Colliding Worlds


 Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4-5 | Ch. 6-7 | Ch. 8 | Ch. 9-10 | Ch. 11-12

Ch. 13-14 | Ch. 15-16 | Ch. 17-18 | Ch.19-20 | Ch. 21-22 | Ch. 23-24

Ch. 25-26 | Ch. 27-28 | Ch. 29-30 | Ch. 31-32 | Ch. 33-34 | Ch. 35-36

Ch. 37, 38 & Epilogue


Chapter 1


He took a long drag on the cigarette that hung between his lips letting the rings of gray smoke encircle his head. Even the bright light of day his surroundings felt dark and oppressive.

The brown stone building that stood behind him was his last chance yet he could have cared less. He had been on his own destructive path for so long now he didn't know how to get off of it or if he even wanted to for that matter.

He searched his mind for a time when he hadn't felt this way. Sad to say that time was so long ago he barely remembered it. The years since his father's death and mother's subsequent marriage were nothing more then a blur clouded first by alcohol and when that stopped having any effect drugs.

His last run in with the law had landed him here at Connection Village. The name itself had him laughing but it certainly beat a four by four cell.

"Hey Santos," a voice startled him, "Malcolm is ready to see you now."

Danny picked himself up from the stoop, snuffed out his cigarette under the sole of his heavy black boot, put on the hardened mask that he had been wearing for years now and made his way inside.


Michelle did her best to keep her thoughts centered on the lecture that was being presented before her. The effort however was in vain. In the past months she had been anything but centered. Suddenly the once sure and confidant girl she had been was gone. That girl had been replaced by one that jumped at her own shadow most days.

She looked down at the cover of the book that lay in front of her. The big yellow letters read Psychology. At the start of the school year she had been so into this class. It was going to be her ticket to the life that she had always dreamed about, yet somehow along the way things had veered off course.

Michelle had every intention of following in her mother's footsteps. She wanted to be a social worker just as her mother had been. She wanted to make a difference; stepping outside the world she had grown up in; reaching out to those who really needed someone.

She looked around the room at the people in her circle. Michelle was hard pressed to find anyone that would truly understand her desires. Most of them were content on existing for their hot clothes, cool car's and daddy's money, but not Michelle, She had always wanted more. And until a few months ago she had been counting on social work to be that something.

Snapping back to reality, Michelle caught the tail end of Ms. Roberts' words, "This project will count for more then half of your final grade. Given that information, I fully expect to see your full attention focused on the task at hand. Just some basic instructions and then I will let you get to work. I would like there to be two to a group. I would like the subject matter to coincide with the some of the social issues we have been discussing this semester. With that being said I will let you use the remainder of the period to find a partner and begin discussing your assignment."

Hunter caught Michelle's attention from across the room, giving her the high sign that they would be partners. Michelle nodded an acknowledgment yet Hunter didn't even notice she was already too busy chattering away with Ryan McNeil star forward of Springfield High's basketball team. Hunter Wolffe and Michelle had been best friends since before either of them could talk. For so many years they were like two peas in a pod, but recently Michelle felt as though they had just been going through the motions. The road that had once traveled together had now forked and both had taken the opposite direction.


Michelle sat starring out the window of the cafeteria lost in her own mixture of thoughts when Hunter finally came to join her.

"Michelle, hello Michelle," Hunter said as she waved the palm of her hand in from of Michelle's glazed chocolate eyes, "Michelle Bauer have you heard a word I have said?" Hunter's voice took on an annoyed tone.

"Huh?" Michelle said looking at her friend.

"I said so what have you come up with for this damn project of Roberts? Can you believe that she has the nerve to think we would have time for this crap with the drama production just around the corner," Hunter said as she took a sip of her bottled water.

Michelle looked at her friend with wide eyed amazement. Not that she should have been at all surprised by the outburst. This was typical Hunter in every way shape and form. To Hunter Wolffe school was a mere interference to her social calendar.

"Well?" Hunter questioned again.

"What?" Michelle said again lost in her own thoughts.

