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Shattered Innocence


by Tragedy88


Disclaimers: The inspiration for these characters came from a certain television show, where two strong women make their way in a harsh world with little more then weapons of wood or steal and their bond of friendship and love. That bond has led to this story, these two new characters and an eternal love that will never die. (Characters have similar characteristics from the show Xena: Warrior Princess, but in no way am I trying to steal them.)

Subtext/Violence/Hurt, Comfort: Yep, Yep and Yep. As for the first, if you are underage, Alt. is illegal where you reside, or love between members of the same sex offends you, go elsewhere please.

If you like it, send me an email at Tragedy88@goplay.com






Into the Night


In the stale night air, outside of a NYC inner school building, a teenager stood, crunching gravel beneath her booted feet. Moonlight, obscured by various clouds, illuminated her tanned, healthy skin, and her long black hair.

She wore black, faded and torn Jeans and sported the James Dean look of a white T-shirt and black leather jacket. Crisp, spring air wisped from her mouth as she looked up at the sky.

What would the stars look like? she wondered. The bright city lights obliterated all but the strongest of the stars; the northern star. She ceased her wondering as the reverberating growl of a motorcycle echoed up the empty street.

She turned to face the single bright light, blinking against it's glare. Nonchalantly she pulled a pack of cigarettes and a zippo from her coat pocket. She flicked the lighter open on her jeans, striking the flint into a tall, bright flame. She held it to the tip of the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

The smoke coursed down into her lungs, bringing with it the sweet, needed nicotine. The curse of addiction, she grinned wryly. But it sure as hell beat crack, or any other drugs. She wouldn't be making that mistake anytime soon.

Her younger brother roared up on his Harley. He wore no helmet; dark hair slicked back and dressed in the customary dark leather of the biker's he caroused with. Charley cut the engine and waited for his sister Shane to make her presence known.

"Ready, lil' bro?" Shane asked, stepping out of the shadows and down the stone steps of the school, sliding down to her brother with the grace of a panther.

"They're ready," he smiled, his eyes lighting with excitement as if he'd been let loose in a candy store.

"Let's go then." She flicked the cigarette butt out into the street, watching it bounce and send a shower of sparks across the pavement before rolling into the littered storm drain. Then she slid across the seat and grabbed her brother's waist.

He opened the choke and the Harley purred to life. "It's gonna be one hell of a night!" he shouted over the roar of the engine as they tore down the street.

Shane let his excitement roll over her like a freight train, giving a joyous whoop, as the wind tore her hair around her face in a stream of fine silk. Oh yeah, it was gonna be one hell of a night.

Little did either brother or sister know what kind of hell it was going to be…





The parking lot behind the convenience store was dimly lit, two bare bulbs barely penetrating the encompassing darkness. The dumpsters were overflowing with the stench of rotten food.

Charley watched a rat skitter through the trash as he sat in the driver's seat of a '92 Chevy Cavalier that one of the girl's had stolen a few hours earlier.

He wasn't in Shane's gang, but he was being allowed to drive the get-away car because he was Shane's younger brother. Shane pulled a lot of weight even if she wasn't the leader. Only two days ago she had told him she would run the gang, that things would be different.

He looked up from his musings and toward the back door of the grocery store. What the hell was taking so long? They should have been-

Bam! Bam!

The shots shook his already racing mind and without thinking he threw open the car door and raced to the back entrance. His older sister was all that mattered to him right then. He knew something had gone desperately wrong.

Charley had to find her and help her.

He ripped open the back door, arriving in a crowded storage room. From there he dashed to the next door, through a freezer department and finally into the store itself.

Someone was shouting. Something was falling. Above it all he searched for his sister's voice but couldn't find it.

He ran around the corner, tumbling over a stack of fallen soup cans. Amidst the cans was a body. Charley shoved through the cans to the dark hair below and breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn't Shane.

Bam! The burning smell of spent shells curled around the shelf tops.

Shit, what the hell was going on? Charley clung to the side of the aisle and peeked around some cereal boxes. Shane!

She was covered in blood. It dripped from her bangs down over her eyes. It was smeared across the front of her shirt and in her limp hand was a sawed off shotgun.

"Wha-" He must have startled her because she whipped the gun up and around in his direction. For one split second fear, terror and shock galloped across his face before it was wiped clean with a slice of pain. He clutched instinctively at its source, stumbling slightly backwards, looking down to his belly.

Slowly he sank to his knees, watching the floor come up to meet him. He glanced back up at his sister one last time. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was open in a wide O.

White teeth glimmered brightly in the fluorescent lights before she uttered a sharp, shrill scream.

Oh my God...


Chapter One

(2 years later)

First day of school


Eighteen-year-old Shane Delante rode her brother's Harley-Davidson up the school sidewalk, scattering students and curses along the way. Long hair crested out behind her, sliding over bare shoulders like a dark cloak. Shane's black leather vest, with the metal rings and Indian ties, shimmered and radiated heat in the late days of summer.

She wore torn Jeans, and black biker boots. No smile of anticipation or dreaminess crossed her stoic face. She was a bad ass girl on a bad ass bike and she was damn sure she was going to let the world know it.

B.A. all the way baby, she thought wryly.

With a shuttering growl the bike came to a stop in the back, in one of the teacher's lots. In one fluid motion she kicked the stand down and dismounted. Casually she ran a hand through her hair, untangling and pushing back the rebellious locks. She drew a cigarette and lit it, leaning against the bike.

Shane inhaled deeply, letting the first sweet lungful of smoke calm her nerves.

Mere seconds later she was flocked by a small group of girls. Shane looked over them dispassionately, absently noting how they'd changed over the summer months.

Casey had cut her auburn hair short and gelled it into mean bleached blond spikes. She'd also acquired a piercing through her right eyebrow. Casey hadn't gotten any taller, still 5'6", but had toned up her body when her stepmom had gotten on the new Tae Bo kick with a vengeance. She looked... mean, with studs in her ears and nose, black Jeans, tight black tank top with the thin spaghetti shoulder straps, and the tattoo of a fang bearing panther peeking out of her shoulder.

Casey silently bummed a cigarette off Shane while Molly and Cadence sat on the concrete curb, shielding their eyes from the sun. The others would be along soon enough.

"Heard there's a transfer comin' today," Casey inhaled deeply with a small smile of satisfaction, then exhaled through her nose.

Shane shrugged. Long as the transfer stayed out of her way there'd be no hassle. "What's up with Mag?"

"Hear she's back in school." Molly crossed and uncrossed her legs impatiently. She was shorter then Casey, with light brown unruly curls and deep chocolate brown eyes. She wore her standard khaki's, cut up a few inches on the sides to fit over her black boots and a ratty flannel shirt with it's sleeves cut off at the shoulder. She seemed to be waiting for a certain something to be mentioned and she wasn't about to bring it up herself.

"Yeah, her step-dad made her come back." Casey had the word on just about everything. "Beat the shit out of her really. She was caught between a rock and a hard place." Casey chuckled at her own joke.

Shane leaned away from the bike, cracking her shoulders as she stood. "Later," she called over her shoulder on the way to the back double doors of the school.

"Hey Shane! What about the new transfer?" Cadence jumped up from the curb, yelling after her. Cadence had fine model features, light creamy brown skin, thin and sharp. She was only two inches shorter then Shane's 6 foot 1 and wore tight, stone washed jeans and a T-shirt that had two cartoon characters arguing whether it ‘Tastes Great’ or was ‘Less Filling.’ It was cut to mid abdomen and showed off her gold belly button ring. From her back, looking out at the world with unnaturally purple eyes, was a fang bearing panther.

Shane turned on her heel, hair whipping around her shoulders violently. "What about her?" she growled, blue eyes flashing.

"Um, ain't ya gonna teach her the rules?" Cadence lowered her voice and her eyes against Shane's sudden, unprovoked anger.

"Not today," Shane answered cryptically, saving her anger for other, more immediate matters, then she turned and headed to the school.

When Shane was safely out of earshot Cadence turned to her friends. "Goddamn, what the hell's wrong with her today?" she demanded.

"It's an anniversary of sorts," Casey murmured, fingering her eyebrow piercing nervously. A new habit she'd come by only two days after getting it.

"O-oh, shit. Your right." Cadence's light brown eyes widened in sudden understanding.

"Yeah," Molly agreed, nodding her unruly brown curls and finally sitting still, "feel sorry for anyone who gets in her way today."

Three heads nodded in grim agreement.





"Who the hell are you? And what the fuck are you doing in my seat?"

Antonia looked up from her silent contemplation of the ragged and dog-eared English textbook with a wide-eyed expression. "I-I'm sorry?" she stalled, unable to tear her eyes from the girls' nose ring.

"Oh great, you're that new fucking transfer, aren't you?" Casey swiped the girl's textbook from the top of the desk. It slammed to the floor with a deafening thud, echoing in the sudden silence. "Get up."

Everyone turned to the transfer in her brand new, dark blue jeans and pale green blouse. Some felt sorry, some afraid and one or two expectant, but all eyes looked away as Casey sent a smug glance around the room.

Antonia staggered from her seat and grabbed her textbooks from the floor. The final bell rang and she clamored into the last available seat near the front, glancing sideways one last time at the hostile girl.

No fight, no fun, Casey groused silently.

A few minutes later Antonia began to wonder where the teacher was.

"Excuse me?" Antonia tapped the shoulder ahead of her. The young boy turned to her with a weary expression that turned slowly into a smile.

"What's up?" He sing-songed.

"I was just wondering if this class has a teacher?" Antonia smiled politely, not at all liking the way the boy was leering at her chest. It had slowly developed over the summer and she was still self-conscious.

"Who cares," he smiled, what was supposed to be a disarming smile, but somehow turned out lopsided. "My name's Trey. What's yours?"

She thought for a moment. Antonia was just not gonna fly in this neighborhood. "Tony," she shortened it, instantly liking how it made her sound more grown up.

"Cool," Trey drawled, "where ya from, new girl, Tony?"

