Natalia winked at me, grinning and walked to the nearest empty seat. “No problem Mrs. Green, I’m always happy to help,” she said.

I heard a few snickers near the back of the class, giving me the idea Natalie didn’t help much without personal gain. I looked into the class, wondering who I should keep away from. I shifted uncomfortably, looking to Mrs. Green. “Class this is Ella and she will be joining us for the rest of the year. I understand she is a bit behind so please be patient as I help her along,” she told them.

I gave a quick wave before hurrying to an empty seat and dumping my books onto the desk. I leaned back in my chair and glanced around. The boy to my right was very into a novel he was reading, so I figured he was smart but didn’t care. To my left was a popular girl, she had an empty notebook on her desk, the perfect outfit and couldn’t stop staring at the guys. Behind me was a tough looking girl with black hair. I got the feeling she wasn’t one to be messed with. In front of me was a small girl who seemed shy but friendly.

I made it through the day and the week. By the end of the year, Natalie and Payton, the girl who sat in front of me, were my two new friends. We had great summer plans and for the first time since I woke, I didn’t mind not knowing who I was because I knew I was Ella. I didn’t need anything more than that. Natalie always pestered me to see if I knew anything, anything at all. She took my dreams as a memory from my past, which I still don’t understand. Payton was definitely the quiet one of the group and it still mystifies me how she and Natalie could get along. I was still easy-going and could fit with either one, the soft kind or the tough troublemakers. Natalie led us into all sorts of trouble. I’d jump in happily and follow along. Payton usually argued but followed anyway.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   1/20/2014, 9:32 pm

Once again, all good things have to come to an end. It was halfway into summer vacation and I’d finally gotten used to Caroline, become pretty close to Josh, and had the best months of my life with Natalie and Payton. So when I came home to visitors, I was surprised but cool with it. As soon as I made it into the door, I knew something was up. Actually, my shoes were still on when I got attacked by a stranger. Well, she was just hugging me but it seemed like an attack.

I pushed her off, glaring at her, kicked off my shoes, and headed straight for Josh. “Who is she?” I demanded. “What is she doing here? Why is she hugging me?”

Caroline patted me on the back, smiling at me brightly. “I know this must be difficult for you, seeing your mother again-”

“MOTHER?!?!” I screeched, backing away from all three of them. “She is not my mother. I don’t have a mother. I’m all alone, remember?”

I was just about ready to run into my room, getting my bag, and heading to Natalie’s. I had to give it a chance though. I couldn’t throw it all away just because some crazy lady said she was my mother. I took a deep breath and tried to calm back. Caroline was blathering on and on about how you can’t be born without a mother.

“Skylar, honey, I’ve been looking everywhere for you… Your father and I have missed you so much,” the woman said.

“Oh really? You don’t know me at all. I’m not who you think I am, get out of my life,” I yelled at her. “I never want to see you again!”

“Ella that is not how you speak to a guest. I agree that she has no right to take you from us, but you don’t have to yell or behave in such a rude manner,” Josh sternly chided me. “Go to your room and don’t come out until you’ve calmed down.”

“Thanks Josh,” I retorted. “Nice to know I can trust you to always have my back.” I did my best to sound angry, but in all truth, I was hurt. Josh had been my one shelter and my own refuge when things got pretty bad for me. He always had been a shield when Caroline got annoying and right then, he’d sent me to my room because I had yelled at a woman lying and claiming to be my mother.

I went anyway, even feeling a little glad to be out of the room. After all, there was my chance to get out. When I reached my room, the small bag I always kept packed was still there. Clothes cluttered the room but the only the clothes I wore and those in the bag would go with me. Caroline had tried to get rid of those clothes; they were the ones I had come in. I never let them leave my room, they carried memories in them.

I went over and picked up the bag, tossing in a few items I didn’t necessarily need, but wanted to keep, such as my notebook. Lastly, I went to my dresser and dug out the money I kept hidden in it. Josh usually slipped me money when I went out with friends, on top of what Caroline gave me. He always winked and told me to make sure I got some candy. Sometimes I did, but normally I tucked it away for emergencies. That lady claiming to be my mother was an emergency and I was happy to have some cash.

When I hopped out the window, I took one long look back, hoping to never forget that lovely yellow house on the corner. I’d fallen in love with it and like usual; I didn’t realize beforehand what a danger that would get. The life of a runaway wasn’t a joyride; it was full of a lot of tragedies and heart ache.

When I showed up at Natalie’s window, she was pretty shocked. It had occurred to me that I should’ve used the door but I knew Caroline would call here and it was better her mother didn’t know. Besides, going in the window wasn’t overly uncommon for me. Sometimes, I’d sneak out at night and visit her when I got lonely.

“Ella, what’s going on? You look like your planning something?” Natalie demanded quietly.

“I’m leaving, that’s what,” I told her, tossing my bag onto her bed. “A stranger showed up today and she claims to be my mother… I’m not going anywhere with her… I’m better on my own.”

“Ella, she might really be your mother, you know that right?” Natalie asked me, trying to force logic into my head.

“I know it’s just…. She’s so much different than I pictured her. I spent a while wishing I knew my mother… But I got over that… I don’t want a mother. I want to be on my own… Or with Josh and Caroline.”

“Did you tell Payton? She’ll want to say good bye,” Natalie said. I was glad she didn’t keep asking if the woman was my mother. I’d done my best to warn them that I’d leave. “Where are you going anyway?” I shrugged, receiving a look from Natalie. “You’re doing it again, shrugging. Why do you do that so much?”

“When I woke up I couldn’t answer anyone’s questions so I shrugged them off… I guess the habit stuck cause I never stopped.. Anyway, I haven’t told Payton… I want you to do that, I won’t get time. I have no idea where I’m going, probably Tallahassee again.”

Natalie actually laughed at me. “Tallahassee? Won’t they expect that? The cops aren’t dumb Ella. They know you headed there the first time.”

