Don't Choose Me - Nothing Is As It Seems - Natasa Ursic - ebook
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Don’t choose me – Nothing is as it seemsvol1.Because of a strong concussion, Danielle loses the memory. Thanks to some flashes that she has in different moments and situations, she has an inkling of what happened to her, discovering that it wasn’t like they make her believe.During her way, she will meet Richard, with whom she will have a relationship of love and hate, friendship and antipathy, and… disgust, which will unconsciously help her find the truth about her past.But, what role has the Clan in all this?

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Natasa Ursic

Don't choose me

Nothing is as it seems

Don't choose me – Nothing is as it seems

Don’t love me – Everything is as it should be

Don’t hate me – Everything comes back

Copyright ©2017 Natasa Ursic

This is a work of fiction.

The told names, people, places and events are a product of the author.

Any similarity to real people, alive or dead, events or real places is simply casual.

This book includes some material under copyright and it can not be copied, rented, covered by the licence or transmitted in public, or used in another way with the exception of those was specifically authorised by the author, in accordance with the terms and conditions with which it has been purchased, or in accordance with those expressly foreseen by the applicable law (Italian Law 633/1941

DEDICATION

To you, which took my life

and you did more with it.

To Anisa, my muse.

To Anna, my saviour.

To Anja, my reason for living

Prologue

IN THE HOSPITAL

I'm running. I'm speeding down, like there is no tomorrow, with this damned car which doesn't want to exceed the 220 km/h. I must run, I must reach the hospital asap. My mobile continues to ring, but I don't want to answer. I know, I was advised, or rather, obliged to take the chauffeur with the escort, or to use the chopper, but I am not able to think right now. I know that I'm risking my life, but this isn't important. The troubles dimes my mind and the reason.

“Hello” I boom at the phone. I'm tired, this continuous ringing distracts me from the driving.

“Where are you?” my wife asks.

“I came by your office and you weren't there, the secretary said that you had to travel.” She seems worried, but I know that she isn't. She is interested only in money and power. As her father and her brother.

“Yes, I have an urgent meeting in Birmingham” I inform her. I can’t absolutely say her where I am going. She will create only problems.

“What? Have you taken the escort? When you come back? You know that we were supposed to go...”

“I know, I know, but...” I must immediately find an excuse, “I will be as quick as I can. It's an urgent business, I can't postpone. There is no need to disturb the escort.” So I believe.

“Okay, my darling. Call me as soon as you will be free.” and she put the phone down just in time.

Without a thought, he parked in the first free place near the entrance. I don't care if I will get a ticket or if my car will be towed, I must run. Yes. But, where? Where I have to go? On what floor? Who do I ask?

“Here you are!” I hear a familiar voice. I turn back to find the person and there he is. “Are you alone? And the escort?”

“Where is she? How is she? Is she alive?”

“Calm down. Come with me. I will take you to her” he said, putting his arms round my shoulders.

“You are risking your life. Let’s hope that nobody will recognize you”. I don’t care. We follow a corridor too long for my taste. Too long wait. Too long road separates me to see if she really feels good. My fingers are sweaty, the knees shake and the heart is racing at the thought of seeing her. For the first time, I feel inadequate.

I look in front of me waiting that this damned door will open. I swallow the lump. The doors open and my friend goes out while I remain still. I am not able to move, I am not able to step forward another corridor. I feel like dying. “Hey, let's go!” he said to me. My eyes are wet and the heart doesn’t want to slow down. I straighten the jacket and I follow him. This is my ritual that I do to calm down before a meeting with the big boss of other companies. But, it seems that it isn’t enough this time.

Two hundred, two hundred and one, two hundred and two, the nameplates on the doors show the room. Two hundred and nine, two hundred and ten. He stops in front of it. He turns towards me and he puts his hand on the handle. “Are you ready?” he whispers. I look him, wondering how he can think that I'm ready to see the condition the girl is. I nod while my fingers torture the ring on the pinky. I'm worried. I can't explain how it is possible.

He slowly opens the door and he goes in. I look around and, bowing my head, I cautiously follow him. A bed is in the middle of the room, and on it, there is the girl attached to some strange machines. Do they keep her alive? Are they helping her? Her arms are bandaged. Her face is unrecognisable. I can't believe it.

‘My baby, what happened to you?’

“How...How is she?” I slowly whisper. I'm afraid to wake her. I'm afraid to shock her if only she could see me here. I haven't seen her for years. We haven’t spoken for years, and maybe, she doesn’t even remember me.

“The doctor says well. But, until she recovers, he can’t say if she has some brain damage. She has lost a lot of blood and...”.

“I want to know all” I say while I severely look her. It is as if I expected it from her and not from my friend. I am not able to approach, I can't stroke her, I can't give her what she needs now.

‘Am I afraid of her?’.

It’s impossible that I am afraid of her.

“You must know all. After, we will ask to her doctor. Now, enjoy these moments, approach and give her all your comfort. She needs you.” My breath is fast but regular. I move a step towards her and my heart breaks for her more and more. I reduced her in these conditions. It is my fault if she is in these conditions. It is because of who I am and who she is, if she is here. I wasn't able to protect her.

My trembling hand brushes her busted face. I tilt my head and I look her incredulous. Who did this to you? You were so beautiful and now? Where are your blue eyes? Where is your beaming smile which illuminated every photo that I received?

“What is happening here?” a deep voice resounds in the room. I slowly turn back and I see a man in his 40s with a white coat which is looking us incredulous, motionless on the door. He scrutinizes every little detail.

“Andreas, he is her father” my friend says. He turns towards me “He is the doctor Andreas. We can trust him.” he looks again at the good doctor “Andreas, he is...”.