"Everywhere," Tony’s eyes crinkled in laughter as he turned a confused smile at her. "I'm an army brat," she explained.

"Oh, cool."

That seemed to be about the extent of his vocabulary and she was eternally grateful when the door clicked open and the teacher finally stepped into the classroom. Tony felt eyes staring into the back of her head and she risked a glance backwards. Spike girl was flinging daggers at her. Tony swallowed hard and turned back to the teacher.

This was going to be a long, long day.





The rest of the morning was the same. Out of the corner of Tony's eye Spike girl was constantly there. If she had something to say why couldn't she just say it?

The classes were crowded and the teacher's harried and worn out already. One of her classes didn't even have textbooks and another, science, had nothing for labs.

Tony felt cheated. In Missouri she'd been challenged at school, had learned quickly and shown promise for any career she could dream of. But here... here there were no supplies, the teachers didn't care, and the rowdy students seemed to rule the school.

She still couldn't get over the littered hallways, with their smell of gym socks and body odor, and the graffiti covered lockers. Her own locker had a dent about the size of a human head. She avoided it.

Tony was beginning to understand how kids could 'fall through the cracks' even if she'd only heard of it before, as if it was urban legend.

She heaved a dramatic sigh as she trudged to the cafeteria. As she pushed open the battered doors her mouth sagged in disbelief.

People are suppose to eat here? She was suddenly, desperately thankful that Gram had made her lunch that morning, as some unknown smell wafted pass and left her stomach churning.

Her chest reverberated in the din of hollering students.

Ok, ok I can do this. How much worse can it get? Tony searched through the throng of moving bodies for an empty seat.

She passed a group of young black boys rapping, one dancing on the tabletop. She skirted around two boys scuffling, and detoured around a large group of dangerous looking young women, till she found a table in the back corner and wearily flopped into the last available chair.

The students didn't look up and she didn't bother with a 'hello.' She dug into her peanut butter and jelly sandwich with gusto as she studied her dog-eared math book. It was stuff two years behind what she'd been studying, and was missing close to a 1/4 of its pages.

Tony had decided that a meeting with the principal was in order. This crap was no longer acceptable. As she began to rehearse the speech she'd give to the principal, that had yet to be seen, she didn't notice the cafeteria growing silent and the mass of students at her table abruptly getting up and moving off to safer territory.

Mr. ... wait, what the heck is the principal's name? Nevermind, I'll ask Gram later. In Missouri I was two years ahead of the classes you've placed me in. All you have to do is look at my records-

"Mag, there ya are, chick."

The low contralto voice startled Tony out of her internal speech and she looked to her left, suddenly noticing that besides herself there was only one other girl at the table and the cafeteria had gone strangely quiet. She looked for the source of the voice and landed on a tall, dark haired beauty.

"Been lookin' for ya all day," Shane’s voice became threatening, "you weren't... hiding... from me, were you?" Shane arched dark eyebrows, her clear blue eyes glimmering with menace.

Tony watched the dark girl transform from almost friendly to predatory. Tony had the sudden terrified urge to get up and run for her life, but then she was drawn to the girl's face, her high cheekbones, tanned complexion and finally her eyes. Those blue, blue eyes, like the summer sky.

The girl, Mag, swallowed nervously. "I wasn't hiding Shane, honest. Just been busy, ya know, catchin' up on school work." She crammed her utensils back onto her tray, pushing it aside, ready to fight or flee.

Shane gave a sardonic snort. The day Mag did schoolwork pigs would fly. "Of course. But there's a little... matter... we need to discuss."

Tony watched the interaction playing between the two girls, her stomach twisting in knots. Mag was smaller then the dark girl, thin and had fading bruises around her blue-gray eyes and pale lashes. A scar crossed the bridge of her sharp nose.

This is definitely where Tony didn't want to be. Wrong place, wrong time. If she could have gotten up without drawing the attention of those angry, ice blue eyes she would have.

"What matter?" Mag feigned innocence knowing perfectly well what Shane wanted. It wasn't the best or brightest thing to do.

Shane's lip curled up in a snarl and a low, guttural growl trembled behind her clenched teeth. "Don't play stupid with me, Mag," she spit out.

"I don't have it." Mag stood, suddenly pale and trembling, knocking the metal chair to the floor with a loud clang.

The audience that had gathered around the table and the commotion jumped as a collective. Only Shane was deathly still, eyes glinting a darker blue with each passing second.

"Then get it," Shane hissed.

"I-I can't!" Mag stepped backward, right into the wall.

A cornered rat, Tony thought, and here comes the cat. Tony watched Shane advance and corrected that last part. A tiger. Maybe even a panther.

"You can and you will," Shane lowered her voice, sounding all the more dangerous. She towered over Mag, who seemed to shrink.

"I can't," Mag whispered, lips trembling, eyes wide.

Shane hissed and drew her hand back. She wouldn't take no or can't for an answer.

Anger welled up from deep in her belly, a bright red fist that ached to release itself. The anger called to her, flowed red hot through her veins. Shane snarled.


Do it. Do it for Charley.


As her fist flew into Mag's jawbone with a satisfying thunk her carefully controlled shield slipped, and with it, her anger.

I told you you couldn't control me. I'm a part of you Shane. Just go with it...

Shane smiled a feral smile and jumped on the girl trying to shrink into the wall.

She hit Mag repeatedly as the crowd around them began to chant, "Hammer, Hammer, Hammer!" Shane straightened up only once to haul Mag back to her unsteady feet.

Tony watched horrified, as if in slow motion, as Shane's arm drew back and prepared to hit the bloody girl again. Where the hell are the teachers? Why doesn't anyone stop her?

Before she knew what she was doing Tony had jumped up onto the chair and slid across the table on her butt. She landed on her feet on the floor, inches from Shane.

"Stop!" Tony cried, holding up a hand, not to defend herself but to stop the madness.

Shane's arm stopped in mid swing and she blinked rapidly. What the- Who the hell is this and what the fuck are they doing? "Get out of my way," she growled, trying to stare down intense green eyes.

"No," Tony stood straighter and stared back, unflinching, into angry blue, "leave her alone."

"Get out of my way," Shane growled for the last time. In the back of her mind she realized this was probably the new transfer and the girl had no idea in hell who she was standing up to. Cadence was right, she admitted grudgingly, I should have dealt with the transfer this morning. "This is none of your business."

"You made it my business when you interrupted my lunch," Tony's reply was haunty, full of courage, though her heart raced furiously in her chest. She prayed her body wouldn't tremble and give her way.

"Oh, well then," Shane drawled sarcastically, "go and finish your lunch. I'm so sorry I interrupted."

The crowd giggled nervously and Shane shot them a warning glare. There was instant silence.

"I've lost my appetite," Tony replied, quieting her tone, finding something in Shane's pale face and flashing eyes. She had no idea what it was but she could work with it.

Shane's eyes narrowed at the comment then she looked over the girl's shoulder to Mag who had slouched down to the floor. Mag's nose and lip were bloody and her eye was already swelling. The same eye Mag's father had gotten a sucker punch on. Ok, chill Shane, she told herself. Mag got the message. Just chill.

Bright green eyes followed Shane's movements and Tony clenched her fists, ready, if Shane wasn't going to back down. But Shane just looked back at the new girl.

Tony watched as Shane straightened and her arms came to rest at her sides.

Collectively more then a dozen sets of eyes widened and a few mouths hung open. This, this little girl was going to get away with standing up to Shane?

"Get up Mag and get the hell out of my school." Shane kept her voice carefully controlled.

Mag stood quickly on shaky legs and pushed her way through the crowd all the way out the school doors and to freedom. She didn't plan on coming back anytime soon.

"As for you," Shane studied the young girl standing defiantly before her, "what shall I do with you?"

Cat and mouse... Now Tony trembled at the subtle threat.

Shane smiled, but somehow it never quite reached her eyes. She bared her teeth and leaned in close. "Get the fuck out of here before I have to make an example of you," she whispered for the girl alone.

Tony's nostrils flared in defiance but as Shane straightened Tony decided she'd better get out while the getting was good. With an almost casual defiance she walked to the other side of the table, picked up her books and lunch bag. Then she pushed through the crowd to the lunch room doors.

Shane watched her go, a predatory smile on her face, playing to the crowd. She waved her hand at them dismissively and they scattered like birds.

The decibel level approached near deafening as Tony flung open the cafeteria doors. Once on the other side she sagged against the wall. Oh my God... what did I just do? Her mind stumbled, her stomach plummeted and she raced to the bathroom to lurch up the contents of her lunch.

Shane swaggered back to her usual table in the back left corner where she had a good view of all the comings and goings.

Casey sat beside her. "What the fuck was that about?"

Shane raised a dark eyebrow. "Are you questioning me?"

Casey paled. "Of course not. I just- I just thought you'd knock some sense into the little blond bitch," like you usually do, Casey stammered.

Silence descended as Shane contemplated an answer. Why indeed? Why had she let the blond spitfire stand up to her? No one had stood up to her in years. Maybe she was just bored. "She's a challenge, Case."

Casey's faced screwed up in a question, but before she could ask Shane continued.

"I'm going to break her, don't worry about that," Shane paused a moment, "but I think it'll be much more... fun… to play with her first."

Casey's smile brightened her constantly dark face. Of course. Shane was a master at games and it had been a while since they'd had fresh meat to toy with.

Oh this year was going to be fun!


Chapter Two

Girls Just Wanna… fight?


This year is going to suck! Tony's stomach heaved and her throat burned. It was the fact that the toilets and the whole bathroom stank, that every time she was close to the toilet loosing the contents of her stomach she'd smell the stench and loose it all over again.

Finally it was nothing but dry heaves and she rose unsteadily to her feet. She would have leaned against the door, but none of the stalls had any.

Maybe I can find the nurse and go home sick. She dragged her books and her body down the hall to the nurse's office. The window on the door had been smashed and the office had been vandalized. She felt her stomach lurch and hurried back down the hall to the side exit.