“I know but… I don’t know where else to go. Tallahassee just became a goal. I spent three weeks trying to get there and I’ve spent a while thinking about it.”

“Try Austin, Texas,” she suggested, “or somewhere like Phoenix… It has to be southern so it’s warm enough in the winter, but not in Florida.”

“When you tell Payton… Let her know I’m gonna miss her. I’ll miss you too… You guys have been good friends.”

Natalie sighed, offering a small smile and patting my back. “Don’t forget to keep in touch… You have my number and I don’t care if it’s 3 in the morning, I’ll be ready to talk.”

I laughed quietly and hugged her tightly. She didn’t let go of me until I pulled away and silently hopped out the window, running across the lawn and towards the West. I didn’t look back; in fact, I did my best to forget about Payton and Natalie. They’d been good friends but I doubted I would ever see or talk to them again. I was on my own again.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   1/26/2014, 2:16 am

I made it two weeks before I broke down. It wasn’t that I’d been caught, I’d merely given up and given in to the biting pain of loneliness. I spent my days crying and my nights in fitful sleep. Sometimes I just wandered aimlessly. I don’t even remember what town it was I’d stopped at.

I remember getting some weird looks from people. I remember the days when it rained and an aching cold seeped through my body. I remember the storms that hid my tears from view and the times the only sign I was still crying was my loud sobs. I remember the moments I got swept into a daydream that brought a smile to my face but only made me ach more after it left.

Then my world was shattered. I met a boy who looked strikingly like David. I followed him around, trailing after him on his way to school, staring at his house in the night. Naturally, I see the folly in my ways now. I was so caught up in sadness that I didn’t see how different he was from David.

He approached me one day. I thought he’d finally figured out who I was and I was so happy. I was ecstatic. “David!” I called out to him. “It’s me. It’s Ella.”

He actually laughed, which deeply hurt me at the time. “You’re crazy. I’m Ethan, not David. Look, you’ve been following me around the past few days and… Well it’s kind of weird. I’ve seen you outside me house and if you don’t stop I’m gonna call the cops.”

“Ethan?” I asked, stuttering a little in shock. “No… No… You can’t be Ethan… You have to be David…. Stop lying to me!”

Screaming at him didn’t change a thing, he was still just Ethan. He had a kind enough heart though and he ended up taking me home with him and asking his parents to make sure I was taken care of. I didn’t want to be taken care of though… The unbearable pain of knowing I’d be sent back to that woman who claimed to be my mother was just too much.

Ethan’s family was nice, they seemed to really care about me. They kept asking where I came from, who I was, who my parents were, and other things like that. I greeted their questions with a glum shake of my head almost every time. Of course, I told them my name.

It was only a matter of time before a social worker dropped by and picked me up. I didn’t really care by that point. All I knew was I was going to a new place and I’d always be alone. I wasn’t about to make more friends, I was tired of losing them. I was exhausted of all the trouble I’d been though.

It seemed different that time though. I didn’t have any hope but when I was waiting I started to write and I had this image of a face I couldn’t really place. It was a man, probably around 40. He seemed really kind and had a smile that made me wonder how I’d forgotten him. The more I thought about it the easier it was to see his face but the harder it was to understand who he was and how I remembered him.

I came to the conclusion that he must have been from before my amnesia, though how he slipped through the mist I still don’t know for certain. I think it might have been the writing that brought him back. In any case, I kept writing, usually putting his face in my mind as a starter. I often described him and it always brings a smile to my face to read those old pages.

John’s wild hair was brown, curling down around his green eyes, almost distracting from his smile. The smile was the best part. It made his tan skin and his dazzling eyes seem ordinary and boring. His smile…it held so much kindness, so much joy. It seemed to draw me out of myself, opening me up and bringing my trust forward. His smile was so

Most of the pieces ended suddenly, leaving most people to guess what they meant but I knew. That was the first of many. I always called him John, half because it was the first name that really came to mind, half because it seemed to fit. It didn’t matter though, I didn’t have a clue who he was.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   1/29/2014, 6:04 pm

It took them three weeks to figure out what to do with me. I’d gotten tired of Clara, my personal social worker. She seemed eager to make sure I found a great home, which I’d already deemed impossible. You could say I was more than a little surprised when I ended up on a plane. I’d gotten the idea that they only sent us to local homes, maybe a short car ride to the next town, but somewhere close.

I was even more shocked when I was taken to a very familiar town, then a well-known house. Caroline was the first old face I’d seen in over a month. Josh came next, with a wink and a small wave. I didn’t even care how annoying Caroline could be, I ran straight into her hug. “I missed you,” I whispered. “I missed both of you.” I smiled at Josh.

“I see you put all those extra dollars I slipped you into good use,” he commented quietly. His straight face almost was enough to hide the fact that he was really happy but I caught the twinkle in his eyes.

“Stop trying to sound tough,” I told him sharply, before giggling. “Are Payton and Natalie coming? Do they know I’m back?” Josh shook his head and I nodded in response. “Good, I want to tell them myself…In person.” A painful thought came to my mind, and all happiness drained from my face. “Why didn’t they send me to my mother?” I asked. “Surely she has a right to take me back...”

“No she certainly does not. That woman had abandoned you. She only just happened to notice you somewhere, a paper or something… The dumb police placed ads everywhere to try and find your parents,” Josh said. “She didn’t really care but I guess she heard about your amnesia and figured she have a go at parenting again.”

He was shaking his head and looked well and truly upset with her. I smiled a little again, looking at him. “Josh its okay. So long as I don’t have to go back with her I’m happy. I’m fine staying right here, more than fine. I’m actually happy.”

“She didn’t withstand background checks anyway, you needn’t worry about her. However, they are trying to locate your father… they have a good guess as to who he is but they aren’t certain yet. When they do find him, they might end up letting him have custody. Your mother was alone when you ended up on your own…” Caroline’s worried voice cut through my happiness, spreading doubt in my mind.

