3. Hurt

Three days later, I was allowed out and feeling like myself again. 
        I decided to catch the bus into school for a change, but my plans were changed when Nathaniel pulled out of a driveway in a rapid yellow Ford Falcon XR6. He glanced over to where I was and pulled over to the side of the road and turned around. He stopped in front of where I was standing, slipping his expensive sunglasses off. 
       “Brianna, what are you doing out here?” Nathaniel asked when the passenger’s window rolled down.
       “Waiting for the bus so I can go to school; mum isn’t working today and wants to do things at home so I offered to take the bus to save her time taking me to Colac and coming back here after that. She can get more done that way and then I’m not a bother to anyone,” I told him. 
       My heart became heavy after I finished speaking as that was the way I always felt. I felt like a bother to everyone and anyone. I sighed depressingly and looked up; hiding the pain I’ve been suffering from. 
       “No, I will take you to school,” Nathaniel said.
       “I’m quite happy taking the bus, Nathaniel,” I said, being stubborn like I usually was. 
       He got out of the car and walked over to where I was and grabbed my school bag and placing it on the backseat with his. I crossed my arms and stood my ground. I wasn’t going to let him win this battle.
       “You and I both know I am not taking no for an answer so just get in the car so we can on our way,” he said.
       Narrowing my eyes at him, I realised that he played these games better than I did.  
       “Fine,” I relented and got into his car. 
       I looked out the window and didn’t say anything when Nathaniel drove off. I rested my head against the leather seat and sighed, watching the scenery fly past on the way to Colac. I was expecting the air in the car to be tense, but it wasn’t. It was surprisingly comfortable.   
       “Why weren’t you at school for three days for?” he asked suddenly. 
       “I was sick,” I replied and looked over towards him.
       “Why didn’t you tell me? You didn’t come to practice or music and I waited for you after school, but nothing. I was worried in the end.” 
       “I thought Amylia would have told you that I left sick?” I asked, feeling a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach. 
       “She did at the end when we were at home and Jack confirmed it when he walked through the front door after work.”  
       “I’m sorry that you didn’t know. I can make it up to you, if you want?” I suggested.
       “How?” he asked.
       “Come to my place after school. It seems like you live up the road from me anyway so it won’t be far for you to travel.”
       “Try around the corner. I always drive past your house and never knew who lived in it. Now I do,” he said and glanced over at me.
       “So, do you want to come around after school or not?” I asked, my heart skipping a few beats and making me feel hopeful on the inside from his answer. 
       “Are you sure that your mum won’t care?” he asked.
       “Mum will be glad to see that I have made another friend, so she would want to meet you.”
       I didn’t realise that the whole time we were talking that we had arrived in Colac. I noticed that Augusta was walking towards the school and hit Nathaniel on the arm. He looked over to where I was looking and rolled his eyes at her. She was trying to walk in high heels and the shortest skirt I had ever seen.
       “What the hell is she wearing?” I asked, shocked. 
       “That is her seduce Nathaniel clothes and to try and grab all the boys attention at school also. When we do get to school, I want you to meet Dakota.”
       I looked at Nathaniel, unsure of what to say. I knew that I would meet everyone in his family soon enough, but I didn’t know if today was the right time for it. We were just at the friend’s level in our relationship and I didn’t want to push that. 
       “Are you sure about that?” I asked, my voice lightly shaking.
       “Brianna, I don’t know if you are feeling this also, but I feel a connection to you, like a spark. You feel very special towards me and I felt like I was going insane when you weren’t at school for those few days and I figured out why,” he said. 
       I didn’t know what to say to that. “And why is that?” I finally asked. 
       “Wait until the fourteenth of this month.” 
       “You mean Valentine’s Day?” I asked.
       He didn’t answer. What was so important that he had to tell me on Valentine’s Day? Unless he had feeling’s for me and wanted to wait for that day. When he pulled into a car park, I opened the door and got out into the humid and muggy air.
       “Let’s hope the air conditioner is working this time around,” Nathaniel said and grabbed our school bags.
       “I hate the heat.”
       “And I hate the sun.”
       “Nate,” I heard a voice say behind him.
       “Dakota,” he said and placed her in my seeing range.
       I took a step back and looked at her. She was even more beautiful as the rest of the Pryor’s. Her eyes were a very dark brown and her hair was a light brown colour. She was dressed in expensive clothes, but all the Pryor’s were.
       “You must be Brianna,” she said and held out her hand.
       “Yes I am,” I said and shook it.
       “Nathaniel, you were right. She is gorgeous,” Dakota said and let go. “I have heard that you are on Augusta’s list of lives’ to ruin.”
       “I don’t know why she doesn’t like me.”
       “She doesn’t like you because you have befriended Nathaniel and she couldn’t. The only thing she cares about is wealth and beauty, something she will never have compared to us, including you Brianna,” Dakota said and smiled. 
       “Baby,” the one voice I didn’t want to hear say behind me. 
       I turned and closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to look at Jason. He pulled me in for a hug, but I tensed up and didn’t respond. I wanted him to get his claws off me. 