“It isn't important” he declares, interrupting the introductions with a very arrogant voice. What a cheek! I look the man who is scowling me. He comes in the room without looking away from me, and he locks the door behind him. What is he thinking? Does he know that I can kill him in a second?

He looks away, fixing his black eyes on the girl, and I feel him dwelling on the outlines of my tattoos, which make out over the sleeve of the jacket. Who doesn't see the letters on my knuckles, maybe only a blind person. Strangely, he doesn’t place much value on it, also if I know that he recognized me, otherwise, he would never dream of locking the door. I turn my attention to the girl. “It seems that she has lost her memory” he says leafing through the case sheet, completely indifferent. I imperceptibly shake the head. I can’t believe it. How much does he know about her? How much interest does he have for her? “She doesn't remember what it has happened to her. The brain usually uses this technique to defend itself. It forgets the trauma and the related things to...”

“Do you know something that it is written? Is there something that you know without read it?”

“Hey” my friend reprimands. He is the only one which can do it.

“No. You listen to me, two-bit good doctor. I can fire you when I want, if I will be mad. Now, let me know how she is, really” I growl, looking him in his dark eyes. I don't care. She is my priority, even if it doesn't look like this, so it’s better that he doesn’t make fun of me.

“I understand. Well, – he quietly closes the case sheet and he put it on the table behind him, he leans against the table and he folds his arms – do you see that bag? She has had a new transfusion because she lost so much blood that she miraculously is alive. She had some serious respiratory attacks and other not so important, for this reason, she is attached to the respirator, not to tire her above and beyond. She is here for two weeks and she didn't wake up until last night. She was vigilant for all day, but she didn’t recognize anybody in the room, not even the brother. Now, she is sedated because, on the contrary, she could have some uncontrollable reactions. We start again to feed her with the fluids because she refused every type of food. She is quite underweight for her age. Her brother is here, night and day and, before returning in the room to see how she is, I left him at the bar while he was drinking another coffee blaming himself for all, only because he is part of the clan. Except for the boy and him, – indicating my friend – nobody came. I can't say for sure how she is, because I wasn't able to visit her when she was vigilant considering that, when she did it, I wasn’t there, and they reported to me that she removed all cables and the fluids and she hid in the bathroom. Do you want to know more? Maybe, do you want to know what she hid under these bandages?” He seems cocky and this irritates me. I don't want to distract me. I want to think of her, that's all. I look her, I scrutinize her in every little detail to memorize it. I play with her skinny fingers, and I dwell on her forearms wisely bandaged. I see her red hands.

“She was abused...” my friend whispers. I look at his eyes and I can’t breathe. I close my eyes for the exasperation.

I'm sorry, baby girl. I'm sorry if you are paying the consequences of my choices, of my actions. I don't see a way out except... “Make sure that she will not remember what it is passed to her. Tell her... tell her that...”

“Nobody knows how things turned out. Her brother maintains that, before to attempt suicide, she got all these bruises. The dynamic isn’t clear” the doctor interrupts me. What? Is he joking? How can he believe a thing like that? I nod and I look at my friend. He nods as to confirm.

“You take care of it. Do everything you can to avoid that she will renter on it, or to avoid that they will discover who she is. You will change her registration name and you will move her.”.

“You know that...” he tries to say.

“Sem. Are your boys in the boys’ school, right? Also Sem is of yours, so, there, she will be safe” This is all that I have in my mind, in this moment.

“You know that...”

“I'm serious. I don't want that he or someone approaches to her except for Sem or someone that he considers reliable. He know what to do about this, and he knows her” I look at my friend and I want that he obeys me. He hesitates to do it, maybe because we aren’t alone, but I don’t have time to waste with his indecision. “Call him, now”.

Sighing, he takes the mobile and he calls the boy, which immediately answers.

“Sem, you must help me” his sighs get on my nerves “It’s about Danielle” my heart loses a beat. I never wanted to hear those words. “She will arrive in Birmingham and she will study in your school. I need you, I need your loyalty to keep an eye on her and to group some boys, which can help you about this. She must not realize anything, she must not get in touch with the clan, and she must not even know its existence”. He strangely looks away from me and he frowns. “Sem, she will not remember you”. The smile on his face becomes wide, it’s a sign that the boys accepted the task. “Perfect. I want a list of the trusted members, which will help you, and also a daily report about the situation”. I bend over the girl, kissing her on the forehead. “He accepted without problems”.

“I will protect you. Also, if I will not be near you, I will always be there. Don't bear a grudge if I will treat you badly or if I will try to send you away. I do it for you. You are an heiress, but you aren't ready for my world and my world isn't ready for you.” I stand up and I turn towards the man with the white coat. I have a little word also for him. “Nothing must happen to her, otherwise I make you forget how you walk. For her medical expenses, you must speak with him. I will pay everything and I will spare no expense...”

“Hey...” my friend intervenes.

“She must have the best treatment that this damned hospital is able to offer. Follow her through and through without her knowing. I don’t know, you must become her medical adviser, tell her something, whatever you think, to keep an eye on her.”

“We will arrange for all. Don't worry. Your friend will tell you all, once you will be calm. Now, if you don't want to meet the killing spree of your son, you better go. I won't say nothing.” I'm surprised and also reassured by this unexpected loyalty of the doctor. “You have my loyalty for what you did” he indicates the girl, “not you, because you knew, but you didn’t do anything” I look away, without understanding his words. I slowly look at my friend and I frown.

“Breenly. He is the father...” I look at him, incredulous. A tear streams down my face. I look down and I torture the inside of my cheeks.