I hugged her again. “It’ll be fine. He can’t do a thing to separate me from you two… You could always adopt me… Then they’d have to leave me here,” I suggested.

“Tried it,” Josh said. “But anyway, let’s get you inside; this fall weather is starting to get chilly.”

“You haven’t spent much time any farther north have you?” I asked with a laugh as I walked inside. “I remember somebody from before amnesia by the way…”

They were both eager to hear more, so I told them about the writing. Naturally, Caroline suggested a creative writing course, meaning she signed me up. I was forced to go, by her with a little support from Josh, but not enough to save me.

The writing classes weren’t that bad. Sure, Natalie wouldn’t shut up about them, she seemed determined to make me miserable. I always acted like I hated them around Caroline but they helped a lot. I definitely recalled things. I saw my mother a few times. I remembered fighting with her.

The woman had definitely been her. Her name was Madeline Hayes, which made me Skylar Hayes. She was a tall woman, something I hadn’t noticed about her. She had short blonde hair, in a very sharp haircut. Her blue eyes distinctly resembled mine. She’d been stubborn, easily angered and a very strict woman.

I soon realized she hadn’t actually abandoned me, I’d run away. It began to seem like I’d been on the run a lot, a fact I’d never be proud of. I kept a journal and a binder of all the memories I recovered, first and foremost being John.

Payton was my closest confidant in these matters. Her quiet nature seemed to make her a great listener. She always listened and occasionally she gave some gentle advice. I did my best to keep everything from Caroline. If she knew about it, she’d have trouble keeping it all quiet. I knew my mother could still get me back, with the knowledge that I ran away.

I started getting the feeling that John was an important person to me, most likely my father. It was a hard thought but it made it a little easier waiting for the news about him. I knew that his mesmerizing smile meant he couldn’t be too terribly mean. I didn’t know anything about his personality though. All the memory I got was his face.

Then the found my father, they brought him to my town and I met him. He was John. I was pretty shocked but there he was. I hadn’t really expected to see him. I’d known he was coming but they never told me when. I think maybe they were worried I’d get scared and run off again. I might have too.

“So you’re Ella?” he asked when I first got in the door. I was gaping at him, realizing this was the face from my memories. I nodded dumbly, unable to find words in my shock. “I’m John… Guess I’m your dad.”

“Wow…. You’re… You’re him,” I stammered. He looked pretty confused so I hurried on, “I got back a few memories and your face was the first one… always just a face…”

He smiled, nodding a little. “I don’t know where you got that memory,” he said, his smile fading. “I haven’t seen you since you were about 3… Even then I didn’t see you much, just occasionally when your mother let me.”

I shrugged a little, not letting that worry me. “She wasn’t the nicest lady, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t remember those times and honestly, I don’t care to.” I pushed some of my wild hair away from my face, noticing for the first time that it was a lot like my father’s in colour.

“You look gorgeous,” he said quietly. “I’m so proud to see you’ve grown up into a fine young lady.”

“Are you going to take me home with you?” I glanced to Josh and Caroline, who were standing off to the side, doing their best not to meddle.

He hesitated, obviously noticing my glance. “I wasn’t planning to,” he explained. “They’re doing a great job and I can tell you like it here. I’ll visit lots and if you ever want to live with me, my door is open. Not today though, you still need time to decide and I want it to be what you want.”

We chatted more, catching up on lost time. He gave me a few memories from my past. It was clear that even though he hadn’t seen me growing up, he’d kept in touch and knew lots about me. John turned out to be a likable person and I knew I was going to have a hard choice of who I wanted to live with. He headed home after a few days, leaving a promise to visit soon and the reminder of his open door.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   1/31/2014, 8:52 pm

“What am I supposed to do Payton? I really like John… He’s my dad and he’s super nice and I know I’ll be happy with him,” I said over the phone. I was talking quietly because John was downstairs visiting my foster parents.

“You could always go stay with him for a week or two over Spring Break, it’s only a few weeks away,” she reasoned. “If you don’t enjoy it, problem solved.”

I shrugged, even though I knew she couldn’t see the gesture. “Yeah but what if he’s just acting all nice and… I leave Josh and Caroline and he ends up being a jerk and I get stuck with him.”

“Ella, you can’t go through life never doing anything risky.” She sound liking she was getting tired of my worries. I’d talked to her plenty of times about those very same concerns and both sides were always the same.
“I know… It’s just…” I drifted off, knowing I really had no new excuses for her.

“Just nothing,” Payton told me, sounding as stern as she could manage. “You are going to go downstairs and tell them you want to visit John over Spring break, for at least a few days. Got it?”

“Yes I suppose so,” I replied. “Bye, talk to you later.” She responded in kind and I hung up.
I took a deep breath before I walk into the living room to talk to them. Apparently, they’d had a similar idea because John said, “Ella, would you like to come stay with me for a bit over break? We’ve all talked it over and I think it’s about time I spent some extra time with my daughter.”

I stared at him in shock for a moment. He’d taken the words right out of my mouth. “Uhm yeah… That sounds good,” I managed to say. “Payton was telling me to do that.”

John smiled at me. “Good then it’s settled. How long will you stay for, or do you want to just pack enough to stay for the whole time and come back when you’re tired of me?”

“Till I get tired of you I suppose,” I told him, smiling brightly so he could see I was following his joke. Something inside me was always afraid I’d scare him away, that I’d make him leave… The thought surprised me; I hadn’t even realized how close I’d gotten to John. I think part of me didn’t want accept him into my life in case he decided to leave.

“Great,” he answered. “Well pack your bags kiddo, we’re going to my place in a few days.”

I smiled, but it quickly faded into a frown as I realized I had no clue what to pack. “Where exactly is your place? I don’t know where you live…or even what you do for that matter.” I felt a little silly for not knowing that stuff, after all, we’d seen plenty of him. I figured it had probably come up when I wasn’t paying attention.