Tony gulped in large amounts of clean fresh air and sank onto the concrete steps, resting her head in the palms of her hands.

"Don't you know it's illegal to leave school grounds?"

The low voice purred right next to Tony's ear and she sat up with a start, her heart skidding to a stop as she fell into blue eyes. "I'm not leaving," she stated defiantly. And you can't make me either, she thought silently.

"What are you doing then?" Shane asked as she sat on the stairs beside the young girl.

"Just getting some fresh air." Tony looked out over the parking lot and blinked in the sun's glare, refusing to meet Shane's eyes.

"There's plenty of fresh air inside."

"Not in the bathrooms," Tony mumbled.

Shane grinned. "They do stink." All thoughts of playing games with this remarkable girl went right out of her head as she found herself engulfed in a shy smile. "What's your name?" she asked abruptly.

"Tony. And you're Shane, right?" I've heard a few things about you.

"I take it you've heard of me then?" Shane's voice was self-deprecating.

"Not much," Tony admitted.

There was silence for a long moment as Shane decided what could or should be said. And suddenly she found herself muttering, "I'm sorry about the incident in the cafeteria."

"S'ok," Tony murmured. From the things she'd heard she'd never expected an apology. A smack on the head, broken ribs... something like that.

"Wanna get out of school for a bit?" The dark teenager stood suddenly and climbed down the steps, not really waiting for an answer.

"I should go back inside?" It ended up more a question and Tony blushed as Shane gave her a sharp look.

"Suit yourself," she shrugged and clomped down the rest of the stairs, hitching her thumbs in her Jean pockets and not blaming the naive young girl one bit for not wanting to come.

Tony looked up at the darkened school door and the nausea rose in her stomach again. "Wait!" she called as she skipped the stairs two at a time and stepped up beside Shane. "Where are we going?"

Shane blinked at the bright smile then shrugged. "Dunno, feel like an ice cream?"

"Mmm, I love ice cream!" Tony bounced along beside the stoic, darker teenager, not letting Shane's silence bother her in the least. "Oh, wow, is that yours?" Tony's eyes came to rest on the shiny black Harley.

"Yup," Shane said proudly. It is... now. "Hop on and I'll take you for the ride of a lifetime."





Shane hadn't been kidding. Tony was breathless after the desperado flight down the busy city streets after recklessly swerving in and out of traffic. More then once Tony wished for a helmet, but she thought, wisely, that it was a comment better kept to herself.

As the bike came to a screeching halt Tony pried her fingers off Shane's leather vest and slid off the bike. "Hot dang," she breathed.

Shane chuckled. "Never been on a bike before, have ya?"

Tony shivered as she stood and shook out the shakes. "Not unless you count the bicycle I had once." She rifled her fingers through her hair and finally gave up on the snarls when she found Shane watching her with a bemused expression.

"Been to Coney Island yet?" Shane had the oddest desire to push a stray wisp of Tony's hair behind her ear. She shrugged the feeling away nervously.

"Coney Island?" Tony swiveled on her heel and got her first good look around after the whirlwind ride. "Wow. No, no I haven't been here yet. Gram promised we'd go as soon as-" There’s that expression again. Tony vowed to keep her mouth shut as long as possible. It lasted all of three seconds after they'd started for the gates.

Hot dogs and hamburgers sizzled in the late summer warmth. Suntan lotion and moving bodies swirled around Tony in an awe filled daze.

"They've got clowns and everything!" Tony called over the crowd of people. Most of them were tourists with cameras hung around their necks and sun block on their noses. "Hey, wanna go on a roller coaster?" Tony swung back around. Shane was gone.

Tony turned again to find Shane striding purposefully off the wooden deck and onto the crowded beach. Tony raced to catch up, hoping that she hadn't angered the older girl. Hoping she wasn't back where she was in the cafeteria with the threat of a black eye.

"Hey, Shane," she reached out and tugged on Shane's arm, trying to pull her to a stop, "I-"

Shane turned so suddenly that Tony took a startled step back. "Don't do that," she hissed.

"W-what?" Tony stammered, unable to comprehend the depths of Shane's eyes; the anger, the fear and pain she saw there in the split second before Shane's face once again became a mask. "Don't do what?" she asked as the silence stretched between them.

"Don't ever come up behind me like that." Don't ever touch me, Shane left the threat unspoken.

"I'm sorry," Tony withdrew her arm and hid it far behind her back, as if she'd been burned. She turned her gaze out to the sea of bodies. There seemed to be nothing to say, yet so much left unsaid.

Shane followed Tony's gaze out across the sun-dappled beach and skipped over the lotioned bathers, resting on the cresting waves. Something deep inside her hurt today. Was it just for Charley?

Tony cast a curious gaze up to study Shane's profile. She was lost in thought, farther away then the next edge of the ocean. There was a tiny scar below Shane's ear that ran from the underside of her earlobe an inch down her chin.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Tony asked, and held her breath as Shane's jaw tightened. The scar tissue whitened as Shane flexed her jaw.

"Ain't worth a penny," Shane replied coldly. "This was a bad idea. I'm taking you back," she said abruptly, and turned, heading back to the boardwalk.

"Shane?" Tony hurried to catch up. "Shane! Wait!"

Shane didn't stop till she was at the top of the wooden stairs with people bustling noisily by. She arched both eyebrows as if daring Tony to defy her.

"Did I do something to upset you?"

The hesitant question was so totally unexpected that Shane lost the growing coil of anger in her belly. "No," she watched those bright green eyes carefully, "I’m just in a bad mood."

"Oh, ok." Tony had been so sure that her rambling mouth and tendency to say whatever was on her mind had caused Shane's anger. "Do we really have to go back?" she asked quietly.

Shane had to strain to hear her over the crowd of tourists. Ahhh, what the hell, right? A small part of Shane's mind still toyed with the idea of playing games and messing up this young girl's naive little world. Then she sighed. What was the point? "How 'bout a ride on the coaster, then ice cream?"

The bright, full of teeth smile Shane got right then was enough to crumble any lingering thoughts of hurting Tony. Funny, she thought, the bad assed bitch is going soft, and over some pretty little blond.


Chapter Three



Riding on the Harley behind Shane and holding onto her waist felt so familiar yet so odd at the same time, Tony reflected as she walked up the cracking cement stairs to the rundown apartment she now shared with her mom and Grandmother.

They hadn't bothered going back to the school since it had been out for well over an hour by the time they'd headed back.

Tony had given Shane her address and watched silently as Shane's shoulders tensed and her eyes became dark once again on the race here. Was Shane disgusted by where she lived?

She shrugged now as she jogged up the two flights to the apartment. She still hadn't got use to the moldy smell in the hall or the way the stairs creaked ominously beneath her feet. And she certainly didn't like the broken lights and the shadows lurking in every corner.

Tony hesitated with her hand on the doorknob. Mom was gonna be mad.

Sure enough, she'd barely gotten a foot inside the doorway when her mother stormed out of the small kitchen and invaded her personal space.

"Antonia, where have you been?" Her mother leaned down, hot breath right in Tony’s face.

Tony backed up a step. "I walked home," she lied, suddenly remembering Shane's tense shoulders and her subtle disgust.

"Antonia!" Her mother cried, horrified, and spun her daughter around to check for any signs of mortal injury. "You are to ride the bus, girl. I never want you walking home in this neighborhood. Is that understood?"

Tony shrugged off her mother's frantic arms. "I'm fine mom," she replied through clenched teeth. "I can take care of myself."

"Not here you can't." Alice bored icy eyes into her daughter.

"Mom," Tony wailed, "I'm not a little girl anymore!"

"You are the only thing I have left Antonia and I will not loose you too." Alice latched shaky hands onto her daughter's shoulders and held tightly. Her eyes were filled with a deep pain.

Oh mom, when are you going to let me grow up? Why is everything about death now that daddy is gone? Tony flashed belligerent eyes at her mother. "You're not going to loose me, mother."

"How do you know that? How?" Alice cried, shaking her daughter.

Tony's eyes widened with alarm. "Mom?"

"How, Antonia? How do I know that? Your father-"

"Mom, stop, you're hurting me." Tony tried to shake off her mother’s latching, panicky hands.


Two sets of eyes riveted on the gray haired woman who walked through the open door of the kitchen.

"Let Antonia go, Alice. She's a big girl and it was her first day of school. How will she ever make friends here?" She touched Alice's shoulder with gentle understanding. "Come on, help me finish dinner."

"But-" Alice let her daughter go reluctantly as her mother's relentless gaze raked over her.

"Go on, child, go do your homework," Gram said gruffly.

Tony raced through the small living room to her even smaller bedroom. She slumped onto the single bed and stared out the barred window. Oh mom... she felt tears threatening and angrily brushed them away.

I wish we'd never come here, she screamed silently out the open window. She laid her forehead on the cold metal bars.

A knock came at her door.

"What do you want?" Tony couldn't stop the anger that seeped out of her voice.

"Can I come in?"

It was Gram. "Yeah, sure." Tony slipped from the window over to the battered desk on the other side of the room where she hastily began pulling books out of her backpack. She didn't have any homework but she certainly didn't want to face her mom right now either.

Gram stepped inside and shut the door behind her. "I'm sorry about your mother, sweetheart," Gram began sadly.

"It's all right Gram, she's just angry." We're both angry but mom can't see that.

Alice hadn't seen anything since she'd blindly stumbled by her husband's graveside screaming, 'Don't leave me here, Rob! Don't you dare leave me here all alone!'

"I know honey, but things will get better, you just wait." Gram sat on the bed and patted the space beside her where, after a moment, Tony sat, smiling tiredly at her Gram. "So, how was your first day of school?"

Tony just screwed up her face and gave a small snort.

"That bad, huh?" Gram chuckled, wrapping an arm around Tony's shrugging shoulders.

"It could have been worse," Tony admitted after a silent moment. Gram was so easy to talk to and before she knew it her whole day came pouring out, minus skipping school, of course.

"You be careful around that one," Gram finally said, after the story was complete.