“I’m indebted to you” I whisper in an audible way. So I believe. “Ask for everything and I...”

“I am just satisfied that you feel like that”. I don’t look at him, I don’t fix on him and I don’t shake his hand to initial the pact, but, in any case, I hope that he will not change his mind. “Now, you better go.” I nod and, without thinking about it, I go out from this room, too oppressive. My little baby is on that bed and, the only one near her is her brother.

Annie doesn’t bother to see how our daughter is. Damned woman, she abandoned our little bird in the care of our sons, which are slightly adolescent. I don’t know what she has.

I follow the corridor until the lift where a group of people speaks and I wait that the tin doors open. I have just enough time to sigh when someone goes out from the lift on the side. A boy with very short and blond hair, looking lost, and a consistent style. He is holding a coffee cup. I look at him, entranced. He doesn't notice me and, maybe it is for the best. I sigh and I go in the lift, resigned to have as the last image of my sons what I just saw. I open my eyes and I see him turn back and look towards me with quizzical eyes. A lady is in front of me, blocking out his view and preventing him from seeing me.

“Son, really, it's for the best.”

Chapter 1

Simply us

- Frankley, Worcestershire

DANIELLE

“Flea” my brother Jackson whispers in my ear. The head is weighted for the consecutive sleepless nights, “wake up”. I have been awake for twelve days and twelve nights, to be exact. Basically, from the moment I returned to Oxford where I was until now. But, he doesn't know this.

“You under the weather. Even if you have slept, it seems that you don't do it enough.” He rubs his hand on my thigh in an effort to comfort me. I'm afraid, but he doesn't know it.

Today, it is a special day for us. The one of the move.

He smiles at me as soon as I stop to look out into the air and I look at his forehead. He thinks that I'm looking into his eyes. But, it isn't. I close again my eyes, make him think that I need another five minutes of rest.

I should be a little girl, sunny-natured enough, so I believe I was once. I don't know, it is a feeling. Now, I am a burden.

“Where are your beautiful and sky-blue eyes? Can I see them? Can I see mine?”

Tired, I open my eyes. To satisfy him and so he'd leave me alone. I clumsily move on the bed. Some bones are visible above and beyond. Some bones stick out a bit too much, and it seems that they aren’t covered. Like me, I'm nothing. I don't remember what I was. Or nearly. He lifts me, he helps me to sit and he put his hands on my face, framing it.

“Today, we start a new life, do you want? Today, I would like that you could put all behind you and you start all over again. There isn't a better way to start again as a move. Do you promise?” I can't say to have nodded or to have mumbled as approval, but maybe the sigh was enough for him. He says it since I came back home from the hospital. It's easy for him. He hasn't lost the memory and he isn't afraid to sleep for fear of the nightmares.

I don’t move back and I don’t look while he remove the pyjamas, and he starts to change my bandages touching the white skin of the arms that now it is very sensible. I don’t know what there is under these bandages and I don’t want to know it. He puts on his sweatshirt of the school and the shorts. “I have packed all.” He laces up the usual white sneakers of Adidas and he rubs his hands on my calf. He raises his head and he looks at my face. He stands up and he puts his hands on my long brown hair, tying them up in an irritable thing, being careful to include the locks attached to the face. I hate the hair up. “I hope that as I prepared you, it’s fine for you.” he smiles. More I'm covered and it's better. With a perpetual smile on his lips, he helps me to stand up and he takes me out of the room of this flat, now too little for four people. I don't even remember these walls. I don’t even remember if there is another room behind that door or if it is a wardrobe.

“Here are the cereals, hurry up. We are late thanks to you.” my mother says good morning to me, as usual. Well, I believe that's her.

“Did you get all? It's no that we must go back to search your things?” Mark asks not gently. My other brother.

Mark and Jackson are twin and they are senior to me by six years. I know it because he is identical to Jackson or Jay as I call him. I believe that they are twin, and as I understand, they are approximately 20 years old.

“Shut up, we have gotten all” Jackson reprimands him with an irritated voice. He packed all for me.

They are both fair-haired and with blue eyes with some green colour. Tall and toned. Both full of girls which go mad for them. It is what I remember, at least.

“I didn't ask to you. She has a tongue and she learned to speak for years. You aren't her lawyer.” I think that he does it only to provoke my reaction. I doubt that he will obtain it.

“Stop bothering her!” Jay is exasperated while he holds the spoon in mid-air in the vain to make me eat. I don't want. I haven't eaten for a few days, I don't remember how long.

“Shut up both. And start to put the things into the car. The rest will be on the truck. If it will not remain here.” Annie continues to pack the things while she speaks.

“I have just put my things into the car. I don't take her things.” Mark puffs, pointing the finger towards me. “Jay, stop acting like that! Before we put into the car, and before we will be on the way.” my mother complains, pointing a candle towards him. Mark puffs and he rolls his eyes.

Annie, my mother, has difficulty to recognize them, several times she called one with the name of the other one. They are completely identical for her, without differences, for her, it’s only important to keep up with her boyfriend, instead to dedicate the time to her sons.

“I'm Mark. Jackson is the twerp there.” he indicates with scorn the brother. Jay was able to make me eat a couple of scoops of these coloured cereals, at least. They have a disgusting taste with the milk. They taste of cardboard.

“You are always complaining, I don't think that we ask you to do absurd things” Jay springs, bringing the cup and taking it to the sink. With few but clean movements, he rinses it and put it away in the box.

“Yes, I am complaining because I don't want to be compared to you, considering that you are throwing away to keep up with her, you don’t even register to the college”.