       “I missed you,” he whispered into my ear.
       “Well, I didn’t miss you,” I muttered and pulled myself out of his embrace.
       “What do you want?” Nathaniel asked Jason and placed an arm around my waist.
       Jason looked him up and down before looking over my shoulder at Dakota, who walked over and waved at him. I looked at Nathaniel and wrapped both arms around Nathaniel’s waist. He looked down at me and winked, telling me that he didn’t mind the contact that we were currently creating.
       “What is going on here?” Jason asked.
       “Didn’t you hear? Nathaniel and I have started dating,” I said and looked over towards Dakota, hoping to back me up on this lie.
       “And I am giving them my blessing,” she added, glancing at me.
       Jason’s teeth clenched before he launched himself towards Nathaniel. I stepped out of the way and placed a hand on Nathaniel’s arm, which I was currently hiding behind as he managed to throw myself behind him. Dakota stood in the middle of both of them, stopping a sure fight from happening. Jason glared at Nathaniel but didn’t do anything as he looked over at me. 
       “I would expect better from both of you. Is that anyway to behave in front of Brianna and my-self? No I don’t think so,” she said and looked at both of them. “Men are meant to have respect for woman.” 
       Jason walked away, leaving the three of us standing there and Dakota glaring up towards Na-thaniel. 
       “You are so lucky I didn’t wear my high heels today because I would not hesitate kicking you and hurting you,” she said, her voice quiet yet, venomous. 
       “What did I do? I wasn’t going to fight him and even if he tried, he wouldn’t have won. You and I both know that I fight better than anyone in this school,” he argued back.
       I looked up at him, shocked about this new information. Was Nathaniel the type to pick fights or was he trained when younger so he could know how to defend himself when someone started trouble? 
       “Yes, I do know that and I have seen it,” Dakota said.
       “I am going to go find Hudson,” I said and grabbed my school bag off Nathaniel.
       “If Jason is planning anything, Hudson should be able to tell you as she knows these things,” Nathaniel said before I walked away.
       I looked all over the school for her, but couldn’t find her anywhere. Was there some sort of hid-ing place in this school that I wasn’t aware of or something? I suddenly heard yelling and walked over to where it was coming from. Hudson and Jason were having a screaming match. 
       “What did you mean you didn’t know about Nathaniel and Brianna?” Jason shouted, unaware that I was currently staring holes into the side of his head. 
       “I told you that I had no idea that they were going out! They are both secretive when they want to be and even if it’s true, I don’t blame them for doing something like this! They aren’t the type that likes their business being broadcasted all over town and that is exactly what will happen!” Hudson yelled back.
      I felt hope swell in my chest over my friend defending Nathaniel and I, even though it was all a lie, but it still made me feel good. 
       “What does that mean? There is no way in hell that Nathaniel can make her happy like I would be able to!” 
       I decided to go over to where they were and stop this before it got out of hand. I picked up my pace when it turned to push and shove. There was no way I wanted Hudson to get hurt from Jason. He would be on Brandon’s wanted list, not that I would stop him from causing some serious damage. 
       “Hey,” I said, but they didn’t hear me.
       They started screaming over the top of each other and that’s when it happened. I went over towards them, hoping to stop this from becoming worse when Jason grabbed my arm and threw me down on the ground. I landed on my wrist the wrong way and felt a jolt of pain crawl up my arm. I had to bite my lip to stop me from screaming out in pain.
       “Brianna!” Hudson said and got down to my level.  “Are you okay?”
       “My wrist is killing me,” I whispered.
       “I am going to find Nathaniel,” Hudson said and took a few steps back.
       “Do you think you could help me up first?” I asked, making her stop walking.
       She grabbed my good arm and pulled me up before searching for Nathaniel. Jason stood in front of me and grabs my injured hand, for which I stepped away from him so he couldn’t touch me again. He had blown any chances of staying friends with me after doing this. 
       “You shouldn’t have gotten in the way Brianna. It is that simple,” Jason said.
       “And you shouldn’t use harm to get what you want. You are just lucky I didn’t land on that stick and stab myself from it,” I spat and cradled my wrist to my chest, hoping to ease some of the pain that was currently burning on the inside. 
       “I’m sorry,” he said.
       “Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time around,” I said and turned my head the other way so I wouldn’t have to look at him. 
       Nathaniel came running over, leaving Hudson for dead and slowly pulled my injured wrist from my chest and started to look at it. I hissed when he lightly touched the area, making him freeze. A look of pure and utter pain shot across Nathaniel’s face when he placed my wrist back into the position I had it in. 
       “I’m not a doctor, but it looks like it’s sprained,” he whispered.
       “Great that is all I need right now,” I whispered back. 
       Nathaniel looked over my head towards Jason, narrowing his eyes. I didn’t know if Hudson told Nathaniel that Jason was the cause of my pain or if she didn’t. All I knew was the fact Jason was now on his wanted list.  Nathaniel pulled out a phone and messaged someone. 
       “Let’s see how it goes during the day,” Nathaniel said and led me away from Jason.