She was referring to Shane but Tony already knew that. "I will Gram, I promise." Was it a promise she could keep? Every bone, every cell in her body cried out that she could trust Shane, that Shane would never hurt her. Another part cried out, just as loudly, that Shane was dangerous, a loose cannon.

"Dinner will be ready soon." Gram stood and made her way wearily to the door, watching as her granddaughter stared out the window, apparently lost in thought.

"Mmm," Tony mumbled in reply.

Gram closed the door behind her, shaking her head on the way. My little dreamer, she smiled. The smile faded as it always did because reality was reality. Dreams grew and died here in the slums. Alice had been lucky enough to get away, to find a dream somewhere else, but now she had returned and brought Antonia with her.

To the place where dreams died and innocence could be shattered in the blink of an eye. Not for the first time Gram feared for the safety of her naive young dreamer.


Chapter Four

Painful Surrender


Shane catapulted herself across the ditch and climbed up the rusty fence. She threw her leather jacket over the barbed wire at the top and climbed on over, jumping off the other side.

With a narrowed glance left and right Shane trudged down the worn dirt path to her favorite place in the world. Her only place really. One that was safe. Somewhere that even Casey or Cadence didn't know about.

It was an abandoned train station, mostly overgrown with weeds now, and the occasional snake. Transients lived here, took over a few of the old rusted out cars, but there was a place that she was sure they didn't even know about.

She waded through a thigh high patch of weeds to the back of the train station. There was a small patch of overgrown asphalt and a sewer drain. Shane stole a quick glance around. Satisfied that no one was looking she heaved the drain up and hauled it over to the side.

Then she climbed down the rickety ladder and pulled the grate back over the opening. Once at the bottom of the ladder she turned around and headed straight for a few feet then blindly turned left. Here she flicked open her zippo. The bright flames danced across the slimy stone wall and illuminated the long tunnel.

She followed the tunnel to the end and hooked a right, down another tunnel. Here there was another opening in the ground. She snapped the lighter shut and followed the ladder down.

Cold, moldy smelling air assaulted her nostrils. She resisted the urge to sneeze and flicked the lighter on once more. Ahead and to the left was a door.

Her safe haven.

Charley had played here with her. They'd been kings and knights defending the castle, traveling through the dungeons and mazes. They'd never been too old for this place. Time meant nothing here.

Shane opened the door and flicked the switch for a generator that she and Charley had smuggled down here one summer long, long ago. It struggled to life with a groan and the smell of burning kerosene.

Like all children with forts or playhouses it had beds, chairs, things snuck from home and stolen from the junkyard.

She sat on the edge of one of the beds, sinking slowly and painfully into more memories.

"Shane!" A young, eight year old Charley raised his wooden sword, standing by the door. "Bet you can't catch me!" His laughter followed him down the stone tunnels, echoing happily as his sister chased him.

"Can't catch me, " he taunted, knowing that she would and always did.

He'd rounded the corner and there she stood, hands on hips, wooden sword grasped easily in her hand.

His mouth gaped open. "How do you do that?"

Shane had laughed. "I have many skills."

Charley laughed too, it was a joke between brother and sister.

"I have many skills," she repeated sarcastically. "If I have so many goddamn fucking skills then why the hell are you dead Charley!" she screamed.

But that was the ironic thing, her skills and her intuition had heard him coming around the aisle even though she hadn't known who it was. Her heightened sense of awareness had allowed her to kill him before he could cause her any harm.

He was my brother! He would never harm me... For the first time in two years she allowed the tears to gather and cling to her eyelashes. "Oh God, Charley, I'm so sorry," she curled into a ball on the bed and cried silent tears for her lost brother.


Chapter Five

Second Day of School


There was Spike Girl again, leering at her. Don't let her get to you, a voice that sounded like her Grandmother's advised her. Tony smiled at Spike girl. It turned into a real grin as Spike Girl blinked rapidly and looked away.

Then it was Tony's turn to blink as Shane strode up to Spike Girl from the side and said something close to her ear.

Spike Girl replied and they started towards her. Tony gulped. They’re together? Hesitantly she smiled in Shane's direction, but the teen didn't even look her way.

A strong disappointment shook Tony. What had she expected? Her shoulders slumped and she headed towards her next class. Not like there was any point in going there since the teacher was rumored not to have shone up at all today.

Shane's face was masked around a grimace. I caused that hurt look in Tony's eyes, didn't I? She had to keep walking, Casey expected nothing less. Since when did I give a fuck what anyone thought?

"Hey, Tony!" Shane called over her shoulder, watching as the young girl stopped in mid stride, paused, then turned to face Shane.

Tony's face was unreadable. "Yes?" Two can play at this game. You don't know me. I don't know you.

"Ehh, c'mere," Shane demanded, but it wasn't a harsh demand. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Casey smile. Shane hid a frown.

Tony took a few steps toward Shane, being bumped by the crowd on her way. "What?" she asked coolly.

"Tony, this is Casey. Casey, this is Tony."

Tony's face brightened visibly. "Hi Casey, nice to meet you."

Casey scowled. "Yeah, whatever."

Shane turned a withering glare on Casey. "Find Cadence and the others. There's something we need to discuss."

Casey paled at the ominous tone and nodded silently, slinking into the crowd and moving off, apparently to find Cadence and the others.

"Morning," Tony said shyly, after Casey had disappeared. "Is she a friend of yours?" Tony sighed as that inpeneratable shield went up in Shane's eyes once again.

"I don't have any friends, Tony."

"That can't be true." Tony's shock was evident in her voice. "You must have some friends. What about all those girls you hang with?"

"My posse," Shane said dryly.

Then it’s true. "And out of all of those girls not a single one is your friend?" Tony persisted.

Shane thought hard about that one for a moment. Her comment had been snide at first, to throw Tony off balance, maybe even scare her, but it was true. "Define friend," she replied wearily.

As they began to walk down the emptying hallway Tony considered the statement carefully. Shane confused the heck out of her, scared her a little even, but so far the best course of action with the troubled girl had been outright honesty. "A friend," she began, her tone light, "is someone who stands beside you when no one else will."

The gang would stand beside Shane, not out of friendship, but loyalty and fear.

"They don't judge you for your actions, or hate you for what you've done."

The gang had never said one word about Charley's death, had simply followed her when she'd given the challenge for leadership. How did they really feel about her?

"They know you, better then anyone, even your parents," Tony finished softly in the empty halls. They now stood outside the door of her classroom.

"Then..." Shane began, "then I don't have any friends."

Tony's heart ached for this girl. I'll be your friend. The sentence was close to passing her open lips but she looked back up to Shane's face and into her cold eyes, realizing that Shane didn't want or even need a friend. She snapped her jaw shut and shifted her backpack awkwardly from shoulder to shoulder.

Shane's heart was beating like a wild beast against her ribcage. It felt like she'd said too much, revealed too much. She wanted to take it all back or slam her fist into the wall, but those green eyes weren't filled with pity just sadness. Did Tony understand? Could Shane even begin to hope?

"See ya ‘round," Shane called instead, pivoting on her heel, rushing away from Tony and the emotions the girl brought out in her.

"Yeah, see ya," Tony murmured, but Shane was too far away to hear. With a sad sigh she opened the door to the nearly empty classroom and went inside. With no teacher most of the students found other places to go. Some of the quieter ones stayed behind where trouble was less likely to be found.

Tony sat by the window and pulled a notebook out of her backpack. Till the bell rang she lost herself in writing the story of a young girl, her best friend, and their adventures around the world.





"So, what's up?" Cadence asked.

They were all in the parking lot, gathered around Tish's hot red Corvette with the vanity plate '1Tish1' painted in bright pink letters.

"Mag's gone," Casey began when it seemed the silence would go on forever and Shane would say nothing.

"So?" Tish asked, flipping her blond hair behind her shoulders, swaying her hips and chomping bubble gum, all at the same time.

"So," Shane said coldly, "we can't collect."

"Word is Mag skipped town." Cadence was leaning on the bumper of the Corvette, much to Tish's annoyance.

"Checked it out myself," Casey confirmed. "She hasn't been home. I talked to her friend, what's her name, and she said Mag had called, said good-bye from the bus station."

All eyes turned to Shane to see what she would make of the news and if there was any retribution to pay.

Flock of sheep, Shane grumbled to herself, unexpectedly annoyed that they all turned to her for the answers when half the time she didn't have them. "Fuck her," Shane replied offhand. "I don't give a shit about Mag, or the money she owes."

Casey scowled. What the hell is wrong with you, Shane? Ok, so yesterday was the anniversary of your brother's death. Get fucking over it already. "Well I care," Casey said recklessly.

Shane raised one eyebrow. Oh really... "Do you care more about the money Case, or your posse?" Shane's tone deepened and her lip curled up in a snarl.

"I-" Casey took a hesitant step back, "um..."

"Well Case? It's a simple question." Shane bore her eyes into Casey's, enjoying as she squirmed. "Answer."

"Fine, the money doesn't matter, Shane," Casey finally answered.

Shane backed down and leaned once again on the VW bug parked beside the Corvette. Her demeanor was suddenly back to its usual casual grace.

Casey sighed and backed down, for the moment.

"What about that new girl? What's her name? Tina?" Cadence asked, trying to relieve the tension. Maybe it was the wrong question because Shane's eyes narrowed on her immediately.

"Her name is Tony," Shane's voice was cool. "What about her?"

Cadence forgot her question as Shane's icy eyes drilled into her.

"She's working on it," Casey smiled knowingly, "aren't ya, Shane?" She turned expectantly to her leader.

"Working on what?" Shane asked dryly.

"Breaking her... uh, playing games with her mind." Casey looked away quickly, puzzled. "I think we should all harass her-"

"No," Shane cut her off.

"What?" Casey demanded and stood full height, angry at this new turn of events.

"I. Said. No." Each word from Shane's mouth was tight and controlled. "She's mine."

"Yours?" Casey yelled. "Why the fuck is she yours? Everyone here is bored out of their minds! We want fun too!" She had stepped closer in her rage, hurling insults like Shane hurled fists.