"What have you come up with for this project? You're the whiz at psychology not me."

Those words made Michelle smile. Even in the midst of all the turmoil she felt within at the moment she loved Psychology and had to admit she had a knack for it. Her mother, Maureen, had always taught her to listen with open ears and closed mouth. Maureen said 'You always get to the heart of the problem that way, baby'.

From then on Michelle had taken the role of 'Dear Abby' to heart. She was the one most of her friends sought out in their time of trouble. Through every relationship dilemma or family crisis Michelle's conviction to following Maureen's path grew stronger.

"I was tossing around the idea of abuse. You know maybe center more around older youth from battered homes. Maybe we could talk to some kids and get their personal take on things." Hunter appeared uninterested, just as Michelle knew she would be.

"Well," Hunter hesitated mulling over Michelle's idea, "With everything that we discussed in class this term, I was hoping to so something a little more on the racy side. Maybe some drug addiction or alcoholics and their role in society," Hunter's voice took on a tutorial manner as her eyes sparkled.

Michelle thought those things all sounded like great topics for some television talk show but certainly not what Ms. Roberts was looking for for a Psychology report.

It wasn't difficult for Michelle to pick up on the fact that Hunter was thrill seeking. Good little girls from Springfield wouldn't ever do the things that she had just mentioned, but they sure did like to fantasize about it.

Michelle search her brain for some way to appease her friend, "Well," she sighed, "We could work that into our project. The things that you mentioned could very well be some of the after effects of the abuse and neglect." Michelle had Hunter's full attention now, "Actually we could make that a separate section. You could work on it yourself. How does that sound?"

Hunter sat quietly for the moment toying with the notion that Michelle had just offered, "Okay, yeah that sounds workable to me."

Michelle let out a sigh of relief. She had been glad that Hunter had agreed. She knew that would lay most of the work on her shoulders but suddenly she felt as though this was what she needed to regain the sense of herself that she had lost somewhere along the way.

The surge of new found energy was fleeting as Michelle spied Parker Simms and Thad Weston heading in the direction of their table.

"Look who's coming our way," Hunter said quickly pulling out her compact to check her make-up. Michelle couldn't do more then roll her eyes at her friend all the while the knot in her stomach tightened as the gap between the boys and them closed fast. "What can they want?" she said under her breath.

Michelle did her best to ignore Parker and his mounting snide remarks; however the effort proved to be a fruitless one.

"WHAT DO YOU WANT?" she finally spat.

"We were wondering if you two needed any help with your project?" Thad answered all the while never taking his eyes off of Hunter.

Michelle could instantly see that Hunter was warming to his abundant charms. Thad had been pursuing Hunter the entire time that she and Parker had been dating. The only thing standing in the way back then was the fact that Hunter and Max Eshelman had been attached. But now that Hunter was again a free agent the path was free and clear for him to make his move.

"Well? How about it? You in the market for our help?" he pressed edging his seat closer to Hunter's.

"We would love your………………."

Michelle stopped her before she had been able to finish her sentence. The last thing Michelle wanted was anything that had to do with Parker Simms. Her eyes darted to where he sat. She did her best to avoid his gaze but it's intensity forced her eyes to meet his. It was starting all over again. She knew behind those deep blue pools lay a monster in the waiting.

On the surface Parker was the playboy of the school. A true catch for any girl in the senior class. That's why it was hard for many around them to fathom that Michelle Bauer, a junior no less, had dropped him like a stone. This was a concept that Parker was having trouble truly coming to terms with. It was he who normally ended things but in this case things had terminated quite differently. Parker certainly wasn't accustomed to be made to look the fool and he wasn't about to let Michelle get away just yet. He had vowed that she would see the error of her ways.

"NO!" Michelle spoke up, "I'm quite sure that we can handle this one all on our own," Michelle said hoping to sound more confidant then she felt at the moment, "Besides Ms. Roberts said two to a group. See one, two, " she said pointing to herself and Hunter, "You can count to two right?" Michelle laughed a bit as she said it.