       When we turned the corner, Augusta was standing there, shooting hateful glares into the back of Amylia as she spoke with James. Nathaniel crossed his arms and looked straight at Augusta. She noticed that someone was looking at her and looked over at Nathaniel. Before she could say anything, Amylia ran over and hugged both Nathaniel and me.
       “I just heard what happened,” she said and grabbed my injured wrist lightly. “It would be better for you to get it checked out and make sure that there is no major damage that we don’t know about, but it’s up to you. We can go see Jack and see what he has to say.”
       “Amylia, I just came back from being sick so I don’t think I can afford to vanish again.”
       “Nathaniel, go work your charm in the office while I wait at the car. James!” Amylia shouted, making him run over.
       “Yes, my love?” he asked, looking at her like a lovesick puppy. 
       “Car keys to my car please,” she said and held out her hand. 
       He dropped them and looked at me and towards my injured wrist. Amylia said something under her breath, making James nod. I couldn’t even hear what she said and he could? That was strange. It wasn’t normal and I was soon to be asking questions if it didn’t stop. My eyebrows furrowed in confusion. 
       “James will tell Nathaniel that we have left and that we will be back once we know what the matter with your wrist is. How did it happen anyway? Nathaniel just said that you hurt it, but didn’t go into any detail,” she said.
       “Do you want the long or the short version?”
       “The short one,” was Amylia’s reply.
       “Jason and Hudson were having a screaming match and I went over there to stop it from becoming worse. That’s when Jason decided to grab my arm and throw me to the ground, making me land on my wrist.”
       “That explains why Nathaniel seemed mad about something. He feels protective of you but he won’t tell us why,” Amylia admitted and opened up the driver’s door and changing something over.
       “He told me that he wants to tell me something on Valentine’s Day, so I don’t know what it would be.”
       “Brianna, I have to ask you this question. What do you feel for Nathaniel? And tell me the truth about it.”
       I didn’t know how to answer that question. Nathaniel held my interest on my first day here. He keeps me lying wide awake most nights, thinking about him, trying to figure him out but couldn’t. I looked at Amylia and saw she had a slight smile on her face.
       “You have feelings for Nathaniel, but you just haven’t realised it yet and I believe what Nathaniel wants to tell you is the same.” 
       “Nathaniel makes me angry, but at the same time, he makes my heart race. Before, I tried to give Jason the hint I wasn’t interested in him and pretended to be his girlfriend and now that I think about it, I wish it was true,” I whispered, realising that Amylia was right. “Oh my god, I have feelings for Nathaniel.”
       She looked at me and smiled before starting the car. How could Amylia figure out things before I could? I pushed it back in my mind and decided to think about it after Nathaniel left my place after school.
       “Everyone is going to think that I am getting abused at home or something,” I said suddenly.
       “If they want to get smart, they have to deal with us. And if Augusta tries to make this any worse than it is, there is going to be trouble brewing. I’m sure Hudson has told you, but she tried to break James and me up because of her greed and desires to be wealthy and decided that James would be a perfect target for her affections. It didn’t work and now she is on my wanted list as well as Dakota’s for doing the same.”
       “I have figured out that she isn’t happy unless she is making someone else’s life a living hell.”
       “That would be true. I am just warning you now though,” Amylia said and looked over at me when we were at the traffic lights. “She will be worse coming up to Valentine’s Day due to the fact you have two teenage boys’ after your affections and one of them she wants all to herself and won’t stop unless there is bloodshed.”
       “You mean Nathaniel and Jason?”
       “Exactly, Brianna,” Amylia said. “She has never got that much attention off anyone in her lifetime and it would be killing her on the inside.” 
       My throbbing wrist took my mind off everything and I just concentrated on the pain I was cur-rently in. Amylia pulled into a car park and turned everything off. I opened the car door and got out. That same woman from the other day caught my attention with the cold eyes and hard stares towards me. I followed Amylia inside as I could tell that she was in charge of this one.
       “Erica, where’s Jack and I have no time for games either so tell me now,” Amylia said to the woman that didn’t like me. 
       “He just went on his morning tea break and you can’t disturb him either,” Erica said her tone like leather.
       Amylia crossed her arms and looked her up and down before grabbing my hand and walking up to the counter. A lady turned around and looked at both us with a smile on her face.
       “Hello girls. What can I do for you?” 
       “Lesley, is Jack on his break?” 
       “Amylia, you know that he always goes on his break about now,” she replied.
       “Would I be able to see him? My friend, Brianna, injured her wrist at school before class started and it should get looked at as she is in a lot of pain,” Amylia said.
       “You know where he is,” Lesley said and went back to work.
       Amylia still had a tight grip on my hand, but it wasn’t tight enough to cut off blood flow to the area. She stopped at the door that said ‘staff only’ and knocked. 
       “I’m on my break so go away,” Jack said from inside.
       “Do you want me to tell Bethany that you throw out everything that she packs in for you most days and that you have takeaway for lunch every day?” Amylia asked and the door opened.
       “Shouldn’t both of you be at school?” he asked and looked between us. 
       “We would be, but Jason decided to lose his temper and throw Brianna to the ground and she landed on her wrist.”