“It isn't your business what I do, understand? She is my sister, and she needs us, and I don’t understand why you behave like that” I don't want that they quarrel. It isn't nice when they do it. It isn't nice when they don't talk after a quarrel.

“She is able to look after herself, and honestly, I’m the one that doesn’t understand why she behaves like that. What does she think to obtain? But, then, why am I still speaking with you?” Mark snorts.

Mark cuts his brother a little slack which is more intent to follow me instead of continuing the usual squabble.

“Do you want to say goodbye to Anna? She should be home.” My big brother is very devoted.

The only positive thing about this district is the neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Lenard, two old people, very lively and modern, in their 70s, which were like the grandparents for us, ensuring for our survival on several occasions. How can I forget these courtesy?

“They went to the mall. They won't be back until lunch. But, we will be long gone from here.” Annie says.

“What? Did you say that we are leaving, I hope? Have you given to them the new address?” Jackson tells her off.

“Did you remember that we planned to escape without their knowledge? It's part of the witness protection program in which we are because of her.” Mark intervenes which wins a dirty look from Jackson. Mark likes to try the patience of his brother.

“Don't listen to him. You know that we are moving for the work of our mother.”

Apparently, Annie has received a letter of engagement for a vacant post as a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Medical Center in Birmingham, and she was politely begged to go on duty asap in that structure. “And because my new school is too far for you” Of course, the same school of my brothers has strangely accepted my request for inclusion that I have never filled out and sent, also if Jay maintains the opposite.

“You will see that you will be fine in my school. You will be able to make new friends. Look at this as a new beginning.” In fact, Jackson considers all as an act of faith. He repeats that it is a positive spin for me. He repeated for the entire morning that it is a beautiful thing. Maybe so, but I'm not ready to return to the school, also if the school is another, nothing changes for me if I can’t remember who I was, I don’t even know if I am able to write or read.

“Sure! Everyone wants to be one of her friends. They will fight to sit near her in the canteen. They will quarrel to speak with her and maybe, to go to the prom with her. Like she's the most popular girl in the universe.” Mark moans. He shakes his head as if he wants to overcome the idea a social me. He has always spoken of this “opportunity” in a more worrying and strange way. He says that we are a family included in the protection program since I was born because our father John is a true member of the Mafia, leader of a very influential clan, and for this reason, he has a lot of enemies all around the world. This is the reason why I was in the hospital. He says that I stamped the feet of someone to which I didn't.

He maintains that Vincent, the eternal boyfriend of our mother, is a secret agent dressed as a policeman hired by John in order to watch over us, for our protection. Basically, we have been discovered because of my ‘stunts’.

What have I done? I don't remember anything.

He adds also that from now I must forget my true name and my new name is Kelly Mand. When he talks nonsense, Jay flies into a rage. “Let's go.” he puts his strong hands on my shoulders, gripping them slowly.

Resigned, he helps me to stand up from this chair and he drags me out of the flat. “We sit in the back, okay?” he whispers, putting his arm on my shoulders. I get into the car without problems. Jay will be always with me, to protect me and this cheers me up.

From now, it will be all new, new house, new school, new friends, but new neighbours above all. Will I have to explain all to everyone or will I start all over again and nothing else? Will I miss the Lenards? “What's going on?” Jackson sweetly whispers, drawing my attention. “Do you have other memories?” I look at him, dazed. Memories? Oh, certainly no. His forehead is corrugated and it doesn't exactly mesh with him. I close my eyes and, when I open them, I look at him. For the first time in months, I look at him and I smile at him. They shake the head before to look away and to see the houses which run.

I don't remember anything for him. For him, my mind has cancelled every memory to get me to react. The best thing for him is to believe that I don't remember anything, I can’t tell him the true about the flashback and about the nightmares, which persecute me.

“Are you sure? You seem too thoughtful” he whispers again. This time, he puts his hand on my knee and he grips it. A shiver, the first, goes down my back. I half-closed my eyes and I nod again. “Leave her alone. She lives in her own world of which we don't belong to.” Mark sniggers while he is sitting in the driver's seat. I see his disgusted look while he looks at me from the rear-view mirror. Mum is before me.

“I'm not speaking with you, so please don't open your big mouth.” This is what I was able to create. Or to destroy. Mark and Jackson always quarrel because of me.

Chapter 2

A new life

DANIELLE

It's not long before we stop in front of a house. Yet, a home and not a flat in a building in a poor state of repair. My eyes lit up with that sight. I don't believe it.

The house is big and wonderful, it seems that it emits its own light, in a perfect Georgian style, with a lot of windows and an important entrance to which it is possible to enter from a cemented alley, big enough to park two or three cars and surrounded by a groomed English garden.

I'm excited to begin a new life, in any way it will be.

I'm determined. I agree with Jay, I want to change and to start again from this house. I get out of the car by myself and I stop to watch this wonderful house. So perfect, so playing house, and we aren't this.

While I was lost in my thoughts, I don't see that the guys are starting to take the boxes in the house, until Mark intentionally strikes me on the shoulder with his one.

“Hurry up, help us out here, on the contrary your things will be taken away from the van, I don't unload it.” he says while he is going towards the entrance. 'Mark, but what I have done to you? Please, explain me this because I don’t understand'.

I take a deep breath and I put the rucksack at the entrance. Without a fuss, I help to unload that enormous van filled with boxes with our names written on them with the black permanent marker, full of every type of memories. Wonderful, bad and empty also, in my case.

Jay smiles when he sees me with a box in my hands. Yes, big brother, I will do as you say to me. Or I will try to do it with every part of me, at least.

Going out, to take a new box and bringing it in my bedroom, I look at the house in front of our own.