It was easy to see that her comment had struck a nerve in Parker more so then Thad, who was far too busy making a play for her friend. Parker's face was getting flushed with each passing second as she had a chuckle at his expense. Michelle was playing with fire but at this point she wanted Parker and the memories that he carried to just vanish.

"Michelle," he said leaning across the table, "Why don't you just drop this little act? You know that you will be back!" his voice was filled with contempt that only Michelle could hear. His icy tone was one that she had been far too acquainted with.

"In your dreams." She felt rather brave in the cafeteria full of people. "I told you it's over, it's over, it's over! You may find this hard to believe Parker, but this is life after Parker Simms. Hell there was life before you too."

A surge of pride filled Michelle. It had been a long time since she felt strong enough to stand up to him.

Thad couldn't stop the shit eaten grin that filled his face. Parker may have been his best friend but he secretly loved watching the great playboy be put in his place.

"What the hell are you smiling about? You find something funny?" Parker's voice boomed over the noise of the cafeteria.

"No…no not a thing. Just listening is all."

Michelle sensed from Thad's lack of response that Parker's love life left something to be desired as of late.

"Ah what's wrong? Are we having trouble in the girl department are we? What happened to the big man on campus?" Michelle suppressed another giggle as she treaded on to even thinner ice with him.

"Well I certainly could say the same for you my dear. I haven't seen you out all that much. Word around town is you're sitting at home pining away for 'Parker the Great', " his arrogance had returned.

"Don't flatter yourself," Michelle spat, "Let's remember who dumped who here."

"She got you there," Thad commented as Hunter now joined in on the round of laughter.

Parker glared in the direction of his friend. It was one thing to play his game of cat and mouse with Michelle but he wasn't about to let Thad get the upper hand as well. She may have been the one to let him go but he wasn't about to let that stop him in getting what it was he wanted.

"Hunter," Michelle said gathering her books, "I'll see you in drama. We can finish discussing the project then."

"Lunch isn't over yet. Why are you leaving?"

Michelle fought the urge to again roll her eyes. Why was it her friend couldn't see anything passed the nose on her face? "The company is making me nausea. See you later."

"Don't forget my dear Michelle, that I too am in Drama," Parker announced. "You can't get away that easy."



The theater was crowded when Michelle opened the heavy wooden door. She looked over the sea of faces in search of Hunter. She had to look again, hoping that the dim light of the surrounding room was playing tricks with her eyes. Unfortunately that was not the case. On closer inspection Hunter was sitting in the front of the theater with Thad and Parker, of all people.

Michelle walked quietly down the aisle as not to disturb Miss James. She probed the dark corners of her mind for some reason that Hunter would be with them, especially given the fact that she knew that her 'best friend', and Michelle was beginning to use that term loosely, wanted nothing to do with Parker Simms.

The rationale for Hunter's actions was a simple one. Thad Weston. Michelle should have been able to tell from lunch this afternoon that he was about to be Hunter's next great love affair. She changed men like Michelle changed dirty socks. Knowing this fact didn't help Michelle at the moment though. The idea of being forced into another confrontation with Parker had her nerves raw.

As Michelle inched closer toward the three of them she noticed the only seat available was the one next to Parker. As she eased into it, Michelle absently wondered if he had planned it that way purposely.

Miss James was discussing the schedule for this year's musical production.

"We will be performing our own rendition of 'WEST SIDE STORY'. The faculty advisors and myself would like to see this be an excellent production. We are asking for your utmost cooperation……"

"Aren't they always?"

Michelle heard Thad say to Parker. She forced herself to concentrate on what was taking place ahead of her. The task was a difficult one. Sitting alongside of Parker made her blood run cold. The images that the mere sound of his voice invoked in her were frightening.

"For this production we're going to need more then just actors. Everyone is urged to participate. My assistant is handing out the booklet regarding the musical. It contains the rules and regulations, information on auditoning and the audition schedule. Be sure you read it all carefully. And if you decided to audition you must be able to adhere to our practice schedule. The first auditions begin next Monday. Hope to see you all there. Class dismissed."