       I held it up and saw that it was double the size of my other one. We were ushered into the room and sat in the chairs and I rested my wrist on the table.
       “How would you describe the pain?”
       “Excruciating,” I said.
       “So what happened?” he asked and looked at Amylia.
       “I wasn’t there and I only found out about it through Nathaniel.”
       “Jason grabbed my arm and threw me down on the ground, making me land on my wrist the wrong way. Nathaniel said it could be sprained, but I don’t know,” I said, looking down at it. 
       “Why did he throw you on the ground for?”
       “He and Hudson were having a screaming match because he didn’t like the fact Brianna was spending time with Nathaniel and not him. We told you about Jason the other day, remember?” Amylia said, looking at her nails.
       Jack nodded and went back to looking at my wrist. When he gently lifted it off the table, I bit my lip to stop me from crying out. The door opened, making me look over to it and seeing Nathaniel walk into the room. 
       “Did you get us excused for our first class?” Amylia asked, looking at Nathaniel.
       “Yeah I did,” he replied, but his eyes were glued on me.
       “I’m fine,” I muttered, answering the question he had in his eyes.
       “Nate, it’s not like Brianna is dying. You don’t have to look so concerned,” Jack said, glancing towards his son.
       Nathaniel nodded slowly and started to walk out of the room and I couldn’t stop myself from crying out in pain from all the poking and prodding at my wrist. Nathaniel froze and came over to me. Amylia rolled her eyes and pulled out her phone. Nathaniel grabbed my good hand and held onto it, giving me a sense of comfort. The coldness still had me confused but I told myself not to worry about it. I felt that he would open up to me when he felt that he could trust me. 
       “How bad is it hurting?” Nathaniel asked me.
       “Bad enough to make me want to inflict the same amount of pain on Jason when I get back to school,” I said through gritted teeth when Jack placed it on the table.
       “That can be easily sorted out,” Nathaniel muttered, a smirk appearing on his face.
       “You will be doing no such thing Nathaniel. James is making him suffer enough today,” Amylia replied without looking up from her phone. 
       “What this needs is an X-ray just to see if there are any broken bones. I can book you in for ten-thirty,” Jack said.
       “That’s fine. I will take her,” Nathaniel said, not giving me a chance to speak.
       “What am I meant to do?” asked Amylia. 
       “Go back to school and keep tabs on Augusta for me. She is driving me crazy again and now it’s worse coming into Valentine’s Day.”
       “This is where you can fight your own battles Nathaniel,” Amylia said and walked out of the room.
       “Okay, what is her problem?” Nathaniel asked Jack.
       “She has been like that all day. Hopefully Bethany can get it out of her later on tonight,” Jack said.
       Erica walked into the room and looked between all three of us before fixing her eyes on Jack. I could tell where Augusta got her hunger for rich men from. 
       “Can I help you?” Jack asked and went back to his yoghurt that looked home made.
       “You told us that no one was allowed to disturb you on your break, so why are they in here?”
       “You’re not his wife so he doesn’t have to answer to you,” Nathaniel said and helped me up. 
       “Nathaniel, I suggest you go take Brianna to the X-ray as I can tell she is in a lot of pain. I will call now and book her in and then get them to send the X-ray here. You are very lucky I am a doctor also,” Jack said.
       He nodded and shot a glare to Erica and led me out of the room. When we got outside, Amylia and her car were gone and were replaced by Nathaniel’s. 
       “Amylia decided to go back to school and leave us alone,” he whispered into my ear, making me jump.
       “How do you know that?” I asked.
       “Uh, I just do,” he replied and walked two steps ahead of me.
       “Nathaniel, you are acting strange and it is starting to freak me out just a little bit, so can I have some answers?” I asked. 
       “Brianna, don’t worry about it,” Nathaniel said, defensively. 
       “You are hiding something and be prepared for me to find out what it is. There is no way in hell that I am going to deal with your changing moods and defensiveness,” I said and started to walk away from him.
       “What about your wrist?” he asked behind me.
       I stopped and looked at Nathaniel. “You can take me to that, and then you can take me back to school.”
       Making sure that my arms were by my side, I marched over to his car and waited for him to un-lock it. The car ride there, I kept my eyes straight. Nathaniel realised that I wasn’t in a talking mood both from my pain and from the fact he is different to me.
       “Brianna, can you please talk to me?” 
       “I don’t have anything to say Nathaniel,” I replied, looking straight ahead.
       “I am hiding something and believe me, I want to tell you what is wrong, but I can’t. It’s extremely dangerous.” 
       “You are making it sound like you are dangerous.” 
       “I am dangerous. My whole family is dangerous. You are at risk by being my friend from so much danger.” 
       He pulled out the front of the building, but didn’t get out of the car. He was looking out the window and seemed to be in his own world. I undone my seat belt and leaned over, touching his arm, making him look at me
       “Nathaniel, I don’t believe that you would ever hurt me. I trust you,” I said.
       “You don’t know what you are saying Brianna,” he replied, his voice covered in pain and torture.  