It is too majestic for this district.

It is more wonderful and big of our house. There can live only a billionaire or something, for sure. It is a castle in miniature instead of a house. The money isn't a problem for the owners, for sure.

The main side is made of stone and brick, very rustic, the entrance was in the middle. Eight big windows, four on the first floor and four on the ground floor. There is only one word to describe it.

WONDERFUL.

I frown and I squint because the reflection on one of those windows on the ground floor makes me believe that there is a person which is spying on us. My paranoia does also this. It makes me believe things which don't exist. “Dan, hurry up.” Mark reprimands me.

RICHARD

“No, he says to her that she does and she has insisted on this fact. I will do it.” The Sarah's voice fills my brain with a lot of stupid things. I don't care about my romantic life, never mind the one of others, especially if it concerns that dumb-ass of her brother. “How could anybody do that? I don't know what is going through the mind of Sophia.”

Some noises from the street distract me from my thought about how get rid of the girl and to study before to go out. I indolently go to the windows and I peek.

'What's going on?'

I think while I immediately open my eyes wide to the sight. Oh no, the neighbours' house was rented or sold and I don't know it.

'Shit.'

Without thinking, I hang up. I will suffer the consequences later.

The curtain acts as a shield and I hope that they don't see me, considering the absurd transparency. I can see an enormous moving van with some guys which unload the boxes from its inside.

'Well, two boys, they could be gay, who can move in that house...a magnet for troubles?'

On the outside, I believe that they are nineteen years old. Yes, I don't think that they are older. Both tall and well structured, noble and calm bearing, apparently. Unfortunately, I can’t see their faces, they are too distant, but they seem enough… yes, well, enough familiar. As if I know them.

I erect the back and I become more serious seeing that a pathetic little girl tries to help them. It makes me smile from how it is funny.

I believe that she has the same age of my sister, yes and no. She has a ridiculous look. She wears a cap, a long-sleeved sweatshirt too wide which arrives under the bottom covering the shorts of jeans, making it seem like she doesn't wear them. Her light brown hair is up in a sort of ponytail, in a slovenly way, and it pops out of the cap with the name of my school. Does she attend? Or will she attend? In any case, I have a further information. Oh my god, what a minger!

“Hey, what are you doing? What are you controlling?” my sister asks. “Shh.” and I signal to shut up. As if her insolent voice could attract the attention of those strangers. By an amazing coincidence, the girl stops and looks towards my direction. Damn.

“Are you spying the new neighbours? These make them 'last', not as the previous ones that you made them run.” she says, going upstairs. She is irritating, as usual. She can't do anything else in her pathetic life except to be irritating and constantly... tiresome.

“What are you doing at the window?” my father suddenly whispers in my ear, making me jump for the fear. He looks through the window. “The new neighbours? Wow, let’s not escape also them, ok? I don’t want to settle again your troubles.” he continues, giving a pat on the shoulder, before to go towards the kitchen.

I don’t know why everybody thinks that the old neighbours ‘escaped’ because of me. Things didn’t work out as they were told.

It wasn’t my fault if the stupid daughter’s boyfriend gets his hands on her, only because she gave me extra lessons of history.

It isn’t my fault if I came between them to protect Jennifer, enough to come to blows with her boyfriend, and almost killed him, even if he was bigger than me, and it isn’t absolutely my fault if I accidentally felt in love with her (if it was an error), and if we jumped into bed, it isn’t my fault if accidentally… well… now that I think about, maybe… oh, things need to be in two…

Well, after the parents had the brilliant idea to move, taking their daughter as far as possible from me. But this is another history.

“Hands off my curtains, if you want to look out, go out!” my mother screams from the stairs.

‘For heaven’s sake, how can she see me from there?’

The fanatic of the order in the house is going down. She catches me up with long strides, and she places beside me. “Don’t you know that the new neighbours would come today? Strange, you always know everything. Ah, by the way, let’s no escape also them. You better be when we will go to know them.” she continues to rage at.

‘Count on it.’

Is it possible that someone minds his own business in this damn house?

Resigned and tired, I go in my bedroom to finish to prepare myself. I am late in any case.

Bye bye study, my head is somewhere else at this moment.

Chapter 3

The new neighbours

DANIELLE

At the end of the day, everything is okay, now that we have our bedrooms, while I am hungry and considering that in the pantry there is only milk and the cereals for the breakfast, we opt for the pizza.

Also if we make it very often, I want to say that we eat the cereals for dinner.

“PIZZAAAAA!!!” Jay exclaims like he won something, but he is like that, he gets excited for nothing.

He orders the two maxi pizza stuffed to no end, and he is able to flirt with the girl on the phone.

“Five minutes? Oh, you are a treasure. I will come by. Maybe we will have a drink.” he falsely smiles and he winks. With calm, he places on the sofa, dragging me. Oh, how much I love these moments. All together as a true family.

Jay’s arm holds me in an infinite hug. “Yes, honey. We will see you. Thanks for your kindness.” and he hangs up. I look at him, admired. How can he be regardless of everything without problems? How can he tolerate everything? How can he tolerate me?

“Will you eat the pizza, right?” I whisper, joining his forehead with my temple.

“You need a good and hot shower.” I say. These are my first words from months, but they are well-spent.

He pouts and with a jump, he takes the cushion, hitting me.

“Insolent young. However, it’s better that you remember the summer courses at school. You will achieve great advances, considering the change and the absence.” he replies. As if they are useful to fill the gap of those were before.

“I love you Jay.” I say, crouching down in his harms. I feel that he is smiling, I feel that he is happy for my change. From now, I want that my life is more easy.