John was grinning at me though, as if he’d been waiting for me to ask. “So you don’t recognize me then?” he asked, flashing that brilliant smile from my first memory. “It’s a complete mystery?” I nodded to confirm what seemed to be hopes of his. “John Drew,” he went on to say, “movie star and such…”

It dawned on me then, well he said it but I recognized him along with him… Okay I really had no clue until he said he was a star. I didn’t pay much attention to that kind of thing. I imagine Natalie knew the second she saw him but he probably told her to keep quiet so he could pull that kind of surprise.

I stared at him for a while, waiting for him to laugh and say he was kidding but he never did. I was starting to get the feeling that the memory had come from some poster or even from a movie because it seemed so unlikely it had been real. The idea had been a door to more memories, but only an idea.

“It’s all true Ella,” he told me gently. “I really am and I’m glad to meet somebody who isn’t just a fan. To have a kid who’s actually my daughter, who actually loves me for who I am, not a character.”

I nodded, smiling at him. “Well you can count on me to never be in the social or movie loop,” I told him, laughing a little. “You never told me where you lived.”

“Up in Canada, but as a star I’m used to travelling a lot so it’s been no problem coming down here to visit you.”
“Wow,” I replied, feeling even more overwhelmed. I couldn’t recall ever being to Canada and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew some stuff about it but I wasn’t certain. After all, sometimes it sounded like they had pet polar bears and lived in igloos, or had snow year-round. “Dress warm then?” I asked.

“Well for somebody from the South like you, yeah that’d be a good idea. It’s spring so it won’t be too cold, but it’ll be chilly for you I suppose.”

We talked about the details for a while, like what we would do, flights, and other boring stuff. I didn’t really know what to expect so I just mumbled agreements and let the adults take care of the small stuff. I put in my opinion on activities, but other than that I kept quiet. They all knew I wasn’t too big on the little parts, I didn’t know a great deal in the way of what you could do in Canada and how to get there. I did know one thing though, I was going to stay with my dad for a bit. I didn’t care if it was one day or a hundred, it was a trip with him and it meant he really did care about me.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/4/2014, 8:11 pm

I don’t know why I expected to see a quaint little white house, something similar to Josh and Caroline’s, but I was undoubtedly shocked at the grand house we stopped at. There was even a gate and a security guard. When I’d voiced my shock, John had winked at me, reminding me he was famous.

Even though it was blanketed by some snow, I could tell even the yard was well kept. It looked like there were gardens and plenty of grass. There were trees around to provide privacy and I had a feeling those were closed in by a solid fence. All in all, the outside was amazing, which had me wondering what the inside would look like.

When I got out of the car, I was immediately greeted by a young woman, who I guessed probably worked for my dad. “You must be Ella, John hardly stops talking about you when he comes home,” she said, smiling and shaking my hand. “Can I help you with your bags?”

I shrugged, glancing to John, who nodded. I went around top the trunk and dragged out my bags, letting her take a few. “I’m afraid I don’t know who you are,” I said, trying to mimic some of the rich girls from movies. I wasn’t the biggest movie watcher, so I don’t think I was doing a great job.

“Oh I’m Annie, I work for your father,” she said. “I pretty much make sure his house is neat and tidy and he gets his meals on time. Really I think he’s paying me too much, since he’s almost never here.”

I smiled at her, feeling like I wouldn’t mind having her around. She was very cheerful woman. As she carried my bags upstairs, she didn’t complain, but kept up a chatter, telling me fun facts about the house, or stories of John.

My room was on the second floor. It was a large room, leading out onto the balcony. The view was spectacular, I felt like I could see for miles from up there. The bed was covered in a thick blue blanket, a darker shade of blue. The walls were painted in a light shade of blue, with a few paintings hung up around the room. In one corner, there was a large, well-supplied desk; across from it was a dresser. On top of the dresser was a picture of a baby, probably me. When I inspected it further, I found a note on the back making it clear this was baby Skylar… baby me.
I turned to thank Annie for the help with the bags, but she was already gone. My bags were tucked neatly inside the doorway. I dragged them over to my dresser, but being to lazy to unpack, I just opened it and got a change of clothes. I figured dinner would be soon and I wanted to be in fresh clothes before then.

I had no idea what to expect for dinner, but when I got there, I was ready for anything. Ready for anything but a small table and a simple meal. It was just me, my dad, and two plates of spaghetti with garlic bread. I don’t think he knew it, but garlic bread was my favourite.

“So how did you like your room?” he asked, slurping up a strand of spaghetti. “I hope it was nice enough, Caroline told me you never decorate your room at their house. I did my best but if you don’t like it we can always go-“

“John it was perfect. You’re getting to be as bad as Caroline with all this fussing. You should have seen her concern when I first came to stay with them, it was hilarious.”

He smiled at me, nodding a little. We ate in silence for a moment before he leaned forward. “Ella, I know you like them a lot,” he began. I could tell there was something big going to come next. “Josh asked me something very important before we left, something I think you should hear because it is more your choice than mine.” He paused again, waiting for a response.

“Get on with it,” I urged him. “I don’t like the whole suspense thing.”

“You must hate some movies then,” he said jokingly. I glared at him. “They asked if I would be fine with them adopting you.” I stared at him in shock, waiting for the words to sink into a more reasoning part of my mind. “Adopt?” My mind was searching frantically for a reason. Had John decided he didn’t want me? “I still want you to be a part of my life. You’re my daughter and you can always live with me if you choose. I gave my permission though, and they will file for it. The paperwork takes lots of time, nothing is final yet. In the end, it will be your choice and yours alone.”

I kept staring at him, unable to find words to say. I felt, more than saw, his hand reach across the table and settle on my shoulders. He was looking me in my eyes, leaning close to my face. “John….” I started, and then stopped, unsure of myself. “Dad… I don’t know who I want to live with yet… It’s too soon.”

“You have plenty of time sweetie, I just needed you to know what was going on.” He smiled at me, a perfect smile, the kind of smile only he knew how to manage. A smile only I knew had brought a flood of memories. Then he ruined the comfortable moment with, “So do you want to go shopping tomorrow?”

