• Prologue: The Dream
    Chapter 1

    I awoke to the sound of the monotonous ringing of my old-school alarm clock. In one swift movement, I pulled my arm over and smashed my palm down on the off button. I lay there for a few minutes, thinking over everything new that happened in my reoccurring dream last night.

    “Who was that guy?” I could still feel the tingling sensation in my lips right before he went to kiss me. Or at least that's what I thought he was going to do. But I didn't want to linger on it for too long. After all, it was just a dream, and one that I was used to by now. The one about my family's death, or so I presumed. There wasn't much I remembered about that night, if I remembered anything at all.

    My family mysteriously “disappeared” when I was about eight years old. After a nearby walker found me asleep in some London park, the police assumed that my parents had abandoned me. There was apparently no one at the house either. It had been completely forsaken, and it was obvious that they had planned to leave and never return.

    But the weirdest part is that when I woke up, I didn't remember anything at all about my family. Not their faces. Not their names. I was eight years old and couldn't remember a thing about anything that had happened before the day I had awoken. At first, I didn’t even know where I was from until the police informed me. That was one of the few bits of information they revealed. And still today, I'm not sure why they decided to send me to the States.

    An orphanage in Chicago, Illinois. I remember being so confused and lost. But not frightened. Not in the least bit. And the worst part is...I can't even remember feeling sad about my family's disappearance. My family's! I've always thought that I'm a horrible person for those missing feelings.

    Ugh, I hate even thinking about it now.
    But I found happiness in the orphanage. I had a family there. Friends. A life that I knew I'd never had...despite the fact that I couldn't remember. However, when I turned eleven I was adopted by the Roberts. They weren't a very young couple—mid-thirties maybe—and because of their jobs, they were always gone off on long business trips. But since I was already in my tweens, the odds of anyone adopting me were slim to none; so the Orphanage figured it was the best thing for me. And I wasn't going to argue. The Roberts were great people. Besides, most of my friends had already been adopted, and there was no way I was going to spend any more time there alone. But it's been about seven years now since I moved in with the Roberts, and I really couldn't be happier. Well...in general.

    I threw the blankets off me unenthusiastically and stretched my arms as high as I could in the air, a pleasurable numbing sensation coursing its way through my limbs.
    “Happy birthday, Kida!” I shouted ardently to myself. After all there was no one else to greet me on this fine day. Yes, a fine day it was.

    My eighteenth birthday.
    I forced myself out of bed and dragged my feet over to the vanity table. “So how does it feel?” I asked myself curiously. I considered the question thoughtfully—after spending a lot of time alone in a huge house, I'd become accustomed to talking to myself.

    Do I feel any different?
    “No, not really.” I twisted my body side to side, examining my eighteen year old figure. I winced as I realized that I still looked like I was fifteen.

    “Nope...don't feel any different at all,” I said resentfully.
    As my eyes lingered upward, I noticed a small red swell located just below the hairline on my forehead. “Great! Another pimple.” I squeezed it lightly. “Yup, that's going to look just perfect by the end of day.” I pursed my lips bitterly at the thought and turned around to my closet.

    A t-shirt and some jeans always did the job. I examined myself once more in the mirror after getting dressed, just to make certain that I hadn't changed any. But it was still the same, odd-looking girl staring back at me. I was thin...not too thin...but thin enough to have barely any curve. I resented the fact that most of the girls in my class could fill out a bra and could wear tight shirts that showed off their curvy waste. I wanted to be sexy, voluptuous, but the girl staring back at me wasn't my ideal of sexy. The alien girl from Mars was more fitting. My facial features were incredibly striking and prominent. High cheekbones, narrow eyes, and plump lips. And I was, however, very proud of my long brown hair, made full by a subtle wave.

    I’ve always tried not to wear a lot of make-up in an attempt to seem more subtle, but unfortunately attention was unavoidable considering I was fairly well known in my hometown of Pleasant Hill. Well as much of a home town as I'd ever known. And this meant...lots of “Happy Birthday!”'s. It was a nice town, though. Everything was so flat and close together, it made it fairly convenient for me to walk to different places, especially since I didn't have a car. And I liked the fact that everybody knew everybody. The only bad thing I could say about the town was that nothing really interesting ever happened. Sure there were parties and other family functions, but those things are hard to participate in when your family isn't present.

    I slung my backpack over my shoulder and skipped down the stairs.
    The house, or the “prison” as I liked to call it, was big—but not too big. Compared to some of the other houses around the neighborhood, it could be considered a small apartment. It was always so empty and depressing that most of the time, I was either spending my time at work or at a friend's house. Anything but staying home alone. For some odd reason, ever since the incident with my parents, I was sort of paranoid of staying home by myself. It was hard for me to sleep at night, and I often found myself checking closets and other rooms for anything suspicious...instinct I suppose.

    I jumped off the last step and landed solidly on both of my feet. “A cake!?” Of course there wasn't a cake, but it was nice to imagine. Chocolate icing with vanilla! I moaned at the mental picture forming in my head, and the only antidote I could give my watering mouth was a Hostess Twinkie. I've always had a special craving for sweets. Sometimes that was all I could think about. Fortunately my metabolism is fast enough to keep up with my growing appetite; otherwise I'd be the size of an immature elephant.

    I grabbed a cereal bar from the near empty pantry—which reminded me that I needed to do some grocery shopping after school—and picked my house key up off the coffee table before walking outside. After locking the door behind me, I could see the tops of some white envelopes protruding from the top of the small mailbox at the end of the driveway. I'd forgotten to pick up the mail yesterday after school. “Presents?! You shouldn't have,” I said sarcastically.

    I reluctantly began to pick through the mail and noticed a small pink envelope postmarked for myself. I figured it was from the Roberts. Inside was a birthday card in Spanish—that's where they were for their trip.

    Feliz cumpleonos, seniorita!
    Tienes un dia fabulosa!
    Martha y Paul

    We sent you a package. You should get it the same day as you get this letter. Sorry we couldn't be there for your 18th birthday. We know what a big day it is for you! But we do hope that you have LOADS of fun! Please, please, please enjoy yourself today. You deserve it, chica!
    There was a check for a hundred dollars in the inside fold. It was exactly what I needed.
    And feel free to use the check to buy you something nice. We also put some more money in the home account in case you need to buy some groceries. Once again...HAPPY BIRTHDAY! And we love you...

    I sighed and slipped the check in my wallet. They did love me...that I never had to question. And it was nice to know. As much as I liked my freedom, I sure did miss the Roberts. I'd have to write them back later and thank them.

    New Arrival Part 2