“Are you fine?” he whispers between my hair. I limit to nod. More than fine, I’m okay.

“Everybody scoot, a little scoot down. The sofa isn’t only yours.” Mark interferes, hurling between us before to turn on the TV. The doorbell rings and it interrupts our false harmony.

“Is the pizza just here? Wow! Not at all, ‘Pizza Express’.” Jackson grumbles, amazed. He is hungry, his grumbling belly confirms it, and he can’t wait to eat. He stands up, he opens the door and he is taken back when he sees three people in front of him, instead of the errand boy. He turns towards us, frowning, only for a few seconds. He looks at Mark and he slightly nods before to look at me. His breathing is strangely rapid. Also, the one of Mark. He doesn’t bear my look and he turns towards the people, which rang the doorbell.

‘Why did they have this reaction?’

I appear at the door and I see a middle-aged man, beautiful, distinguished, clean-cut, in a suit, with the light amber skin tone, attractive brown eyes and black hair, but slightly greying, he isn’t English for sure, but he comes from a region of the Mediterranean or thereabouts. By his side, there is a blond woman, a coiffed ‘bowl’ haircut, bright sky-blue eyes, dressed with a navy blue jogging suit but elegant in any case. Her skin tone is light rosy. Typically English, I can say. There is also a little girl which is similar to the father. Same eyes, same black hair and same skin. She fashionably wears a blue-and-white-striped dress, navy style.

As soon as I look at her, a chill goes down my back. A flash happens before my eyes, making me lose the sight. Why? I turn up my nose and I wink, hoping to recover immediately the sight. “Hi, we are the Breenlys, your neighbours. We welcome you on behalf of the entire neighbourhood in our district. Considering that you just moved, we have taken the famous lasagne of my wife. By the way, my name is Andreas, she is my loved wife Lisa, and she is Linda. Our son is missing, he isn’t with us at the moment.” the distinguished man says, standing at the door of the house. His smile is dazzling and… scary.

“Who knows!” Mark whispers, making me smile lightly. Honestly, it seems that we have just entered into one of those religious communities. Or in a district as ‘Desperate Housewives’ where everybody knows everything, but nobody minds his own business.

They are the perfect copy of the perfect family, so happy to make everybody envious, and disgusting for someone. For example, me.

My eyes stare the little girl. She looks familiar. I think I have already seen her before. But, where? She realizes that I’m looking at her, and she imitates me. Her eyes stare my eyes, and she lovingly smiles. I don’t understand, why is she so familiar to me? Why don’t I remember her? Why can’t I look away? Why am I so attracted by her person?

“Mum, there are the neighbours. And they are terribly candy, they give us diabetes only to see them, but they have a pan of hot lasagne, and I’m hungry. Very hungry. What do I do?” Jackson says with a disappointed voice, but willing to eat that lasagne.

Everybody is quite embarrassed for his words, but neither Mark nor me, we move to stop him. We are very amused to see him appearing ridiculous.

Mum quickly runs to the door to stop the destructive hurry caused by Jackson’s hunger and she pushes him away.

“The pleasure is all ours. We are sorry, but we are waiting the pizza. In any case, if you don’t mind the disorder, and you want to come in, please. In this way, we know each other better.” mum says while she is trying to push away the one meter and ninety of muscle of her son. A scene makes more funny by Mark’s comments.

The only adult person of the house has just invited the winners of the competition “The best family of the year” to come in. Damn, they can be serial killers, and they can eat their victims after killing them, cooking them and serving them to new neighbours, unaware of their hobbies, in the form of lasagne. In any case, I will not eat that lasagne.

The woman is the first to enter and mum immediately embraces her. The girl joins the mother, but she doesn’t exposes herself for an embrace, she limits to the handshake. The man moves some steps, trying to reach the wife, but he inexplicably stops next to Jay. He stares at me and he closes the jaw. My brother slightly looks down and he nods before continuing towards his wife.

The little, which calls Linda if I remember well, sits on the armchair near the sofa.

She only makes questions and questions, as if she is curious to know everything about us. Obviously, Jay answers because I don’t want. She doesn’t stop to talk us, but I am too busy trying to remember her and I don’t listen her.

“I’m glad that you are 17 like me, and that we will attend the same classroom” she says. What? Did he tell her also this?

“She will turn 17 on July” Jay reveals “Instead, your birthday is in September, if I understand well”.

I don’t even look at her, I keep my eyes down not to attract her attention, even more than those she just has for me. I can result an unsociable person, but I don’t care.

“The oldest usually don’t get to know the freshers, and not even with the newcomers. Unless there are tall, blond and curvy girls, and more importantly, if they are a cheerleader or if they do something memorable.” Jay answers with an amused voice, I don’t know about what question.

I ear that she is offering to take me to the school every single day when the lessons will start. But I don’t answer at her, Jackson does it on behalf of me, and thinking to do me a favour, he accepts with a lot of manners.

With the corner of the eye, I see the man, Linda’s father, which is starring me. He is up between the two women, which are talking about something, and I bet that he doesn’t even know. I turn to better look at him. His black eyes are on me, and his look is too serious and threatening. What does he want from me? Why is he looking at me in this way? His look hypnotizes me.

What I have heard between a silence and the next one, it is that the man, Andreas Breenly, is a famous and esteemed chief of the big hospital in Birmingham. Nothing less than the Queen Elizabeth.

The wife Lisa is the prosecutor of the town instead. All things pass on her eyes, and they must have her approval. In other words, he doesn’t miss nothing.

So, it is partially explained our presence in that town. So I believe. And everything matches with my theory. ‘They are serial killers and they have chosen their next victims, making them come near at them.’