As they exited the theater, Michelle felt Parker's eyes boring holes in her back. It was such an errie sensation. One that she wanted to rid herself of as soon as possible.

"Did you get a load of all these rules?" Thad questioned thumbing through the extensive booklet, "this is unreal. There's no way they can expect us to follow all of these."

"What do you think they print them for?" Michelle remarked cooly. This was just one more mark in the ever long list of what the elite of Springfield High thought was beneath them.

"Well there are a lot of rules here, Michelle," Hunter immediately jumped to Thad's defense.

Michelle found the only thing she could do was to shake her head. She had watched this time and time again but on each new occasion it never ceased to amaze her how easily Hunter fell into whatever role was necessary to land the current man of her dreams.

"You know Michelle….she's all into rules," Parker said as he gently caressed the nape of her neck. As she made an attempt to move, his grip tightened. Michelle winced under the pressure of his hold. "Everything in it's proper place of course."

"Let's go grab something to eat. I'm straved."

"Thad, don't you ever stop eating?" Hunter laughed.

"NOPE, I am a growing boy you know," he countered draping his arm easily around her shoulder.

"I think I'll pass on this one," Michelle said finally breaking free of Parker's grip.

"Why?" he asked grabbing for her arm angered by the fact that she was again avoiding him.

"I've got a few things to work on at home. If it's any of your business." Michelle slipped past him just of his reach.

"I'll catch you later, Michelle. I'll stop by your house on my way home, we can talk about the project them?" Hunter questioned eyeing her friend curiously.

"Sure…whatever." Michelle just wanted to get away from Parker as fast as she could.

"Bye, Michelle," he said blowing her a kiss.


By the time Michelle had arrived home, she had shaken the ominous feeling of dread that Parker had left her with outside the theater. The combination of what happened at lunch and then had her teetering on the edge all over again.

Aunt Meta was the only person home when she arrived. She grabbed a soda and apple from the icebox and headed for her room.

She sat down on the floor and pulled out a tattered box from beneath her bed. She had been keeping it for a long time now. It will packed full of articles that she had saved since deciding that she wanted to venture into the field of social work. That had been three years ago shortly before her mother's death.

To this day the thought of Maureen's death brought tears to her eyes. Michelle's eyes traveled instintively to the photo of Maureen that sat by her bed. She had been such a beautiful lady inside and out. And so full of life. Her death had been such a waste of a wonderful person. And it came as such a shock to everyone. Maureen Bauer had touched so many lives and her death left a gapping hole in so many things. Michelle made a valant attempt to come to terms with the death of her mother but there was still so much pain associated with it.

Maureen had been more then just Michelle's mother. She had been her friend and confidant. She had been someone that Michelle could pour her heart out to and not worry how silly or unlike Michelle that it sounded.

She had taken the time to teach Michelle that there was much more to the world than just what lay outside her own door. Maureen told her that money was important but without love and happiness money left you with just an empty shell you were always trying to fill.

'Get to know the world beyond Springfield. There are people out there worth knowing, worth caring for and most of all loving. Your daddy doesn't always remember that'

Michelle wiped away a tear that had trickled down her cheek as she recalled that last talk she and her mother had had.

Maureen was attempting to explain to her daughter why her husband had been so against her new job assignment at a local youth center. Maureen Bauer had been a social worker of sorts. She went around to the local centers and homeless shelters helping them get better funding, state or federal grants, charity drives. Anything that would help them to raise money enabling the organization to reach as many as possible. Occasionally Maureen even sat in on group sessions, lending her insight on things to the group.

She was a valuable asset no matter where she went. Unfortunately her husband, Ed, didn't look at it in the same light. He preferred that she did her volunteering at the local ladies league, Springfield Country Club or whatever charity was in vogue that month.


If she closed her eyes, Michelle could still see the blue flashing lights as she and her father pulled into the driveway that fateful night. The officer was there to explain that there had been a shooting at the rehab center across town. His wife had been shot.