“Oh,” was all I found to say, still staring at him only know with a blank look.

“Well don’t go overboard with your excitement there Ella,” he teased.

I ended up staying the whole two weeks. By the time I ended up back on a plane heading home, I was exhausted but happy. John had kept me on my toes, always on the go, and then out of the blue we’d do nothing for a day. Avery, the neighbour girl, was about my age and once we met, we became fast friends.

It was on the trip home that I voiced the question that had been on my mind for quite some time. “John… My mother said that you and she had missed me so much and… Well you didn’t seem completely in the loop with what was going on…”

“She didn’t mean me. She probably meant her new husband; they are quite the couple after all. I imagine she was looking for a fresh start with you. Amnesia meant she could portray him however she wanted.”

“Why’d you two split up anyway?” I asked, now was the chance to learn about my mother. Whether I liked it or not, she was my mother and I’d have to face it eventually.

John did his best not laugh, I could see him holding it in. “She was awful Ella. I didn’t realize it when I met her. She can be sweet if she chooses to. I actually thought I’d met somebody who didn’t care how famous I was.” I nodded, waiting for him to explain. “I was so wrong though. She didn’t like how I dealt with my wealth. She thought we should live in California permanently, in a big grand house, not my little cottage there…”

“So you ended up getting a divorce? What about me? Didn’t you think that’d affect me?”

John’s miserable look said it all. “I didn’t know she was pregnant until it was too late,” he confessed. “That rotten woman kept it from me. It was probably the one thing that would make marriage worth it. But it was too far into the process by the time I realized what was happening.”

“It’s okay, it all turned out fine,” I said softly, trying to cheer him up a little. “After all I’m here with you now, not with her.”

“But you spent so long with her… I feel responsible for that Ella. When you were little, I just passed it off, reminding myself that I didn’t know you… But now that I do know you, I regret it all.”

“Dad, it’s okay. I do remember some of that time, not most of it, but I do know that I never once resented you for it. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s hers.”

He sighed, looking at me long and hard for a while. “Ella…” I smiled a little, hoping he’d drop the matter. “Do you wanna come back to Canada sometime? Or do you wanna go to my cottage in Cali next?”

The idea of visiting California appealed to me a lot. It was warm, there’d probably be a beach, and it was with John. The three of those together would mean an awesome time, no doubt. I told John my thoughts of it and he assured me he’d set a date with Josh and Caroline. My life was getting better by the minute. For once, I didn’t see the good times coming to an end, I could only see them getting better.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/28/2014, 8:51 pm

Of course, looking back, I realize how foolish I had been at times. Happily ever after only happens in the movies and in books. It wasn’t a reality a kid like me could have achieved. After all, I was a case of amnesia. I was a runaway. I was somebody who had a famous father yeah, but I also had a crazy mother.

Speaking of my crazy mother, she came back into my life. It was about a month after I got back from John’s. She showed up out of the blue. Well, she surprised me but it was obvious Josh had been expecting it.
When she first knocked on the door, I was naturally curious as to who was there. “Caroline, take Ella up to her room, I’ll handle this,” Josh said quietly, heading for the door.

As Caroline shooed me up to my room, my curiosity multiplied. Very few unexpected guests came to our door, and Josh had never made me be escorted up to my room. I gave a little resistance, but it was clear how scared Caroline was, so I let her shove me up the stairs and out of sight.

I could hear Josh answering the door. He was talking too quietly to hear but my mother had no such restrictions on her nosiness. “Where is she?” she yelled. I imagine she was pushing her way past Josh and looking around. “I know she’s here somewhere! You can’t just hide her from me!”

I heard Josh saying something to her. I’m pretty sure she punched him, hard. I heard some crashing and banging, clear signs of a struggle. Next came the footsteps. Caroline and I were huddled in a corner. As the footsteps got closer, I moved in front of her. I was prepared to do anything to save her. My mother opened the door. We stared at eachother for a moment. “Skylar,” she said bluntly.

“It’s Ella,” I responded, doing my best to sound brave. In truth I was terrified. I could smell alcohol and I knew she was drunk.

“You are Skylar,” she hissed at me, in that quiet menacing way that intimidates people. “You are my daughter and I am taking you home with me.”

“No.” My reply was simple. It was simple, but it was also very clear. I intended to anything I could to keep from going home with her. “You are drunk. Go home.”

I think I could have gotten away with the first part, but as I spoke the second bit, a light of anger crossed her eyes. The anger came moments before she crossed the room quickly and slapped me. Ok so maybe she hadn’t been drinking enough to mess with her aim. Her slap was perfectly aimed. I cried out, sinking to the ground, mostly from the shock of it all.

At that very moment, memories flooded me. Memories of all the pain she’d caused me, all the drunken rages she’d fallen into, and of her husband, a man nearly as terrible as her. As I sat there on the floor staring up at her blankly, I could register the fact that Caroline was saying something. “Get out of here Caroline,” I said. “It isn’t worth you getting hurt. Josh needs your help.”

I forced off all the shock, making myself look up at the delicate woman who had so diligently cared for me. She’d treated me as her daughter and all I’d ever done was find her annoying. As Caroline hesitated, I stood up and pushed her gently towards the door. “Go,” I ordered her.

She left reluctantly, glancing back at me. I watched her go, shutting the door behind her. I turned to face Madeline. I waited for her to speak, wondering what was going to happen. “Come home with me Skylar,” she insisted.

“My name is Ella. Get used to it.”

“Fine, whatever you like. I don’t care.” She stared at me sharply, grabbing my arm and holding it firmly. “You are coming home with me though.”

At that she started dragging me out the door, despite all my protests. I realized I wasn’t strong enough to resist her solid grasp. All I could do was desperately hope that Caroline wasn’t in our path. Luckily, my hopes were not disappointed. The path was clear and I was dragged all the way to her car, with nobody to stop her.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/28/2014, 8:54 pm

I’m not even sure how long of a drive it was, I wasn’t paying too much attention. I was doing my best to sort through my newfound memories, trying to determine dreams from reality. Most of them I couldn’t tell. Some I knew had been distorted by the pain of the moment and others were just a blur. It was infuriating never knowing what was truth and what was false.