It’s explained the reason of the gigantic house.

I don’t know these people, honestly, the last thing I want is to know them and be accepted by them.

“What do you do with a long-sleeved T-shirt in the middle of the summer?” Linda suddenly asks to me. PANIC!

“Nothing – I snap, terrified – I hate the short sleeves and the tank tops”

answer to her, throwing a terrified look to Jay. I pull even more the edges of the sleeves, to grip them in the fists. I feel ill at ease.

“Ah, I believed that you were hiding something, I don’t know, like a baby bump.” she laughs, breathing a sigh of relief, and sitting down well on the sofa. “Don’t worry, it was only to attract your attention” I look at her, perplexed. But, what the devil?

“Danielle pregnant? Don’t make me laugh. She doesn’t even know how some men’s parts are, imagine if someone has the courage or, the decency to get her pregnant. It’s more likely that an asteroid hits us.” Mark says, trying to laugh.

To his claim, we get caught. Jay looks him, incredulous. Mark, from laughing, has preferred to abandon the sofa.

She isn’t no more interested to ask questions about my obsessions to use the long sleeves. It was enough to have the confirmation that I’m not pregnant. Whose then? I don’t even know if I have never had a boyfriend, no one told me about that.

The doorbell repeatedly rings, interrupting the different discussions.

“Pizzaaaaa!!! At last” Jackson screams once again.

“Don’t scream it, maybe they are other neighbours.” Mark softly answers, appearing from the kitchen.

The girl smiles for Jackson’s exclamation, without hearing Mark’s comment.

Jay goes to open, and he discovers with great pleasure that there is the pizza guy. Hurrah! We eat, assuming the neighbours will leave. I hate to eat with people that I don’t know. I’m afraid to be judged also about this.

“We were delighted to know you, I’m happy that our paths crossed in some way, someone with the school and someone with the work. I hope that you will accept a dinner invitation at our house one of these saturdays.” Andreas says while he goes towards the door at last.

But, before to go out and close the door, he turns back to look at me. He smiles as he is proud of something. The look is sweet this time, almost fatherly. I don’t understand him.

“It was nice knowing you” he repeats. My mother separates our eyes, which closes the door before that the man could go down the mat.

When he finally closes the door, everybody whispers, and I mean everybody. It wasn’t a planned thing, I swear, but it was natural.

We don’t waste time, and we rush to the pizzas, eating everything, until the last crumb. Well, I’m successful to eat an entire slice. It was good.

“Do you know what you need?” Jay asks while he is chewing, “a beautiful photo. To capture our new beginning. For a good luck.” he continues.

“You and your ‘good luck’. They are always bad news.” Mark answers to him.

“What are you speaking about?”

“You have done a ‘good luck’ for every school year, and it always went wrong. You have done another one for the day of the driving licence, and you almost hit an old lady which was crossing the street on the zebra crossing and with the green traffic lights. Not to mention the one you have done for the graduation day.” he starts to list.

“Okay, okay, okay. You convinced me. So, how can we call it? Like, new life and that’s all?”.

“Photo?” Mark says with an obvious voice.

“No, too banal. It would take more...more… personality.”

“I got it! Painting with oil and tomato” Mark teases him, drawing a semicircle with the hand, and indicating the brother’s T-shirt.

Just to underline this pathetic thing.

“It’s your… ‘Oops, I’m too snob to eat with my hands’ it would be better” Jackson answers.

“I could be a snob, but I don’t transform the table in a battlefield, at least.” he says, “Pathetic”.

“Mum, Mark called me pathetic” he moans with a child’s voice.

“Mum, Mark called me pathetic” he perfectly imitates him.

“Cut it out, you two. You will make me crazy.” she tries to stop them, but not before that they show their big mouths each other.

Chapter 4

The school

RICHARD

Like every night in this period, I’m at a party. I’m peacefully sitting on an armchair of the master of the house, admiring the scene of these boys whose are playing beer-pong, when someone puts her arms on my neck, bringing near me and starting to kiss.

“I have a surprise for you.” she slightly whispers.

“I’m not interested” I sharply answer. I’m too busy to bet against myself about who will be the first to give in of these guys.

“Do you know who is returned in the town?” she continues, rubbing her nose against my jaw in a vain attempt to tease me.

“Who?”

“The Brown brothers.” my heart froze at those words, even if it is just cold. I put my hands on her arms and I pull her in front of me, sitting her on my legs. “It’s official, today Mark was at us. You know that Kevin is his best friend.” My eyes are on her. Fixed, hard and constantly lifeless. “And the little Brown will attend our school. Can you imagine? It will be...”.

“Unreal. She can’t be in that school.”

“Yes, she does. Also her brothers attended that school, and like them, she could...”

“To enter in the clan? No way. We have enough people here, and we don’t need an insolent little girl which maybe is afraid of her shadow, or considering the position, she could require to command.”

“They say that she is a tough girl. I didn’t know her, Mark don’t want. But now...Come on, my love” she puts again her arms on my neck, and she brings to my lips. “So you could revenge.” Her sweet and swollen lips are on mine, and they move with an exasperating rhythm. “You are not going to let her in, but Adam could do it. Just tell him that he must protect her, and he will believe it without problems.”

“It isn’t as you want, they must decide if they want to let her in. I have nothing of revenge to take with them. Unlike you.” I snap, gripping her neck. I take her away from my face.

“Stay with me, you must protect my honour.”

“Your honour?” I puff with a laugh, “Your honour doesn’t exist for a long time.”

“You’re nobody.”