'I TOLD HER I WANTED HER TO QUIT. I TOLD HER NO!!' Ed Bauer cried as he stood frozen, 'She wouldn't hear of it. Now look where it has gotten her," his voice trailed off into a whisper.

She and her father followed the racing squad car across town to the hospital; however, it hadn't been quick enough. Maureen died in the trauma department of the emergency room.

The bullet had punctured her lung and entered her heart. The ER doctor had told them that she had lost so much blood that she had gone into shock. Her heart had suffered such severe trauma that there was nothing more they could have done………………


Michelle pushed back the horrible memory of that night and dried her tears. It was times like this she forced herself to recall how much Maureen loved the work she did. She put her heart and soul into every aspect of her life. Michelle knew that included her family as well. Again Michelle's eyes came to rest on Maureen's smiling face. In her heart Michelle was certain that her mother only wanted what was best for her little girl.

With renewed determination, Michelle began rummaging through the overly stuff box. After an hour or more she had found several articles that would be of use to her and Hunter. Looking up at the clock on her desk, Michelle vaguely wondered where Hunter ever was.

In the back of her mind she knew exactly where she was. Hunter again was true to character. She certainly wasn't about to pull herself away from guy 512 to make good on a promise to her friend.

As normal as this behavior was for her friend, Michelle had grown far too tired of it. It was yet another thing that had her wondering about the life that she was forced to live.

"Come in," Michelle said upon hearing the tapping on the door.

"What have you been up to all this time? Meta says that you have been locked up in here for hours now."

Quickly Michelle pushed the box and all its papers back under her bed. She most definitely knew how her father would feel if he knew what she was up to. Taking in account the way he had lost his wife, Michelle knew that there would be no way of making him understand her need to follow along her mother's path.

Michelle sensed that he never quite understood his wife's need to contribute to those he felt were beneath her. She knew by the look on her father's face that it made him sick to his stomach every time he thought of his wife working at the rehab center day after day. When she died, Ed Bauer vowed to keep Michelle out of harms way as much a humanly possible. And here she was doing the exact opposite. But the desire that consumed Michelle about this project suddenly took on a life of its own and there was no way she could think of stopping it.

"Not much," she answered getting up from the floor to kiss him on the cheek, "I was working on a topic for this Psychology project that Hunter and I have to do. I was trying to come up with something to WOW Ms. Roberts with." Michelle remarked knowing full well that her topic was embedded in her head, "Hunter should be here shortly. Would you mind just sending her up when she gets here?"

"Sure sweetie," he kissed her forehead.

After watching her dad close the door behind him, Michelle again pulled the box out from under the bed. This time she noticed something that hadn't been there in her first go round of information. It was a brochure from a local organization called CONNECTION VILLAGE.

Michelle read the material over carefully. As soon as she closed the small booklet Michelle knew exactly where she was going to get the personal experiences they needed.




Danny stepped inside Malcolm Farrell's office. He eyed the man standing before him cautiously. Even though this center and this man were the only things standing between Danny and jail, he wasn't about to let down his defenses.

"Take a seat Mr. Santos," Malcolm motioned to the worn leather chair, "I would like to introduce my assistant Liza Brooks."

Liza offered her hand to Danny. Yet in getting no response she returned to her own seat. Danny settled into the chair Malcolm offered, crossed his arms and prepared to be as obstinent as possible.

It was now Malcolm's turn to eye the young man before him. In his line of work he had seen so many with the same hardened, defeated look. Danny Santos had been beaten down hard by the world. Beaten in such a way that it had stripped him of the spirit he had once possessed. Malcolm was saddened by this fact. Saddened so much so that he couldn't stop himself from taking on this challenge. And a challenge it would be. Just by looking at Danny, Malcolm knew his walls were high and thick. And by no means would they be easily penetrated.

It had been a long time since he had taken a case of this nature. One where the person clearly wasn't a willing participant; however when his old friend Det. Johns called him about Danny Malcolm's inner voice got the better of him. And certainly after reading the paper trail of the promising young man Daniel Santos had once been that voice grew stronger. But now sitting across from this young man who so evidently wanted to be anywhere but where he was Malcolm's conviction was being severely tested.