"If anyone touches Tony you'll answer to me." Shane’s gaze swept the rest of the girls and turned back to linger on Casey's reddening face.

"Why the hell should we leave her alone?" Casey was right up in Shane's face now.

"Because I said so," Shane's voice was a low growl and collectively the group shrank from it.

Casey was either too enraged or too stupid to notice. "Because I said so," Casey mimicked.

Cadence's eyes widened. Shit Casey, what the fuck do you think you're doing? Do you want to get yourself killed?

That little voice inside Shane surfaced again. Are you going to let her get away with talking back to you like that? it asked incredulously.

No, was Shane's undeterrable answer.

Casey didn't even see the slap coming. It impacted across her face so hard that her ears rang and she staggered backwards. Stupid bitch, think you're so hot? I'll show you!

A free for all began and the other girls stepped back out of the way of Shane's wrath.

Casey landed a good, solid right hook on Shane's lip. Shane just smiled, wiped absently at the blood and came back with a jab at Casey's middle.

The air in Casey's lungs expanded loudly and she groaned, but she wouldn't let Shane make a fool of her.

They punched, jabbed and blocked. Shane's power was carefully controlled and it angered Casey. Come on, get mad at me! Fight like I know you can.

"You like the little puta?" Casey asked.

Her answer was a fist slamming past her defenses and landing on her jaw.

"You do," Casey worked her jaw and cracked it, "don't you?"

"So what if I do?" Shane hissed.

Uh huh! Casey lunged at an opening on Shane's right side, getting in a quick jab in her ribs.

Shane just gritted her teeth against the pain and took a wild, angry swing at Casey. She missed.

That's it, fight! Casey hit again, drawing a long scratch down Shane's face.

Enough, the anger in Shane cried. Flatten her. She punched past Casey's defenses and pummeled her senseless.

Casey collapsed to the ground in a heap of pain.

"Enough!" Cadence summoned up some remote amount of courage and stepped in front of Shane, much as Tony had done in the cafeteria.

Shane stopped, disconcerted. Do I see a pattern emerging here? "She started it," she said snidely, looking down on Casey's crumpled, bleeding body.

"Then end it," Cadence replied softly. The others were far enough away they couldn't hear the soft, imploring undertone.

Shane's anger-dark eyes riveted on Cadence's face. "What if I don't want to?"

"Someone has to end it, Shane." Cadence glanced at Casey struggling to her feet. "They look up to you."

Shane looked out over the crowd of girls. Her girls, her posse. Cadence stepped back as Shane extended her hand to Casey.

The rebellious teen looked at Shane's proffered hand then up to her face and was surprised by what she found. Anger, yes... but pain and sorrow too. She sighed and accepted the offered truce.

Shane hauled Casey to her feet and offered up an apologetic and rueful grin.

"So," Casey drawled, wiping at the blood dripping from her nose, "it's hands off the newbie then."

Shane chuckled lightly and clasped Casey around her shoulders. "Come on, you need to wash up. It looks like you got hit by a freight train."

"Nah, just the Hammer." Casey smiled and it seemed all was forgiven. "You don't look so hot yourself."


Chapter Six

Take a look around


I’m not eating lunch in the cafeteria again, Tony sighed. There was a mass exodus out the front doors as the seniors raced off campus for lunch. Tony was a lowly freshman and not allowed off campus.

Bet that never stopped Shane, she thought dryly. Well, I'm not Shane. Tony decided that an empty set of side stairs would be good enough.

She'd just taken out her sandwich and cookies when the short hairs on the back of her neck quivered.

"Hi," Shane sat casually beside Tony.

"Hey yourself," Tony replied softly, the tingling intensifying then dying suddenly as she looked over at Shane. "What the heck happened to your face?" Tony blinked, taking in the split lip and thin scratch across Shane's cheek.

"Nothing much," Shane lied, fingering her lip absently.

"Uh huh, and what does the other person look like?"

"Worse then me," Shane grinned, but it slowly faded as Tony frowned.

"You like hurting people?" Tony asked.

What the fuck does that matter to you? What if I told you I was defending you? What would you do then? "Yeah, I like hurting people. It's my specialty." Shane's lip curled in anger.

"Why?" Tony's voice was soft.

Afraid? You should be. "What does it matter to you?" Shane sneered, thinking she already knew the answer.

"It does matter." Tony shrugged. "I don't know why." I see something in you, Shane. "I just hope you know what you're fighting for."

Shane's eyes widened.

"What?" Tony asked skeptically. "Did you know what you were fighting for this time?"

"I- I... um..." Shane looked everywhere but at Tony. "Casey and I got in a fight... over you," she admitted slowly.

"Me?" Tony stared at Shane. "Why, Shane? Why?"

"Casey wanted to harass you." Shane tried to defend her actions. "So, I-"

"You what? You hit her?"

"Yes." Shane stood suddenly. "I was angry and I hit her."

Tony sighed and stood to face the angry girl. She reached out a hand to touch Shane's arm then withdrew it hastily as blue eyes pinned her down. "I'm not worth fighting for. There's always another way."

"What other fucking ways are there for a girl like me, Tony?" Shane spat out.

"Talking," Tony said softly.

"Yeah, well there are some things worth fighting for." Shane clomped down to the last step.

"Yes there are," Tony waited for Shane to stop and turn around, "but I'm not one of them."

Shane remained silent, impassive, her eyes a steel wall that couldn't be broken. How could she explain to Tony that ‘Yes, she was worth fighting for?’

"We could talk now," Tony offered.

Shane's shoulders straightened and tensed. "There's nothing to talk about."

"Are you going off campus for lunch?" Tony looked down from her top step vantage point, Shane seeming small and fragile.

"No." Shane glanced right and left, eyes narrowed, then went back up the stairs and sat on the step next to Tony's open lunch bag.

"I thought all the seniors would jump at the chance." Tony sat again and picked up her sandwich.

"I'm not all seniors," Shane said with a wry glance at Tony.

"That's true." Tony grinned, trying to diffuse some of the tension.

"Why don't you go off campus?" Shane studied Tony's profile and settled on the small bruise almost hidden by her shirt collar.

"I've already got lunch." Tony held up her bag of chocolate chip cookies.

"Obviously, but if you wanted to would you go off campus?" Shane asked.

"It's against the rules," Tony answered.

"Rules my ass. Do you think all of the people leaving now are seniors?" Shane waved her hand out to the parking lot that was slowly emptying as kids jumped in cars and took off.

"Well of course not. But I would like to think there are some people who follow the rules in this stupid school," Tony snorted and bit into her pb and j sandwich.

"Are you calling my school stupid?" Shane challenged.

Tony stopped, mid bite, and looked curiously at Shane. "Your school?"

"My school," Shane confirmed proudly.

Tony took a minute to savor the peanut butter sticking to the roof of her mouth. Gram must have opened a fresh jar this morning. "Mmm," she mumbled, peanutbutter refusing to let go, "I wouldn wan thith school, even if you paid me."

"What does that mean?" Shane asked dangerously.

Tony took a swallow of luke-warm soda. "The teachers don't teach. They can't teach without textbooks and lab supplies. You're two years behind everything I was learning before." Tony began to pick items off on her fingers. "The cafeteria serves stuff I wouldn't feed to my dog, if I had one. The nurse's office is vandalized. The bathrooms are filthy. The halls are covered with-"

"Dammit Tony, enough. I get your point," Shane grumbled, looking down at her biker boots, "but so what?"

"So what?" Tony asked incredulously.

"Yeah, so what? No one here will ever amount to anything anyway." And what would the little spitfire say to that one?

"Don't be stupid, Shane," Tony blurted, then paled as Shane's icy eyes narrowed on her. She rushed to continue. "They won't amount to anything with attitudes like that and an environment like this."

"We're in the fucking ghetto, Tony. Open your eyes." Shane stood and waved an angry hand out over the city surrounding them on every side.

"My eyes are open." Tony shook her head, gathered her lunch back into her bag and headed up the steps to the school. And I've seen too much already, she sighed.

Shane held her tongue, biting the inside of her lip. Stupid little girl, she fumed, but she found herself calling out to the departing brightness. "What am I suppose to do then?"

"It's your school, you figure it out." Tony called over her shoulder and disappeared into the school.

Damn right it's my school. But somehow she felt she'd missed something in the conversation and it pissed her off. She stormed out to the parking lot and revved the Harley to life, peeling out in a squeal of tires and burning rubber.

Why the hell does talking to Tony always make me feel like my heart is ripping out of my chest?





Tony was shaking as she walked into the school. The door clicked behind her and she couldn't help but feel as if she couldn't turn back from whatever course destiny had set her on.

And what if I don't want to? Tony flung her lunch into the nearest overflowing trash can. It bounced off the filled top and crashed to the floor. She took a few angry steps before she turned back and picked it up, stuffing it far down into the trashcan.

So, what do I do about it?


Chapter Seven



Shane was at a crossroads. She knew it, she just couldn’t face it. Not now. Tony was wrong. Her school wasn’t stupid. She ran the school. She WAS the school.

Yeah, so why wasn’t it fun anymore?

The growl in Shane’s throat matched the rev of the Harley. She sped up and twisted the bike expertly around the sharp corner, heading back towards the school. She parked the bike under the shade of a tree on the commons and waited on the stone steps as the students piled out of school towards the buses waiting in the drive.

Shane watched each student with a detached eye, waiting for one in particular. There. Her shining red-gold hair stood out among the crowd.

Tony noticed Shane and smiled. "Hey." She cut across the swath of students and stood awkwardly in front of the dark teenager.

"Hey yourself." Shane shifted from foot to foot and looked out over the crowd. "Want a ride home?"

"Don’t you um… have to terrorize someone this afternoon?"

Shane flashed a full teeth smile and chuckled. "No, I did that yesterday." She stepped over the short wall that separated the grass from the stairs, waiting for Tony to follow. She led the way to the Harley, parked over by the tree, and kicked the stand up, straddling the bike. She held out an arm for Tony.