“Don’t forget, you were able to enter only because you are Kevin’s sister and he is a big deal”. “I’m with you, and I’m here also for this reason.” she adds. “Believe me, it’s only because you are his sister that you are with me, nothing more.” I burst. She indolently smiles. Of course, what did she believe? The feelings that I felt at the beginning, now they are absent to make way for the routine. Or saying it dirty, a sure fuck.

“And you, only because you get in bed the sister of an important person, which is me. On the contrary, you will be nobody.” My eyes go on her lips for the anger.

“Believe me, it’s always because you are his sister that you can jump on my dick.” She challenges the force of my hand, reducing to zero the distances, dedicating to one of her hot kisses that I appreciate to receive. She straddles and she starts to move like when she wants something more. I like it, deep down, she is really capable to give pleasure. I grip her bottom, making her take the right position to obtain some common benefit. Damn clothes, if only…

Someone coughs, trying to attract our attention.

“What do you want?” she snaps as soon as she moves away. I move aside and I seem Sem, which is up and stares us with the arms crossed.

“From you nothing, I want him.” he indicates me with his cocky way, as usual.

“Don’t you see that he is busy?”

“Must I say to your brother that you do on his armchair?” he threats her.

Inside me, I’m laughing so much. He is always able to make her angry, and it is really amusing. I smile while she is shooting me with her eyes.

“I’m sorry, baby.” I whisper to her, amused. She indolently lets me go. “What’s the matter?” I ask once I reached my friend. “Not here, let’s go somewhere.” and so, we take his car and we go to the Ken’s pub or, as he says, in a neutral place where the walls haven’t ears.

“What’s the matter?” I want to know once we sit at the table. He dragged me away from that boring party, and from that situation became interesting.

The hot barmaid takes two usual Americans to us. And as usual, she visibly winks at me, and she bits her lips while she is giving me my glass. Only when Sem coughs, the girl looks away and leaves. Can’t help if girls find me irresistible?

“I think that you heard that The Brown returned in the town.” he murmurs after taking a sip. Also him with that history.

“Yes.”

“The sister will attend our school.”

“Yes, but so what?”

“Well, I have a proposal for you.” he says. Oh my God.

“What kind of proposal?” I falsely smile. What is he thinking?

“We must keep away the guys of the Clan from her, as far away as possible. We must keep her away from the clan. She will not know that we will be here to protect her, and she will not know that we are part of the Clan.” he approaches to the table and he puts his elbows on it. Good, we will not have something to do with her, but we must protect her, and we must not hesitate in acting. What a strange situation.

“What makes you think...”

“Oh be sure, you will do it, Richard. Just take it as an order.” he smiles, interrupting me. Then, he sits well on the chair.

“As you know, my dear, I’m in a stalemate. I haven’t a leader to answer or to take orders. I’m in the clan only because I bang Sarah. You said it yourself that...”

“Shut up for once” I hate to be interrupted. Especially in the case of someone in the Clan which is nobody. I take the straws to my lips, like this doesn’t even affect me. On the contrary, his demands are irritating me. I calm down and I imitate him, assuming his same position.

“What makes you think I will not want to separate her from the pants? On second thought, she is the sister of...”

“Oh, come one, you will be so disgustingly greedy? Isn’t enough your position? Wasn’t enough to take away Sarah from Wood? To say nothing about the person which lets you in.” he sniggers.

“So, what do I get? I don’t want to keep up with an insolent little girl, if I can’t do what I want with her. But, if the juice is worth the squeeze, I could put aside that thought.” He uproariously laughs, shocking me.

“Assuming that Kevin lets you do that. To my knowledge, he is jealous of his sister, and he could cut your penis.”

“Assuming that he will know it.”

Sem, with his tenacity, cockiness and cold mind, he is known for his extraordinary tactics, he obliges me to keep up with a little girl that I don’t know. She will show off, for sure. Him, with his false indifference for the Clan, he is revealing one of the most active and informed. He stretches forward, and staring me, he says “As I let you in, I can let you out without you know it. As I let you do what you wanted in the Clan, I have covered your ass countless times, I can fall the charges on you and I can have you thrown into prison, and throw away the key. As I have protected you, I can get you into trouble. Don’t underrate me, Richard, I could be pitiless if I want. Decide, or you are with me and everything will be fine, or prepare yourself for the war.”

***

DANIELLE

It’s morning and I have to go to the school to take the books and the hour. Alone. Mum, after leaving me there, must go to work.

The school is big, too big for my opinion, and as soon as I enter, that size disappears to create space for narrow and oppressive corridors, full of drawings, photos and medals. I must find the library, I go forward the corridor, and I put the earphones in my ears. I try not to think how much everything is strange. A school which offers to let me in, where the only way to do it is the selection through the admission test delivered in time, or to have a QI over the limit, or a bank account over the normality. Obviously, all things that I haven’t.

With conviction, I turn the corner and I literally collide with a boy which was running, for sure. Due to the knock, I fall down with the bottom, and the sheets in my hands scatter everywhere. He takes the hit in a different way. He managed to keep standing.

Even children know that he can’t run in the corridors, but where he is coming from? Why didn’t I hear him? Ah yes, the earphones. This idiot has the complexion of a light amber colour and black hair hidden with a cap which strategically covers the face. He is dressed with loose jeans and a black T-shirt almost tight-fitting. His eyes are of a dark brown colour, really wonderful. In other occasions, I could give him the finger, I believe, the old me would have done. Another flash hits my eyes, making me wring them out.

When I regain the sight, I look up towards him, and an inexplicable fear hits me. I quickly stand up, and I open my eyes wide. I am out of breath, and I am afraid, too afraid. Why?

RICHARD