As it turned out, my step-dad wasn’t all that bad. He actually made me wonder how he’d ended up with a crazy woman like my mother. Phil, since he insisted I don’t call him Philip, was a ray of sunshine compared to my mother.

“Skylar, I know you didn’t want to come, but please… Just stay,” he whispered to me, the first moment we were alone together. “Madeline needs you.”

“I already told you both that I’m out of here the first chance I get,” I insisted. “And my name is Ella.”

He smiled at me, gently taking my hand. “Ella, I don’t know how much you remember about me, but I would never ever do anything to hurt you. I think your mother can change. She was starting to get sober after you vanished.”

“Well look where that got her.” My voice held no love, only anger and hatred. “I’m back and she still gets drunk more than anybody ought to.”

Phil actually laughed, a real genuine laugh. “I know it doesn’t seem like much has changed, but she really does care about you.”

“Maybe you should be telling her that.”

“No,” he said firmly. I could tell he was getting tired of my jokes and messing around. “I’m telling you this because while she loves you, no matter how poorly she shows it, all you have for her is hatred.”

“You try loving someone who beats you. Try having anything but hate for the person who kidnapped you, who tore you away from the people you loved. Phil she hurt Josh, she hurt my family.”

He sighed, nodding slightly. “I understand that Ella, but please just give her a chance,” he pleaded with me.

I shook my head. “No, I am not giving her another chance to hurt me.” I took his moment of silence to walk away from him, slipping downstairs to the living room.

I scooped up the TV remote, waiting a moment before pressing the power button. The TV turned on to show the news, a moment I had been afraid of. The first image was fine, just some reporter. But next came my father, John, looking for his missing daughter. A picture of me splashed across the TV screen and I shut it off before I could catch the rest of the story.
I retreated to my room, a place I’d come to know as safe. The door had a lock and nobody could get to me in there. “What are we going to do Sky?” I asked myself. I don’t know why I called myself Sky when I refused to be called Skylar. I guess I found some small amount of comfort talking to myself, but used my old name so it didn’t feel weird.

One hot tear tracked its way down my cheek, falling into my lap. More tears followed, forcing me to burying my head in a pillow so my sobs would be muffled. I knew crying would get me nowhere and I hated myself for being so weak but I couldn’t help it. Ella was starting to fade and Skylar, just a poor damaged little girl, was taking her place.

Perhaps that was why I resented the name Skylar. She was all my weakness, all my fear. She held all my pain, all that had hurt me. Ella was the new person. Ella was strong and brave. Ella was invincible, even in her weak moments. In that moment, I started desperately clinging to Ella, who I saw as all that was good in my life. “What would Ella do? Think Sky, what would Ella do?”

I sighed, glancing out the window. The treeline was just a few feet away from the house, offering privacy from neighbours. I knew full well that without that privacy, my mom’s abuse might have come to light sooner. I wiped the last few tears from my eyes, took a deep breath, and focused on making a plan for escape.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/28/2014, 9:00 pm

To be honest, my mother wasn’t as bad as I seemed to remember her being. She only got drunk enough to hurt me a few times in the short time I was with her. However, I still was certain that I needed to get away. She could have acted like an angel and it wouldn’t have changed my mind. The main issue was that she had kidnapped me and hurt my family.

So one night, I slipped out my window, tentatively climbing down, using a bed sheet as a rope. I had no idea if it would actually work, but in the movies it did. I’d tested it a few times, finding way to attach it to the ceiling and hanging off it. I couldn’t really tell if it failed because of my weight, or because of how I attached it. In any case, it was my only hope. I knew I couldn’t just jump out my window without getting hurt. However, I also had enough faith in my ability to survive the fall.

It worked well though and I was soon safe in the forest. I glanced back at the house, recalling faintly the last time I had ran away from it. I’d used the front door, but I knew it wouldn’t happen like that ever again. I sighed, wishing momentarily that things had turned out differently, that I could have been a kid with a great mother.

I walked through the night, jogging at some points. By the time morning came, I was utterly exhausted. I stopped to rest for a bit, sitting against a tree. Before I knew it, I was waking up to the early afternoon light.

I reached a town by evening; I wasn’t even sure what town it was. I had a few dollars, but I wanted to make sure they were spent well so I didn’t stop by a hotel or even a restaurant. I didn’t care how tired or hungry I was, all I wanted was to find a payphone. When I finally got there, it took me a while to figure out the right number to call.

Finally, I dialed and waited for someone to pick up. “Hello? Who is this?” I heard Caroline’s voice on the other end.
“Hey Caroline,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm. “How are you doing?”

There was a long pause, with some faint noises from the other end. I waited patiently, certain that Caroline was in shock, but alerting Josh, and hopefully John. “Ellla? Ella are you okay? Where are you?”

That was Josh, I smiled a little to myself. Even he sounded panicked and worried, a good sign to me. “Well, I’m fine. I managed to get away, but I haven’t the faintest idea what town this is. My mom lives somewhere in the countryside, and even this seems to be a small town. I just called to let you know I was okay…”

“Look around you, mostly at the signs. Do any of them have names? Come on Ella, we need something more if we’re gonna come find you.”

I did as he asked and finally figured out what town I was in. Josh insisted I give him a few details about the surrounding area, and I agreed. Finally, he seemed satisfied with the answers. “I don’t suppose John is there?” I mumbled into the phone. Josh didn’t catch most of it, so I had to repeat it louder.

“Of course he is,” Josh replied. “He’s been so worried about you Ella,” he added in a whisper. “I’ll get him for you.”

Before John could come on the line, the payphone was demanding more money. I reluctantly gave in, shoving more of my precious money into the machine. “Ella? Ella how are you?” The sound of John’s voice gave me instant comfort.