Tony grabbed Shane’s well-muscled forearm and pulled herself over. Should have been higher… more trees… "You remember where I live?" the young girl asked, shaking away the strange déjà vu.

"Yep. Hold on," Shane instructed and kick started the bike.

The back tire spun out on the soft grass. Tony gasped and grabbed Shane’s waist.

Shane executed a perfect 180 pivot around her leg planted on the ground, then sat square on the seat, pushing the bike between two buses and out onto the road.

Tony just closed her eyes and hung on as they sped down the road, exceeding the limit by at least 20 mph. When they finally stopped in front of her apartment building she had to pry her fingers off Shane’s leather vest.

"Um, thanks?"

Shane smiled. "See you tomorrow?"

"Sure." Tony paused for all of a heartbeat. "But, um, would you like to come inside. I know the other day you didn’t want to and I know it’s not the best apartments but you could meet my mom-"


"-and gram. She always makes cooki- Wait, what?"

"I said sure." Shane turned the key in the ignition and kicked the stand into place. What the hell, right? I’m always up for cookies.

"Cool," Tony said and smiled. She led the way up the stairs. "Um, it smells funky I know but if you go real quick…" She turned expectantly to Shane but didn’t see the wrinkled nose and disgust she’d expected.

"Race ya?" Shane’s eyes glittered in the dim overhead light.


"Ready?" Shane waited for Tony to nod. "1, 2… " Shane took off, calling out ‘3’ over her shoulder.

"Hey, no fair!" Tony shouted and raced up behind Shane, all of five stairs after.

Shane paused at the second floor landing. "Up?"

"No," Tony called breathlessly. "This is it. 309." She had almost caught up.

Shane slowed and they reached the door at the same time.

Tony doubled over, hands on her knees. "Dang…" She pulled the key from around her neck and handed it up to Shane. "See if… Gram… is home… first." She was still out of breath and noticed Shane didn’t seem to have even broken a sweat.

Tentatively Shane knocked on the door. Now that she was here she was nervous. Why? It’s just Tony’s mom and gram. Yeah, JUST Tony’s mom. She was about to rap on the door again when it popped open a crack.

Faded green-gray eyes peeked out. "What do you want?" she asked harshly.

Tony’s mom? "Um…" Shane started.

"It’s me, mom. Open up," Tony called from behind Shane.

"Where are you at, girl?"

"Right here, mom." Tony peered under Shane’s elbow. The door slammed shut, the chain rattled and the door opened wide a second later. Tony’s mom stood behind the door as they entered and shut it quickly, re-locking the numerous locks.

"Who’s this?" Alice waved a hand at Shane.

"This is my friend Shane." Tony smiled. "Shane, this is my mom."

The dark teenager just nodded.

Alice eyed the girl suspiciously, then turned her gaze back to her daughter. "Did you ride the bus today?" she asked harshly.

"Y-yes mom," the young girl stammered. I’m in sooo much trouble. She looked to Shane with pleading eyes.

"Oh yeah and boy was it crowded today. Tony’s lucky her stop is one of the first-" Shane started helpfully.

"Tony?" Alice turned dark eyes on her daughter. "If it isn’t one thing it’s another with you, isn’t it? Are you embarrassed by the name your father gave you?" her voice rose.

Shane’s eyebrows rocketed up under her bangs and she took an unconscious step next to her young friend. The subtle movement went unnoticed by both Tony’s mom and Tony, but faded blue eyes watched cautiously from the kitchen doorway before retreating.

"Mom… I- it’s- not like that-"

"Did I hear my Antonia come home?" Gram called from the kitchen.

"Yes Gram!" Tony yelled, visibly relieved by the interruption. "Come on Shane, you can meet my Gram."

Tony nearly skipped into the kitchen but Shane followed at a more sedate pace, glancing warily at Tony’s mother one last time.

Introductions were made and cookies and milk doled out to the girls. Gram was all smiles, gray hair and soft lines. The way a grandmother should be. Shane wondered what her own grandmother looked like. If she lived with us would I get milk and cookies? Would dad- she stuffed another cookie in her mouth, savoring the buttery flakes.

So, this is my Antonia’s friend Shane. The dangerous one. She studied the blue eyes that softened when they looked at her granddaughter. Not all bad… "I’ll leave you two to your snack, sweetheart." She kissed Antonia on the forehead.

"Thanks, Gram." Tony smiled around the cookie. "Gram’s cool, isn’t she?" Tony asked after Gram was out of earshot.

"Yeah," Shane replied absently.

"Sorry about the way my mom acted," Tony murmured. "Since dad left she’s been kinda angry."

Shane nodded. "My dad’s like that, sorta."

"Is your mom gone?" Ooops, the wall… "Nevermind. Hey, wanna see my room?" Tony licked the crumbs off her fingers and drained her glass of milk as she waited for Shane to answer.


Tony’s mom was nowhere in sight. Gram was sitting at the black-n-white TV watching a snowy daytime soap.

"It’s kinda small, but I didn’t have that much to begin with so it all fits," Tony apologized. She’d been apologizing a lot recently. Who’s more ashamed, she wondered. Me?

"It’s nice." Shane stood at the window, looking through the shattered windows of the abandoned building next door. "Can I ask you something?"

"I’m all ears." Tony smiled.

"What did you mean earlier? When you said it was my school and I had to figure it out?"

The question was obviously important to Shane, to have remembered it so long. Tony tried to recall the conversation from earlier. "Well-" She paced the small room, stopped next to Shane and looked up.

Shane’s blue eyes met Tony’s.

"I meant that this is where you live. You should respect it."

"You meant more then that." Shane looked back out the window, not really seeing anything.

"Maybe I did," Tony admitted slowly. "Your posse runs the school."

Shane nodded.

"So, why let it rot? Why scare away the teachers and harass the students? I haven’t once seen the principal and there isn’t even a nurse. What if someone gets hurt?"

"Anybody that gets hurt in the school doesn’t usually need a nurse," Shane replied ominously.

Tony paled. Well, what did you expect? a little voice asked. "Do you like the graffiti? And the litter? And the smelly bathrooms and locker rooms?"

"No," the older teen answered honestly. "Are you saying I should clean up the school?" She turned to face Tony.

"You have the power to do it. If you wanted to."

"Maybe I don’t want to," Shane mumbled as she turned and walked over to the small bed. She sat with a sigh and looked over at Tony as she sat down.

Tony remained silent. What do I say? Should I say anything at all? I’m getting out of here, I know it. Soon as mom saves enough we’ll go back to Missouri and get a house…

Shane laid back on the sky blue comforter and put her hands behind her head. "Charley would want me to," she whispered and closed her eyes. Charley smiled back at her. Yeah, he would.


"My brother."

"I haven’t- um… where is your brother?" Tony studied Shane’s face, wondering on some subconscious level if she had ever met this girl before.

"He’s dead," Shane replied softly and glanced up into sad green eyes.

"I’m sorry."

"It’s ok. I’m over it." Shane turned her head to stare at the ceiling, no longer able to meet Tony’s eyes.

No you’re not, Tony thought. It still haunts you. "What happened to him?"

"He was shot and killed in a robbery." Shane’s words were monotone, as if reading from a newspaper article.


"I don’t want to talk about it." Shane sat abruptly. "Would your mom let you out of the house to go get ice cream?"

Tony stumbled over the quick change in topic and landed abruptly on ice cream. Mmmm, chocolate Marshmallow Ripple… "No, it’ll be dark soon and I’m not allowed out after dark."

"There’s a good two hours till sundown." Shane glanced at the red numbers on the alarm clock by the bed.

"Well… it can’t hurt to ask, can it?" Tony smiled, already anticipating the creamy flavor as it melted in her mouth.





Tony made sure to ask with Gram in attendance, who, she knew, would defend her right to go out and have fun with her friend.

And it had been fun. Like the two girls had known each other forever, grown up neighbors and played together every day after school. It ended much too soon.

Shane dropped her off outside the apartment’s front door and waited till Tony was safely inside before revving the Harley and speeding down the street.

She didn’t see Tony’s mom watching out the front window. And she didn’t see the anger that fairly emanated in lightning streaks from her eyes.





Tony let herself into the apartment. Wonder where Gram is? Oh yeah, bridge night with the old ladies upstairs.


Her mother’s screeching voice halted Tony with her hand grasping the chain lock. "Yes mom?"

"Come here. Now!"

Tony shivered. "Where are you?"

"In your room."

"I’m coming…" She finished locking the door and went to find her mother.


Chapter Eight

Flight or fight


Shane’s room was far from quiet, bathed in the eerie Neon glow of street lights and beer signs. A baby was crying upstairs, someone was thumping something down the stairs and someone was yelling. Through the open window came the sound of barking dogs, cars, squealing tires and the occasional police siren.

Pale blue eyes regarded the peeling ceiling. She traced the lines of a water leak from one end of the room to the next.

A headache pounded across her temples. Shane never got headaches. She tossed and turned on the double bed, unable to sleep.

She rolled onto her stomach and buried her head under the pillow to drown out the lights and noises. It didn’t help.

Get up and do something… dad sure as hell won’t notice. Shane jumped up from the bed, tossing the pillow onto the floor as she went. Grabbing her jeans and boots she tossed them on and headed out of her room and out of the apartment.

As she walked down the dilapidated stairs and through the warped front door the thought came to her that she had no idea where she was going.

I could gather the posse, half of them are probably already out partying…. But she realized that she didn’t want to see any of them right now. Undecided, she sat on the Harley, letting the city surround her.

Shane lit a cigarette and watched the hazy smoke drift up towards the streetlight as someone rushed past on a skateboard, jumping over the curb and two boys followed, laughing. Cars rushed past, even at this late hour.

Italian, Greek, Irish, BBQ… mingled through the neighborhoods, fast food and homecooked. A whiff of garbage and sewage came and left. Shane wrinkled her nose then straightened her leather jacket and revved the Harley to life.