       “I do know what I am saying. I’m hiding something also, and you know that, but I’m scared.” 
       “Come on. We are going to be late for your appointment. We can talk after this,” Nathaniel said suddenly and got out.
       I didn’t have a chance to reply as Nathaniel opened up my door and dragged me out by my hand. 
       “Hey, I already have a hurt wrist. I don’t need a dislocated shoulder to add to my horrid day,” I said.
       Nathaniel looked at me, and let go of my arm. I pushed opened the door and walked over to the desk. A lady walked over to where I was and smiled.
       “Can I help you?” she asked.
       “Jack Pryor was meant to make an appointment for Brianna Morrison,” Nathaniel said next to me. 
       I cringed at the name he used. I wasn’t a Morrison, I was a Clarkson. In my eyes, that name was only on my birth certificate because it had to be, not because I wanted it there. 
       “Of course,” she said.
       And thirty minutes later, I walked out of the X-ray room. Nathaniel was sitting in a hard chair, reading a magazine. I walked over to him and pulled the magazine out of his hands. He looked up at me with surprise written on his face.
      “Can we go now?” I asked.
      “What did they say?” 
      “I have a sprained wrist,” I said and walked outside.
      Nathaniel caught up to me and opened my door, like a gentleman. I smiled at him and got into the car.
      “Do you want to go for ice cream?” Nathaniel asked suddenly.
      “Sure,” I replied and reached to the back seat to grab my school bag so I could grab my coin purse out of it.
      “If you think that you are going to pay, you have another thing coming,” he said suddenly and reversed out of the park.
      “It’s the least I can do. You took me to the X-ray place and drove me to school,” I said, my hand still on my school bag while I looked at Nathaniel. 
      “And I am driving you back home when we finish school. Don’t forget that I am coming to your place after school.”
      Nathaniel decided to get the ice cream take away and we ate them while talking in his car. 
      “You said something about being scared before. What did you mean by that?” Nathaniel asked.
      Me and my big mouth, I thought. 
      “It’s nothing,” I muttered, hoping that I didn’t have to go into much detail. 
      “Brianna, you and I both know that we are hiding secrets from each other, and the only way our friendship is going to grow is to tell each other what we are hiding,” Nathaniel said.
      “Nathaniel, you told me that you are dangerous and we both know that you won’t tell me what you are hiding, and the only way I will know is if I figure it out for myself,” I said and looked over towards him. “Can we go back to school now?”
      “Sure,” he muttered.
      The air was thick with tension between us and there wasn’t a word spoken from me or Nathaniel on the drive back. When I got out of the car, I grabbed my school bag and walked away from Nathaniel. 
      “Where were you? I was worried sick,” Alex said behind me.
      I slowly turned around to face my cousin and lifted up my wrist and showed him the bandage I now sported. I explained what happened, and once I finished, he had fire burning in the pits of his eyes and appeared to be shaking slightly. 
      “Jason is a dead man for hurting my cousin due to a temper tantrum,” Alex muttered, his voice cold. 
      “He is already on Nathaniel’s wanted list,” I said, crossing my arms and slightly wincing at the pain it created. 
      “Speaking of him; what is going on between the both of you?” Alex asked, sounding curious and concerned at the same time. 
      “We are just friends, Alex. Nothing else going on between us,” I said and tried to walk around him.
      “I don’t believe you, Brianna,” he said, making me stop walking.
      I was hurting both on the inside and on the outside and I needed pain killers to help me, and so would Alexander if he didn’t stop asking me questions. 
      “You don’t have to. Now, can I please go and put my things away and dose up on Panadol so I can get through this day without being in any more pain than I am currently in?” 
      I stepped around him and walked towards the classroom buildings. I opened my locker and placed my school bag inside of it and getting frustrated when it wanted to fall out. When I closed the door, Augusta was standing there with her arms crossed and her trademark cold look on her white powdered face. I jumped back and placed a hand over my heart, feeling it race in shock and fear. 
      “What do you want?” I asked.
      “Nathaniel is a good friend, isn’t he? In fact, you have him wrapped around your little finger and eating out the palm of your hand. I don’t see why he is interested in you though Brianna. You are nothing but a distraction for him and once he realises this and gets sick of you, he will toss you aside like a rag doll. You aren’t rich and basically don’t have anything to hold his interest, so why don’t you do both of us a favour and leave him alone?” Augusta suggested.
      “Why do you want me to do that for, Augusta? So you can move in on him and make his life even more hellish than it already is? We both know that he isn’t interested in you and never will be, so why don’t you give up trying?” I asked, unaware of the consequences that she would try to inflict on me. 
      She grabbed my top and slammed me against the locker, the pain and coldness of the metal going through my clothes onto my skin. I was now going to have a bruised back from the force she used. She raised her hand and aimed it for my face. My eyes were open as I waited for her to slap me, but it never came. 
      “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Amylia said from behind her.
      Augusta let me go and turned around to face Amylia. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Why shouldn’t I?” she challenged. 
      Amylia looked her up and down and before placing a piece of paper in her short’s pocket and crossing her arms.
      I was now curious of what that paper held. 