“I’m fine John, don’t worry,” I said. “A little bruised up, but I’m going to be okay.”

I shouldn’t have added the last part. I don’t know why I told John, when I hadn’t told Josh. “Bruised up?” he questioned. “She hurt you didn’t she? Ella, I’m going to be there as soon as I can, I don’t care what it takes.”

“John don’t worry about me. Madeline didn’t mean to hurt me I’m sure… She was just drunk and got a little angry…” I would have said more but apparently the machine wasn’t content with my money offerings. It began to demand more money again. “I have to go, but please, don’t get to angry with her.” I set the phone back in its cradle, leaning against one wall of the telephone booth.

“You made it Sky,” I murmured softly. “No… Ella made it.” I smiled to myself, remembering how both men had called me Ella. There was no doubt in their minds that I was Ella. “I am Ella, not Skylar,” I said to myself, grinning a little.

Suddenly I noticed a rather annoyed looking lady sitting on a nearby bench. She seemed to be waiting to use the phone, if her glare said anything. I left the phone booth, waving slightly to her. “Sorry,” I said quietly.

I didn’t really know where to go; I didn’t have enough money to stay anywhere. I shrugged a little to myself and began to wander through the town. Mostly, I hoped I’d find some kind soul who’d be willing to give me a room for the night.

When no kind strangers appeared, I headed for the forest. I didn’t want to be out in the open, in case Madeline or Phil showed up. Everything in me said they’d come looking and I didn’t want to be out in the open when they did.

I found a tree and leaned against it, staring out into the quickly coming darkness. It was a chilly night, and I was glad I had been sensible enough to stuff a blanket into my tattered bag. Most of what I had was old stuff that Phil picked up from a thrift store. Slowly I drifted to sleep, dreaming of John, Caroline, and Josh finding me in the morning.

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/28/2014, 9:00 pm

When I woke up, I was still alone. A small feeling of disappointment hit me, but I did my best to push it away. I was in the woods so nobody would find me, and that included them. I got up and stuffed my stuff into the bag then headed into town.

I was quite relieved to see Josh’s truck outside a small diner. I smiled to myself; they’d come. “You’re going home Ella,” I murmured under my breath. I glanced into one of the windows and saw my family inside.

I paused by the window, peering in at them. They seemed to be arguing, but over what I had no idea. I was too relieved to really wonder. I hurried onward, shoving open the door and rushing in. I did my best to look calm as I sauntered over to their table. It may have been more like walking, I’m not really certain. I like to tell myself it was sauntering though.

The shock on their faces was priceless. Josh saw me first. He looked surprised, but not as shocked as John, and he was nothing like Caroline. Josh offered a small wave, with a raised eyebrow and a slightly surprised look. John actually spat out the bite of pancake he was eating. He stared at me, seemingly speechless. Caroline stood up so suddenly she knocked the chair over. In an attempt to save the chair, she ended up knocking into the table and spilling the drinks. She dropped the chair to grab at a glass and dragged her elbow through her plate. When she’d finally settled the table, she rushed over to me and gave me a hug. “We thought you were lost,” she choked out.

After she released me, I saw the tears in her eyes. Clearly, she hadn’t been expecting me to show up. I took a closer look at the men’s faces and saw that they too had not truly expected me. “Ella, we looked everywhere for you,” Josh added.

I sighed, realizing it had been a mistake to sleep in the woods. I’d almost missed my ride home. I’d been safe of course. “I’m sorry, I slept in the woods so that Madeline wouldn’t be able to find me... I didn’t think about you guys not being able to find me,” I explained, taking a seat at the table. “I’m starved. What’s for breakfast?”

John laughed quietly grinning at me. “Well at least you are safe,” he said, flagging down a waiter. “Can you get a menu for her?” After the waiter left to get the menu, he went on. “Get whatever you want, you look awful.”

I shrugged a little, gladly accepting the menu. As I looked over it, I struggled to come up with a decent explanation for John. I knew Madeline would be in serious trouble for the abuse, but she was my mother and I still wanted to do my best to protect her. “Thanks John,” I muttered, pointing at the menu and stating my order.

“Ella, what happened to you??” Josh asked, leaning forward. I did my best to shrug off the question. Josh’s serious eyes stared at me until I was forced meet his gaze. “You have to tell us,” he insisted.

I looked to Caroline, but she wouldn’t return my gaze. “I don’t have to say if I don’t want to,” I mumbled. John gave me a sharp look and I flinched a little. I’d never seen him so upset before. “Look, I don’t care what she did, she’s my mother. I can’t just say stuff that’ll get her arrested.”

In retrospect, I could have chosen my words more carefully. In the moment though, I was a little confused by their faces. They looked horrified. I realized they weren’t going to leave me alone until I gave them more details, so I gave in. “She got drunk sometimes… And she could get really angry and when she got angry she’d lash out at me. Phil somehow managed to believe in her… I know she hurt me but can’t you let it go?”

The men shook their heads solemnly but Caroline just sat there. I could tell she was shocked and couldn’t find words or expressions to display her feeling. I was at a loss as to how to comfort her. My food arrived though and I was saved from speaking. I could tell it was not the end though, only the beginning. If it had only been Caroline, perhaps it could have been avoided but the men wouldn’t stop until I was safe.

After the meal, John held me back a bit while the other two went on. His arm held me at the table in a solid grip and his other hand gently pulled on my chin until I looked him in the eye. “Ella, you are my daughter and it is my duty to protect you. You understand that, right?” I nodded and he released me. I held his gaze, waiting for him to move, but he stayed there. “She kidnapped you and she’ll do it again. Since I must protect you, she must not be allowed to go free without facing the consequence of her actions. It isn’t to hurt you, but to keep you safe.”

“I know Dad,” I replied quietly, glancing at Josh and Caroline, who were waiting in the car. “I’ll tell you whatever you need to know but please, just leave Caroline out of it and keep me as far from it as possible.”