She tossed the cigarette into the litter on the side of the street and took off, pushing the bike to thirty, then forty and fifty as she roared down the empty alleys and parking lots she’d known since childhood. She could travel these places blindfolded.

After speeding through the bank parking lot she shot down a main avenue, through two red lights and down another back alley to the ‘Stop n Shop.’

Pent up energy and adrenaline coursing through her body Shane pushed open the door. The little bell jingled, singling her arrival. The Puerto Rican boy glanced up from behind the counter then went back to reading his Superman comic.

It hasn’t changed much, Shane thought numbly as she took in the store. A new rotating metal shelf held postcards. A sign behind the register said; "No more then 50 dollars cash in the register. Safety Drop Box." A sign below it toted a new security system. The only other thing different was the boy behind the counter.

The night Charley died that stupid, stubborn, old man had been sitting in the boy’s place.

"Put your hands where I can see them! Don’t even make me think you want to touch that fucking alarm under the counter," Jynx hissed loudly and waved her pistol wildly at the old man’s head.

Shane stood off to Jynx’s right side and a little behind her, bags for the money in her hands.

"Take the money out of the cash register," Jynx instructed the old man and Shane stepped forward to gather it up.

"No!" The old man’s hands dipped beneath the counter top. "Get the fuck out of my store, you punks!"

"Don’t you dare!" Jynx screamed, firing a shot off behind the man’s head and into the plaster wall.

He ducked beneath the counter and rose up with a sawed off shotgun in his hands. His finger shook on the trigger.

"Put that thing down." Jynx waved the pistol in his face. "Now! Before I kill you."

"Jynx," Shane hissed. "Let’s just get the hell out of here." Out of the corner of her eye she could see Jynx’s wild eyes and Cadence, Molly, Tish and Casey all stepping back, heading toward the exit.

"No, we came here for a reason. And I want the fucking money." She stared directly at Shane, her glance leaving the old man for just a split second.

It was all the time he needed.

Shane heard the click and reacted instinctively, tossing her hand up and knocking the sawed off barrel up into the ceiling. The recoil sent the old man staggering a step backward, but she didn’t loose her grip.

Jynx was cursing. Molly was screaming to ‘just get the hell out before the police came’ and the old man was struggling to aim the gun at Shane.

The second shot buzzed past her ear. Shane gave a sharp cry and ripped the gun from the old man’s hands. "Case," she ordered as she trained the shotgun between the old man’s eyes, "get the money. Cadence, stop the camera and get the surveillance tape." For a second no one moved or breathed. "Now!"

Casey hurried behind the counter and stuffed the bills into the brown paper bag while Cadence threw open the door to the little upstairs security room and ripped the tape out of the recorder.

"Don’t move," Shane jabbed the shotgun against the man’s forehead. "Hurry up, Case, we haven’t got all week."

"Got it!" Cadence cried as she raced back down the stairs and waved the tape in the air. Casey finished with the register and came back around the corner.

"All right, let’s go," Jynx finally tried to re-establish command of her posse.

Shane nodded silently and took a step back.

"Stupid punks!" The old man grabbed the barrel of the shotgun.

Shane’s finger was stiff around the trigger and the sudden, jerking movement jammed the trigger back. The shotgun went off and Shane staggered backward under the force of the impact. The old man’s blood splattered her face and the front of her T-shirt. Shards of bone and gray matter dripped down her jaw.

In a horrified haze Shane turned to the rest of the posse, meeting their shocked gaze. Oh God, oh God, oh God… raced through her mind. The cops… A noise startled her and she turned, swiveling the shotgun around automatically.

Through a bloody veil of shock she pulled the trigger, again.


The scene played itself out like a mini movie, right there beside the counter of the ‘Stop N Shop.’ And like a commercial the boy interrupted.

"Hey, lady, you all right?"

Shane turned blindly, silent tears coursing down her suddenly pale cheeks. All right? Sure, I’m all right. I killed my brother… I’m just fine. A sob stuck painfully in her throat. "I killed him," she whispered hoarsely.


Pain so intense that it robbed Shane of breath she turned quickly and raced out of the store as if the hounds of hell were chasing her, trying to claim her darkened soul.

In the parking lot Shane jumped on the motorcycle and took off. As she roared down the streets, tears ripping from her eyes, she struggled to see, to understand.

Why? Why? Why?

No answers came as she led the bike up onto the freeway. Crisp, spring air, turned into tornado force by the speed of the bike, whipped her dark hair around her face in a torrent of darkness that matched her thoughts. What would happen if I just kept riding? If I laid the bike down on the asphalt? If I took it to the bridge…

Tony’s innocent face flashed before her eyes, causing the bike to swerve dangerously. For some reason those green eyes begged her to slow down and make it back in one piece.

Shane let up on the gas and took the next exit off the freeway and back into the city of perpetual night.


Chapter Nine

Silent cries


Shane rapped on Tony’s window, peering inside. Tony’s blond head poked up through a bundle of blankets and she blinked sleepy, startled eyes around the room.

Shane tapped on the window again.

Tony jumped and turned with wide eyes. "S-shane? What are you doing here?" Self-consciously she wrapped one of the blankets around her shoulders as she stood.

"Let me in," the dark teenager called.

Tony stared for a moment at the face highlighted by the moon. She cleared her throat. "There’s bars on the window," she pointed out.

"Let me in the front then."

Tony shivered. More trouble. She shook her head silently.

"Please," Shane whispered hoarsely.

Has she been crying? "I’ll meet you at the door." Tony threw down the blanket after Shane had dropped from sight. Then, with a silent prayer, she tiptoed through the apartment and began to unlock the door. Five locks and a metal rod later she ushered Shane inside and motioned with a crooked finger to be silent.

They tiptoed back to Tony’s room, shut and locked the door.

Tony re-wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and sat on the bed while Shane paced, taking some comfort in the young girl’s sleepy presence.

Back and forth and back and forth Shane paced.

"Stop that," Tony hissed. "Come sit down." She patted the bed.

"I’d rather stand." Shane ran her fingers through wind tangled hair.

Fine. Ok…. What are you doing here? Why were you crying? Why bother to ask at all when you probably won’t answer my questions? Tony glanced at the bedside clock. "I take it all is not well if you’re sneaking into my room at four o’clock in the morning?"

Shane blew a sharp burst of air between her teeth. "I can leave if I’m bothering you."

"No, no you aren’t bothering me. Please, Shane, sit down?"

She turned dark eyes on Tony. With the moonlight streaming into the room she could see the young girl better. "What happened to your face?" she sat on the bed beside Tony.

Tony stifled a gasp and the automatic urge to touch the bruise on her chin. "Nothing," she lied.

"Does it hurt?" Shane asked softly.

"No," she lied again.

"And," Shane reached her hand up to the collar of Tony’s nightshirt, "this one didn’t hurt either, I suppose?"

"I don’t even remember doing it." Tony pulled away from Shane, her eyes wide with fear and face turning red with shame.

"Uh huh," Shane curled her hand into a fist and dropped it into her lap. "And I suppose you fell into a doorknob or some other sick cliché?"

Tony remained silent.

"Who did this to you?" Shane asked, finding that her chaotic thoughts could focus, when it was on someone else’s pain.

"I-" Tony shook her head fearfully. "It wasn’t her fault. I shouldn’t have gone out. I worried her. I always worry her. And she’s been so upset since daddy… left… and she gets so angry. It’s not her fault…" She trailed off, on the verge of hysterical tears.

"Her who?" Shane gritted her teeth and willed her hands to stay steady.

Tony suddenly realized her mistake. "N-no one," she stammered.

"Your Gram?" Shane was angry now. So angry that someone would ever want to hurt this innocent girl.

"No!" Tony gasped and quickly covered her mouth.

"If it wasn’t your Gram then it was your mom." The dark teenager stood so suddenly that Tony sat looking dumbfounded at the space where she had been.

Tony’s silence was all the answer Shane needed. She hurried to the door. "That bitch-" She unlocked the door.

"No, Shane!" As Tony leapt from the bed and crossed the small room she broke the cardinal rule and reached out to grab Shane’s elbow.

"What?" Shane turned angrily in her grasp. "I should beat the shit out of your mom for hurting you," she hissed through gritted teeth.

"No, it’s not her fault. She’s lost without daddy." Tony tugged on Shane’s elbow, willing her to back down. "Please, don’t hurt her?"

"But she hurt you."

Tears fell from Tony’s pale green eyes. "Please don’t…" she whispered. She needed so desperately for someone to hold her and just reassure her that everything would be all right.

Shane sighed, not bothering to shake off the desperate hand clinging to her arm. She looked down into Tony’s face, at the trembling lips and falling tears. "Come on, don’t cry."

"S-sorry," Tony stammered, choking on her tears. Of course. Of course, Shane would never cry. Buck up you little baby, she chided herself, but the tears wouldn’t stop. She wandered back to her bed and fell onto it and into a torrent of sobs.

Shane hesitated a moment then crossed the small room and sat on the bed beside Tony’s curled up body. She reached out a hand and stroked Tony’s back. "Shhh…"

Tony’s sobs hitched in her throat. Shane’s hand was warm and strong and Tony turned on her side, glancing up. "W-why did you come here tonight?"

Some of the pain surfaced again and Shane’s hand stilled. "I couldn’t sleep."

Tony sniveled and absently swiped her hand under her runny nose. "I couldn’t sleep either," she whispered.

"Looked like you were sleeping when I got here," Shane smiled slightly.

"Mmm, I was just falling asleep actually."

"I- I’m sorry I woke you up then." Shane shifted uncomfortably on the bed and placed her hands in her lap. "I should go." But she made no move to get up.

"Or, or you could stay here?" Tony sat up slowly, placing her hand on Shane’s knee. "Just for a little bit?"

Shane looked at the hand on her leg and back up to Tony’s face.

Tony wrenched her hand away and turned, embarrassed, to stare at the bedside clock. No more then ten minutes had passed. The red numbers blurred as more tears threatened.