      “Because Nathaniel will ruin you if you hurt someone that he wants to grow close to and Dakota will help him. We Pryor’s are a powerful family and Jack won’t hesitate to fire your mother from his chemist if you do something or if Erica tries to break up their marriage for her pleasure of hopefully getting Jack one more time.”
      “You aren’t even a Pryor,” Augusta said smugly.
      “This paper says otherwise Augusta,” Amylia announced and pulled it back out and handed it to Augusta. 
      “But-but-but...” she sputtered, gripping the paper tightly. 
      “The wedding is in January and Brianna, you are invited also. James is still finalising the rest of the invites, but I’m sure Nathaniel will be your date.”
      “What about me? I have known Nathaniel longer than Brianna so I believe that I should be get-ting first pick,” Augusta said, glaring at me.
      “You have Daniel. Deal with it,” Amylia said and walked away, her high heels clicking on the floor.
      “That’s eleven months away. Nathaniel will be mine before then,” Augusta hissed and walked away.
      The rest of the day went fast, but I kept on thinking about Augusta said. Nathaniel said what he thought of her, but could he decide otherwise about her? Augusta had wealth behind her and I didn’t. Most of the money mum had managed to save went on our house and furniture that we didn’t have living in the bungalow in my grandparents’ backyard. 
      Nathaniel must have gotten sick of the quiet, as he shook my shoulder on the drive home. I shook my head and looked over towards him.
      “Brianna, what is the matter? You haven’t been yourself all day,” Nathaniel said.
      “I’m just thinking about something,” I replied and went back to looking out the window, hoping to slip back into my own world. 
      “What are you thinking about?” Nathaniel asked. I knew then that going back into my own thoughts was going to be impossible. 
      “It’s just Augusta is giving me a hard time still.”
      “Amylia told me that she was about to hit you when she handed out the wedding invitation and that she believes that she should be my date to the wedding, and not you.” 
      “Who would you take?” I asked, changing the subject. 
      “I would take you to the wedding, and I think that I will. Augusta has her own boyfriend who can take her. The only thing she wants is the wealth that my family carry and the fact that she would be able to spend money on more expensive things that she cannot afford.”
      “Why didn’t I know about the wedding?”
      “Amylia didn’t want anyone knowing about the wedding and it was going to be a private affair just for friends and family, but when the witch of Colac started trying harder to steal James, she had no choice but to reveal to everyone that she was getting married. They have been engaged for five years and only set a wedding date two weeks ago,” Nathaniel told me.
      Nathaniel pulled into my driveway, making mum come outside. I grabbed my school bag and got out of the car. She stopped walking when she realised who was with me. maybe I should have rang her while I was waiting for my wrist to be looked at to make sure that Nathaniel coming here was going to be okay. 
      “Brianna, I thought that you were catching the bus?” mum asked, sounding unsure. 
      “Change of plans,” I said and looked at Nathaniel.
      Mum did the same and smiled at Nathaniel, who walked up to her and held out his hand. She shook it and walked back inside. 
      “Does she know who I am?” Nathaniel asked.
      “She does work with your father, so yes she does know who you are,” I said and walked up the two steps to the front door with Nathaniel behind me. I opened the front door and walked inside the comfort of my home and told Nathaniel to wait for me in the living area. 
      I walked into the kitchen and saw mum at the kitchen table, looking at papers that were spread all over the small table.
      “What are you doing?” I asked and grabbed two glasses from the cupboard. 
      “Looking at the statements of the money that your father still owes me,” she said and grabbed the calculator. 
      “I thought he was paying you though?” 
      “Apparently, since you turned sixteen, he stopped paying money,” she said, looking at the total on the calculator. 
      “Well, at least can you make it neater? I haven’t exactly told Nathaniel about my father and I don’t want him to find out about it that way,” I said.
      Grabbing the bottle of coke, I poured two glasses and left the room. Nathaniel was looking at the photos mum had on the mantel piece over the fireplace. I cleared my throat and placed the glasses on the coffee table.
      “You look like your mother,” Nathaniel said when he turned around and looked at me.
      “Everyone says that,” I said and sat on the futon. 
      Nathaniel sat next to me and looked around the room, obviously judging what we had and what we didn’t have. 
      “If you are judging what we have and don’t have, stop.”
      “I’m not. I’m just thinking that you have some nice things. Bethany would be proud of some of things you have.” 
      “Mum raised me most of the time and we couldn’t afford much. We lived in my grandparents’ bungalow in the backyard most of my life. The only bonus of that is my grandfather and I have a strong bond that no one will break. You haven’t seen my room yet,” I said and grabbed my drink. 
      “Well, let’s go have a look,” Nathaniel said, getting up.
      “Are you serious, Nathaniel?” I asked, looking up at him.
      Nathaniel nodded and smiled down at me. We had to go through the kitchen to get to my room. I could only hope that mum cleared the table and hid what I didn’t want Nathaniel to know. Pulling myself up, I led the way to my bedroom, my drink gripped tightly in hand. When we walked into the kitchen, I stopped and looked at mum.
      “Where are you kids going?” mum asked, not looking up from the documents. 