"Shall we get started?"

"Like I got a choice," Danny growled.

"You always have a choice Mr. Santos," Malcolm countered.

"Oh yeah?!?! How do you figure that? It was either this or jail!" he scoffed.

"See so there was a choice," Malcolm continued. "I certainly don't want to hold you here against your will." Malcolm played his role to the letter. For this to work he had to get Danny to trust him. And he had a sneaking suspicion that the word trust and Danny Santos had parted company many years before.

"So what's the deal?" Danny's voice was somewhere between a bark and growl.

"Well, a condition of your release into my custody was that you would not only have one on one sessions with myself or Liza……"

"I ain't spilling my guts to some babe!" Danny spat looking Liza squarely in the eye never once backing down.

"Liza," Malcolm turned to her, "Would you mind?" he asked motioning for her to leave them.

"Whatever you think is best," she replied all the while angered by the fact that suddenly it appeared that her boss had taken leave of his senses. Never once before had Malcolm Farrell ever let a person sitting on the other side of his desk run the show.

"Thank you." He returned as she closed the door behind her, "Now where were we?" he said more to himself then to Danny.

"I was telling you that I ain't having no chit chat with some bitch," Danny's voice dripped of his street savvy. He wanted it to be understood that he was there to stay out of jail and nothing more. This great transformation that was supposed to come from this place wasn't happening. Danny's life had been set in stone the day his father's casket had been lowered into the ground.

"So noted," Malcolm countered doing his very best not to shake his head at Danny's obvious distest for everything and everyone around him. "You are also required to attend the group sessions that are run here as well."

"How cozy," Danny quipped itching to hit the streets in hopes of finding JT and making a score.

This whole scene was more then he wanted to deal with. What was a bunch of talking going to do in changing his life from what it really was? He'd play the game enough to keep his ass out of jail but that was it.

"Danny," Malcolm said looking him square in the face, "You know this is all up to you. What you make of what I am offering…..well it's your call."


"I just want you to understand there aren't any second chances after this one."

"So noted," Danny mocked.

"The last condition…………."

"There's more?" Danny groaned.

"Yes. You will be required to help out around the center. If you hadn't noticed it's in ill repair and from what I can gather you are pretty good with your hands."

Danny grunted at those words. Good with his hands, yeah if that meant hot wiring a car or lifting something from the local store then hell yeah he was good with them.

"Yeah so?"

"Well I plan on putting you to work." Malcolm's grand scheme was to keep him so busy that he wouldn't have time to seek out what in the long run would prove to be his greatest downfall.

"Are we done?"

"Yes as along as we understand each other."

"Yeah, whatever," Danny spouted.

"Your first session is in an hour. Until then why don't you go check on the restrooms? Seems to me I recall one of the faucets having a leak."

Danny stood up and stared at the man in front of him. He couldn't be serious he thought but Malcolm's unwavering expression told him otherwise.

As Danny left the office, Malcolm thought he would get to Danny Santos if that was the last thing he ever did. He was certain there was so much untapped potential laying just below the surface of that young man. Malcolm just had the daunting task of getting Danny to see it for himself.



When Hunter finally gotten around to calling, Michelle had been too furious to even take the call.

"Michelle, telephone," Aunt Meta called.

"Who is it?"


"Tell her that I am getting into the shower right now. I'll call her as soon as I am finished."

"Sure thing sweetie."

Michelle let the warm water wash over her body. As much as she wasn't surprised that Hunter had again chosen her newest love interest over her it still stung.

It was times like this she missed her mother even more so. Yes Hunter and she were friends but not in the sense that Michelle needed a friend. She was forever taking a backseat to Hunter's love life. Funny thing was though at the first hint of any trouble it was Michelle who Hunter came running to. More times then Michelle could count she had been the one letting the guy down easy since Hunter didn't have the nerve to do it herself. But when the time came for Hunter to return the favor, well it just never happened. So Michelle spent the better part of the years since her mother died very lonely.