Oh God, she’s going to cry again, isn’t she? What do I do? An image of her mother came to Shane’s mind. She’d just gotten the training wheels off her bike and was learning to ride it down the sidewalk when she’d panicked and run into the fire hydrant because her father had let her go.

Shane’s mom had scooped her up, cradled her in her arms and gently bandaged her bleeding knee. She’d been all of eight years old.

Tony was fifteen. But ya never got too old for hugs, right?

Right. Shane wrapped her arm loosely around Tony’s shoulder and tugged gently. After a moment’s hesitation Tony leaned against Shane’s chest and buried her head in Shane’s leather jacket.

Shane smelled like cigarettes and the wind, salty tears, Suave shampoo and soap. Tony wrapped her arms around the dark teen’s waist and held tight. She let her tears flow freely now as Shane rubbed her back.

After a moment Shane rested her chin on top of Tony’s golden head. I’ll only stay for a little while, she promised, even as she scooted back against the wall and settled Tony against her side.


Chapter Ten



Bright rays of the morning sun woke Shane momentarily and she blinked blurry eyes around the unfamiliar room. Something warm and heavy rested against her side.

Oh yeah, Tony. Tony’s room. Her eyes slid shut once again, then snapped open. Tony’s room!

"Tony, Tony, wake up," Shane whispered urgently. "It’s morning." If your mom finds us here we’re both in big trouble. Shane grimaced. Tony would be in a lot more trouble then Shane cared to visualize.

Tony’s warm breath raked across Shane’s neck. She shivered and gently slid out from under the young girl. "Guess I’m going to have to sneak out of here, somehow."

"Tony!" Alice shouted, knocking on the bedroom door. "Wake up or you’ll be late for school." The knob turned slowly.

Shane’s heart skipped a beat and froze in her chest.





Alice turned the knob and stepped into the room. "Get up, girl. I’m off to work and you’re going to be late." She waited a moment till one sleepy green eye peeked open.

Tony sat bolt upright, seeing her mother in the doorway. Frantically she looked around the room. Shane? "W-what time is it?" she stammered.

"Time to get up," Alice slammed the door shut as she left to grab a last cup of coffee before work.

"Shane?" Tony whispered. "Shane?"

The door to the adjoining bathroom was open a notch. Tony jumped out of bed and ran to the door, flinging it open. "Shane?" Her eyes landed on the small window above the toilet. Tony climbed up and peered out the opening. Shane was nowhere in sight.





Damn, that was close, Shane cursed as she pulled herself all the way up the fire escape. She crossed the black-tarred roof and went down the ladder on the opposite side, into the alley where she’d discreetly parked her bike.

Silently she led the bike out of the alley and down half a block before she popped the key in the ignition and went home to change.





Alice had left for work already and Tony was sitting at the kitchen table gulping down her orange juice, toast and eggs. If she didn’t hurry she’d miss the bus and Gram would have to walk her to school.

She dashed out of the apartment with a quick kiss on Gram’s cheek and made it to the bus stop a split second before the driver shut the doors behind her. She shuffled down the middle aisle looking for a seat.

There were none. Half a dozen kids were already standing or leaning on the ugly puke-green sides of the seats. She stifled a tired yawn and leaned against one herself. The bus bumped down the pothole filled road to the school and the students exited in a mass of yelling and mock fighting.

One of the faux fights turned to an all out scuffle and Tony just barely made it out the door of the bus before she was shoved down the bus steps by an angry elbow jabbing into her back.

She turned with an angry scowl on her face that quickly vanished when she saw one of the boys sporting a box cutter. Tony gulped and backpedaled quickly to the stairs and up through the school’s front doors.

Even though she left the fight far behind she could still hear the shouting and taunts of the other kids and she hurried down the halls and up the stairs to the second floor and her first period class.

I hope Shane’s all right, she pulled out her textbook after she had taken a seat in the back of the classroom. What if she hurt herself climbing out the window? Don’t be stupid, Tony, she chided herself, Shane can certainly take care of herself.

Tony tried to focus on the teacher’s lesson plan, but thoughts of Shane wouldn’t go away.

She was ready to fight for you, an awed little voice remembered.

Fighting’s not right, Tony countered.

So, the little voice said, no one else would do that for you.

Still it’s not ri-

"Tony?" The teacher had been going up and down the rows, checking homework.

She was one of the few teachers in the school that actually seemed to care about her students and had a good turn out in her classes. Some of the students even tried to pass.

Tony looked up with slightly glazed eyes. "Hmmm?"

"Your homework?"

"My homework?" Tony repeated, trying to focus on the present and the teacher standing at her elbow.

"Yes, do you have it?" Anna Stewart regarded one of her most promising students from behind slightly narrowed brown-gold eyes, noticing the violent, purpling bruise on Tony’s chin.

"Oh, oh yeah…" Tony rummaged through her textbook and backpack. "Somewhere," she mumbled. Geez, I’m usually so much more organized. Triumphantly she held up the crumpled piece of paper she’d found at the bottom of her bag. "I got it."

Anna took the paper from Tony’s hand and looked it over. She glanced back down at Tony’s slumped head and restless tapping of her pencil against the desk. She knelt down at the side of the desk and clamped her hand over Tony’s, stilling the incessant tapping. "Not up to your usual quality," she said gently, returning the paper to Tony’s desk.

Tony uncomfortably shrugged her hand out from under the teacher’s and looked away. "Sorry," she mumbled.

"Can I speak with you after class, Tony?"

The young girl looked up startled. "Am I in trouble?" she asked wearily.

"No," Anna stood. "I’d just like to talk to you for a minute."

"Ok," Tony shrugged and her long pale hair cascaded around her shoulders and veiled the side of her face. She hid behind the curtain of hair as Anna smiled sadly and turned her attention to the rest of the class, half her thoughts still on Tony and half on the lesson plan.

The bell rang and Tony bolted from her seat. It appeared she’d forgotten all about her teacher’s request to talk to her as she saw a dark head waiting by the doorway. She was halfway to the door when the teacher called out her name.

"Tony? Can I talk to you?"

Tony sighed, catching Shane’s raised eyebrow look before turning back to the teacher and walking over toward her desk. "Sorry," she mumbled again, "I forgot."

"Have a seat." Anna pulled one of the student’s graffitied chairs up next to her cluttered desk.

Tony hesitated and glanced at the door. Her tired eyes sought out Shane’s and for a timeless second the two shared an understanding smile. Then Shane leaned against the doorjamb to wait and Tony turned slowly around and sat in the offered chair.

Anna Stewart didn’t miss the dark haired girl by the door. No one ever could. She was a beautiful young woman. A dangerous young woman. Her concern for Tony grew by leaps and bounds. She cleared her throat and spoke softly, "How are you liking the school so far?"

"I’m not," Tony shrugged. What would it matter if the teacher knew the truth or not? There was nothing she could do about it.

"I saw your records from Missouri, Tony. They’re excellent."

Tony looked at the teacher now, her interest piqued as to why she would bother. "Top in my classes," her smile was a bitter one.

"I’d like to speak to the principal on your behalf," Anna paused to let that first bit sink in, "and see if we can move you to classes that will better suit you." She waited and watched as Tony silently regarded her. It was hard not to just stare at that bruise or to come right out and ask what the hell was going on.

She wants to speak to the principal? Really? "Ok," she shrugged, as if it wasn’t all that important.

But Anna didn’t miss the small sparkle in the girl’s eyes. "You’ll probably be placed with most of the seniors. Is that a problem?"

A problem? No way… The inane thought that she might even be in one of Shane’s classes made her smile. "No, not a problem at all."

"Good," Anna smiled back. "I’ll talk to Mr. Walthers on my lunch break."

So that’s his name. Another thought occurred to her. "Will I still have you as a teacher?"

"You betcha. I teach all the senior English classes, as well as the freshmen’s."

"Cool," Tony glanced to the door to see if Shane was still there. She was, albeit stamping her foot on the floor impatiently. "Can I go now?" she turned back to Ms. Stewart.

About that bruise… "All right, see you tomorrow."

"Thanks Ms. Stewart." Tony fairly leapt out of her chair and raced to the doorway. She paused and glanced up shyly at Shane.

"So, you in trouble? Need me to bust some heads?" Shane asked.

Tony blinked, realizing even in the joking way the words were said that Shane would knock heads together for her, if Tony was so inclined to ask. "No trouble. I’m going to be taking some classes with the seniors."

"No kidding," Shane sounded impressed.


They began to walk down the hall, jostled from one side of it to the next as they made their way around groups of stand-still students.

"Where’s your next class?" Shane asked, putting her hand on the small of Tony’s back, guiding her around the students protectively.

"Math, room 407."

And so the day continued, with Shane popping up now and then after a few of Tony’s classes and walking her to the door of the next. They received more then one set of curious looks and Shane shot them down with a curled lip and menacing eyes. Tony barely noticed, simply basked in the unexpected attention, wondering how long it would take for Shane’s defensive wall to go back up and she’d be left alone again. Out in the cold.

As the day ended and Tony prepared to get on the bus to go home Anna Stewart waved in her direction and beckoned her off to the side.

"I talked to Mr. Walthers. He’s willing to test you out in a few of the senior classes and when you’re ready move you to the rest. How does that sound?"

Tony shielded her eyes against the sun and smiled up at the teacher. "That’d be fine. When?"

"Tomorrow." Anna impatiently brushed long, straight brown hair behind her ears. "I was thinking-"

"Tony!" Another voice called out and Tony turned to the source. "I’ve gotta go, Ms. Stewart." She turned back for a second, before she raced off. "Thanks."

Anna sighed as she watched the bright eyed girl walk over to meet the leader of ‘The Panthers.’ Trouble… her tired body cried. Why am I wasting my efforts on Tony if she’s going to end up in a gang and maybe end up dead somewhere? Her mind balked at the idea. She’s a good kid. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Shane Delante scare me away from this one too. Her mind made up, Anna Stewart, decided that Tony wasn’t going to end up in the gutter, not if she could help it.


Continued - Part 2



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