      “Up to my room; Nathaniel wants to see it,” I said, looking at her. 
      “Keep your bedroom door open Brianna. We don’t want a child around in nine months time, especially at your age. Believe me, I know,” mum said and looked at us.
      “Don’t worry ma’am, there will be nothing like that going on,” Nathaniel said.
      “Call me Marie,” mum said and went back to work.
      When we got out of hearing range, Nathaniel pulled me to a stop and looked at me. I had a feel-ing what question he was going to ask. “What does your mum mean by she knows what it’s like to have a child at a young age?”
      “Mum had me when she was sixteen years old and doesn’t want me making the same mistake of having a child now in life when I am still young and still have a lot that I want to do in my life.”
      “Wow,” Nathaniel breathed.
      I glanced up at him and opened up my bedroom door. I stepped aside and let Nathaniel go in first. As he looked around, I noticed a photo of me and my father on my desk. I grabbed it and hid it behind a box of tissues. 
      “It’s nice,” Nathaniel said and sat on my bed.
      “Well, you have seen everything in the house,” I said and walked over to him.
      “I’m glad we have decided to become friends,” Nathaniel said. “I can see it growing into a close and tight relationship.”
      He grabbed my hand and rubbed circles with his thumb on it, like he could tell I was tense about something, which I was. 
      “You can tell me what is bothering you,” Nathaniel said.
      I pulled my hand out of his grasp and sat next to him. I knew that I had to tell Nathaniel about my father and the reason why he left, but I just wasn’t ready to. 
      “I can’t though. I’m not ready to become vulnerable and open up about my life story, which I’m trying to stop Augusta from revealing it to everyone.”
      “It mustn’t be that bad?”
      “What about you’re secret? That can’t be that bad, can it? Or are you afraid that I will run away from you when I find out about it either from you or from figuring out what it is.” 
      “Brianna, I know you will run for the hills once you find out what it is, and that’s why I am hoping you won’t find out what I am hiding. I don’t want you lose you because of it,” Nathaniel told me.
      Before I could reply, mum walked into my room and looked at both of us before leaning against the doorframe. 
      “There is someone name Jason here for you Brianna and that he wants to speak to you alone without Nathaniel,” mum said, confused.
      I looked at Nathaniel before bolting out of my room to the front door. Jason was leaning against the frame, and smirked when he saw me.
      “How did you find out where I live?” I asked.
      “It is a small town and I’m glad that Nathaniel didn’t follow you. He has been glued to your side since you have become friends. He looks at you like that you are the prize that he has won, when he clearly hasn’t. You are my prize, not Nathaniel’s,” Jason said.
      “She isn’t your prize Jason, and she isn’t mine. It’s up to Brianna on what she picks or even who she picks if she wants to. Why are you here for anyway? I thought Brianna made herself clear when you pushed her down on the hard concrete at school and making her sprain her wrist. I think you have done enough damage to her,” Nathaniel said from behind me.
      “And what makes you speak for her? Brianna can talk and doesn’t need you breathing down her neck, making her choices for her when she doesn’t want or need you running her life for her,” Jason said, crossing his arms.
      “Excuse me, what gives you the right to think that you can control me Jason? Do don’t have the right to do anything that involves me, so don’t you even think that you can start to control me!” I yelled.
      “Brianna, Nathaniel is different to us, and you are going to accept that. Why don’t you just let Augusta have him and you can date me. I would treat you better than he ever could,” Jason whis-pered and placed his hand on my arm.
      Nathaniel got between us and looked down at Jason with anger in his eyes. I feared that they were going to start fighting in the entrance way of my home. I got between both of them and looked at Nathaniel, telling him to back off and let me fix it. 
      “You need to leave now Jason before I inflict the pain I am going through because of you on your body,” I said and pushed him out of the doorway. 
      “You don’t mean that,” he said.
      “She said leave,” Nathaniel growled and slammed the door in his face. 
      He rested his head against the wooden door and took a few deep breaths. I slowly walked up to him and placed my hand on his back, making him turn around so he could look me straight in the eye. They held regret and sorrow. 
      “I’m sorry for being so protective,” he said.
      “Nathaniel, I’m not angry at you. In fact, I am glad that you are like that towards me because it saves me getting angry and upset towards someone who is getting on my nerves. You saw what Augusta did to me on my first day and I know for a fact that freaked you out,” I reminded him, then realising that he wasn’t aware I knew. 
     “How did you find out about that?” he asked, sounding shocked at that information I just told him.
     “Hudson told me after school on my first day,” I admitted. 
     “She told you that? I told her and Brandon not to say anything to you about me seeing what hap-pened and what do they do? They go behind my back and do what I didn’t want them to do. Just wait until I see them at school on Monday and give them a piece of my mind for breaking their promise,” Nathaniel said quietly.
     “Don’t blame them for doing that. In a way, they forced us to be friends by doing that and now look at us. If they didn’t, we couldn’t be talking in my house, would we? We would still be at the fighting stage of knowing each other and that wouldn’t be doing anyone any good,” I said.