With her hair wrapped tightly in a towel, she picked up the phone to call her friend. "Hello?"

"Hey Hunter, Michelle."

"I didn't think you were ever going to call me," Hunter wailed.

"Excuse me?" Michelle's mouth fell open. As much as she had grown to expect Hunter's attitude it still took her aback now and again.

"I have been waiting for you to call me," Hunter commented as if she had been royalty of sorts.

Michelle swallowed hard around the lump in her throat as the anger threatened to over take her, "I returned your call in less than an hour, yet here I have been waiting for you to show up at my house since this afternoon," Michelle snorted, "The last thing I remember was that you were supposed to stop by so that we could discuss our project. Oh yeah that's right I forgot," Michelle's attempt at suppressing her fury was wearing thin, "that was before you got so wrapped up in Thad Weston. So please can we not turn this into another how much Michelle has neglected Hunter routine. To be honest with you it's getting quite old from my prospective." It wasn't until Michelle had stopped speaking that she realized that she had successfully lost her temper which was something that she rarely ever did.

"Shit that's right. I knew there was something I had to do. Thad and I got to talking and well I guess it just slipped my mind." Hunter's sorry excuse for an apology did little to squelch Michelle's anger.

"You have to stop this."

"Stop what?" Hunter questioned.

"Stop blowing me off every time you have a new guy in your life. Hell that is if Thad Weston even classifies as a guy."

"Come on Michelle, Thad's a good guy. He really is. I don't know what you have against those two. Hell Parker has it so bad for you and you can't even see it."

"Oh I can see it. I just don't want it. Why can't he get it through his thick head? It's OVER," she stressed for what felt like the millionth time.

"You know I think that you are crazy, don't you? I mean he's the catch of the whole damn school. I don't know one girl who wouldn't die to be in your shoes right now. Hell I have to admit I wouldn't even mind myself."

"No you don't!" Michelle said in a somber tone, "Believe me there's more to Parker then meets the eyes. It's not all it's cracked up to be."

"Whatever," Hunter quipped tired of the conversation. She had yet to understand Michelle's insistence that Parker was the devil in carnet, besides she had other more important things to concern herself with then her friend's obvious insanity when it came to the opposite sex. "So am I forgiven yet?"

Michelle sat in silence for the moment. Some things would never change.

"Well I said I am sorry for god sakes. What more do you want? I promise it won't ever happen again."

"Yeah, I've heard that one before," Michelle couldn't help but laugh. If she had a nickel for every time Hunter had told her that she would have been richer then her father.

"So what did you come up with for this project of Roberts?" Hunter continued on as if nothing had happened.

Michelle knew that the subject was a closed one and there was no reason to continue beating what she knew to be a dead horse. Hunter was Hunter and there was no changing her at this late stage of the game.

"I found some interesting articles that you can use for your part of the paper. There are a lot of things about the drug and alcohol part. For me I found a bunch of pamphlets on child abuse, statistics and stuff like that. The best part is I discovered this one from a local center in Clayton called CONNECTION VILLAGE. I was hoping that would be the place to go and try to get those personal experiences I was thinking about adding. What do you think?"

"Sure whatever, this is your baby really not mine. You said this village thing it's in Clayton?" The disgust in Hunter's voice was as apparent as the nose on Michelle's face.


"And you want to go there?"


"You are nuts!"


"Clayton? We are talking Clayton here. You know where the world as we know it doesn't exist."


"Michelle, I don't know about this."

"Don't worry I have it all figured out. It's getting pretty late. Meet me in front of the school in the morning and I will tell you all of my ideas. And Hunter do me a favor."

"What?" she questioned.

"Don't get sidetracked this time."

"I won't."

"Okay, well then catch you tomorrow. Night, Hunter."

Michelle turned off the overhead light in her room before she crawled into bed. She had such a good feeling about this project. She found herself looking at her mother's photo and smiling broadly. "I am going to make you proud of your little girl."