He smiled at me. “It’s a deal kiddo,” he said. “Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

I shrugged it off, doing my best to hide the smile that was forcing to the surface. “We’d best be getting out there. It looks like they’re waiting for us.”

He grinned. “Yeah, I don’t want Caroline freaking out much more. That poor lady was worried sick, then you didn’t appear and she was even more worried. That shock probably did plenty to mess with her mind. But at least you are safe.”

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/28/2014, 9:01 pm

Being home with Josh and Caroline was great but I knew where I wanted to be. I couldn’t figure out how to break the news to them but I knew it would have to come sooner or later. I wanted it to be sooner, rather than later, but I also wanted to keep them safe. They had become my family and no matter what happened, they would always be my family. An idea was beginning to form in my mind, just an inkling of what I wanted.

“Josh, can I talk to you?” I asked quietly, making sure Caroline didn’t hear. He nodded in response so I continued, “I’m going to live with John.”

I watched him, waiting for a sign of shock or for him to plead with me to stay. He took it remarkably well, but he took everything well. He merely smiled and nodded. “I knew you’d choose him Ella. After all, he is your father and he’s a great man.”

I sniffled a little. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t cry, but he wasn’t reacting how I’d expected. “Josh…” My voice sounded weak and I knew I was near tears. “He isn’t better than you.” I knew it was flimsy, but I meant it. “You’re my dad too… It’s just-” I broke off, knowing I had no argument.

Josh moved close to me and took me into his arms, hugging me tightly. “It’s just he can provide you a wonderful life. I understand Ella, don’t worry. I’m going to miss having you around but it can’t really be helped, can it?”

I looked up at him. He wiped away a few rebellious tears. We gazed into each other’s eyes for a while before he leaned towards me and kissed my forehead. “I’ll still visit,” I told him, “if that’s all right?”

“Of course it’s alright! For goodness’ sake Ella, Caroline would be furious if you didn’t come visit.” I smiled at his reply. He hugged me tighter and then let go, leaving me swaying without him to lean on.

“I have a request to make of you,” I said slowly. He gestured for me to go on. “I want you to foster or adopt one of two kids. I’m going to ask John if he’ll do the same for the other.”

Josh grinned at me. “You thought of a replacement for you already?” I nodded a little and he patted me on the back. “Never forget the other kids. You’re lucky you found your father.”

“Back to business then, both of them helped me when I needed a friend. The first option is Jenny. She was there in my first home and even though she abandoned me there, she deserves a better life than she’s gotten,” I explained, smiling a little as I remember her.

Josh nodded thoughtfully. “Sounds like she could be a bit of work… Who’s the second?”

“David was from my first school. He was the one who picked me up out of the ditch and kept me going. He’s the reason I’m in love with the idea of going to Tallahassee even though I know nothing about it. He gave me hope even when he didn’t dare to hope.”

Josh nodded again. “Well the both sound like they could use some good nurture. I’ll talk it over with Caroline later… I assume you want to tell her yourself about the choice you’ve made?”

I sighed, frowning at the very thought of telling her this news. “Josh, I really don’t want to…” I looked up, hoping for a sympathetic smile, or a wink. I wanted anything that would show me that I didn’t need to tell her. “How do I tell her something like this? She’ll be so upset… It’ll break her heart.”

“Ella, doing the hard things is part of life and a part of growing up. You have to do it because it’ll hurt her more if it comes from me,” Josh told me gently. “Just be yourself. Be honest with her and she’ll understand. She knew from the start you would be leaving us eventually. Sure, we had some hope you would stay but I told her you might not pick us. She’s had a long time to prepare for this day.”

“But it will still hurt her,” I stated simply. He couldn’t deny it any more than I could. Caroline would be crushed and that was a fact as true as the sky being blue. “There won’t be a true happy ending for us.”

“Just because there is some sadness doesn’t mean there is no happy ending. Caroline won’t be sad forever. We will always miss you but you won’t be gone forever. Besides, we’re gonna have a new kid to worry about so we won’t have time to be sad.”

I smiled, realizing the truth behind his words. He was right. The happy ending was in the view, not only the emotions. “You’re my family Josh, don’t you forget it.”

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PostSubject: Re: A Hidden Past   2/28/2014, 9:01 pm

Three weeks later, I moved in with John. He was happy to have me, and I was glad to be there. Annie made me feel at home right away. Since Josh and Caroline chose to try and adopt Jenny, I told John about David. He promised to do all he could.

“No peaking,” John reminded me, checking again to make sure the blindfold was secure. It had been a few weeks since I’d moved in and this was not the first time he’d brought me home blindfolded.

“Seriously John,” I grumbled, my complaint was heavy with curiosity though. “You don’t have to blindfold me for every little thing. Josh wouldn’t have done something like this.”

“Yes, but you live me so you’ll have to put up with it,” he responded, calmly. “Besides, curiosity is good for you.”

“Surprises cause heart attacks though,” I muttered. Louder I added, “This one had better be good or I’m off to visit Jenny and my second home.”

“I promise you’ll like this surprise. Go ahead and take it off now.” I felt him step away and shrugged a little. It had been an empty threat. I was going to see them in a week either way.

I reached up to pull off the blindfold but a voice stopped me. “It’s good to see you Ella.”

It was David’s voice. I knew it was his. I was so shocked I could barely pull the blindfold off. “David?” I questioned, struggling with the blindfold. “You’re here? Already?”

I heard him laughing, which was a relief because it told me it really was him. Somebody assisted me with the blindfold and soon I could see him. “It’s really me Ell. I never thought I’d be coming to Canada.”

“So… John adopted you? You’re my brother now?”

“No, I’m just here for a visit,” he replied. He seemed a little disappointed. “John’s not a U.S. citizen so they weren’t happy about him just requesting to adopt me. I did however get adopted. It’s Payton’s family, I think you know her.”

It wasn’t perfect, but I was still pleased. As far as I could tell, my life was going to be as good as anyone’s ever had been.

The End

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