     A slight smile cracked onto Nathaniel’s face and he walked back into the kitchen. I followed him and saw that mum was getting tea ready, using what little food we had in the house. It sucked when we couldn’t afford much. 
     “What’s cooking?” I asked.
     “A nice salad with some toasted croutons,” mum replied.
     “Speaking of which, I should get home before Bethany starts looking for me,” Nathaniel said and placed his hands in his pockets.
     “It was nice meeting you Nathaniel,” mum said.
     “You too,” he replied and looked at me.
     “I’ll walk you out.” 
     We didn’t say anything as we walked to his car. I didn’t know why he just didn’t take it home and walk back up here, but I didn’t say anything about it. I was just happy that we weren’t fighting over something. 
     “Next time, and only if you want, you could come over to my house and see where I live?”
     “Sure,” I replied. 
     He nodded and got into his car. I walked back inside and locked the door before making my way to the kitchen. Mum looked up and pointed towards my wrist. I had forgotten to tell her about what happened and that it was Jason that caused it. 
     “Jason grabbed my arm and threw me onto the ground at school extremely hard. It’s just sprained and should heal in a few days.”
     “Why did he do something like that for?” 
     “He doesn’t like the fact that Nathaniel and I have grown a bit closer and he decided to have a screaming match with Hudson to get answers. I could see that he was going to hurt her, so I decided to break it up and that’s when he became violent towards me and caused this. He has been causing trouble since day one and it seems that he has no plans on giving up until I end up doing something that I will regret later on in life.” 
     “Why doesn’t he just leave you alone then?”
     “Because he doesn’t understand the meaning of that word; all he does is go around school and say that I am his girlfriend, and then there is the trouble with Augusta.”
     “Who is Augusta?” she asked, sounding confused at that name. 
     “Augusta Nicholson.”
     “I work with her mother, Erica. All she does is glare at all of us workers but when Jack is around, she is always flirting at him and saying that she would be a better wife to him than his current wife, who I haven’t met yet and mind you, Augusta’s mother is married,” mum said, making my mouth drop.
     “If her husband found out about all of this, what would happen?”
     “There would be a divorce on the cards. Steven doesn’t like his wife flirting with every rich and attractive guy that catches her eye and once he finds out about what Erica did today, there will be trouble brewing in the marriage.”
     “When I went to see Jack with Amylia, Nathaniel’s future sister-in-law, Erica said that we weren’t allowed to see him, but when she came into the room when we were almost finish, her tone changed completely. She was flirting with him and tried to get us into trouble for interrupting Jack’s break, but was still looking at us, hoping to kill with her looks.”
     “Anyway honey, dinner is ready to help you and see if it can get some meat on your bones,” mum said and patted me on the shoulder.
     “I take after you mum, so it will be a struggle for me. I got your genes and this wouldn’t do any-thing anyway as it doesn’t have enough bad things in it to do damage” I said and took what I wanted.
     “Yes, you are more of a Clarkson than a Morrison and anyone can see that.”
     I smiled and sat down at the table. Throughout dinner, there was hardly a word spoken between us, but it didn’t bother me at all. I liked the quiet. The documents mum was looking at before were stacked on the table caught my attention and made me slip into my own thoughts of my father. 
     Even though I was sixteen years old, I still couldn’t understand why the fact he would leave be-cause I looked like mum...well, more of a splitting image of my mother, but I just couldn’t under-stand it. Did he think I wasn’t his or something? Mum noticed I was in my own world and lightly kicked my shin. I gasped in shock and grabbed where she kicked me, and looking my mother straight in the eye.
     “What was that for?” I asked and looked down at my hardly untouched food.
     “You slipped into your own thoughts. Do you want to talk about what is troubling you?”
     “The documents that you have on the table made me think of dad.”
     “Honey, I have been thinking and I believe that your father didn’t even want you to begin with. Before we moved here, I found a bunch of baby pictures of you and your father and it made me think back to when you were born. He only held you when it came to photos. Otherwise, he pre-tended that you weren’t in the room and left most of the work for me to do while he sat on the couch and watched TV all day.”
     “I don’t even know why I am wasting my thoughts on him. He missed out on seeing me grow up, so why should I waste any more time on him?”
     “Exactly,” mum said and grabbed her empty plate and placed it in the kitchen sink. 
     I wasn’t hungry anymore, but I still ate what I could, even if I felt sick after. When mum left the room, I grabbed one of the documents and looked at it. What I saw shocked me. My father owed mum close to six thousand dollars. Why wasn’t he paying anything and getting away with it? I placed it back on the pile and walked over to the kitchen sink, looking out the window and placing my plate in the sink.
     My anger was starting to build towards the man I called father, when looking back at it, he missed everything in my life that was important and didn’t regret it. The only contact I had was a birthday card from him in my life time. He hadn’t bothered otherwise and now that he wasn’t paying any money, I didn’t even know if he was alive. 
     When I made my way to bed that night, I was fuming with anger on the inside and was tempted to find my father and demand to know what his problem was and to give mum the money that he owed her. 
      For once, my sleep wasn’t plagued by dreams. 


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