DISCLAIMER: the characters don't belong to me, but to Katherine Brooks. I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done toying with them, I'll give them back in one piece, I promise *evil laugh* Please don't sue, all I have left in my wallet is a couple of Euros. Really not worth the hassle.
WARNING: 1: English isn't my mother tongue, so you'll probably encounter a lot of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes along the way. It's my way of annoying the hell out of everyone lol. 2: I haven't seen the movie yet, I'm anxiously counting the days for the DVD to come out. Anyway, this means that I had to rely on other people's detailed plot spoilers to get this thing written. So erm…Sorry for plot mistakes you might encounter. 3: I've added things to scenes, just because I can mwuhahahaha. Nah, did it because I wanted to explain things and so forth…..
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: to my Beta for all the help.

All Over Me
By Piranha


Part Four

Descending the stairs, they were quietly talking amongst themselves, Simone giving Annabelle a light elbow in the ribs as she laughed at something the younger woman had said, when Mother Emaculata came barrelling towards her. Acknowledging Annabelle's presence with a short nod, she turned straight to Simone and said, rather curtly "Simone, could I speak to you for a moment?" before speed walking away again, disappearing into her own office, leaving a flabbergasted Simone and Annabelle in her wake. Simone just stared at the empty hallway for a moment, not really knowing what Emaculata could want now. She'd already given her detailed instructions on how to run the school in Emaculata's absence earlier that morning. Shrugging she turned to face Annabelle again to say: "why don't you go and say goodbye to your friends while I take care of this?" Carefully looking around, she then bent down to give Annabelle a quick kiss before descending the rest of the stairs with a decided spring in her step.

Shaking her head in disbelief, Annabelle realised that the thought of three days of freedom was doing strange things to her…. How should she call Simone? Her girlfriend? Didn't that sound too adolescent? Granted, she was only seventeen, but the same thing couldn't be said of Simone. The 'partner' moniker didn't quite sound right either, it made them sound like businesswomen thrown together by a merger and though a merger was what she had in mind for later, Annabelle was openly smirking at that thought, she wasn't envisioning the corporate kind. How about lover? Though it sounded the best option so far, didn't the connotation of a wild and stormy illicit affair somehow diminish their love, reducing it to an extramarital affair of a bored and desperate housewife? Scrunching her eyebrows at that thought, but unable to come up with a better description of what of what Simone meant to her – wasn't it all semantics after all she reasoned – she descended the final steps. Pushing the very heavy oak entrance door open, she walked down the driveway to where her classmates were gathering.

Signalling out Collins and Kristen, she walked up to them, laughing indulgently at their excited chattering. Bouncing up and down on her heals in excitement, Collins really didn't get out much, and she was telling Kristen about all the interesting things they'd see, actually embarking on a long winded description of one of the museums they were going to visit. More interested in the time off and ecstatic to be off school grounds for a while, even if it was for just three days – remembering the excursion from last year she had a little shopping trip planned – Kirsten's eyes lit up as she spotted Annabelle walking towards them, grateful for the momentary reprieve. She loved Collins dearly, the shy and withdrawn girl was a really good friend, but she didn't half bang her tambourine at times. Looking past Collins, who had her back to the driveway, she said "hey Annabelle."

"Hey," Annabelle said with a big smile on her face, "I thought I'd come to see you off." She enveloped them both on a big hug before leaning back, adding rather mischievously "don't do anything I wouldn't do." Beating Kristin to the punch, she just knew from the look on the girls face she'd been dying to say it, she continued "though I guess that doesn't really leave out much."

With a rather sad expression on her face, her hands stuck in her coat pockets as she rocked back and forth on her heals, Collins said "I think its so unfair that she can't come with us on this trip" when Annabelle just shrugged she added "what will you be doing then?"

Trying hard to keep and excited gleam from her eyes, Annabelle adopted a bored tone when replying "Oh I don't know probably the same thing I did during spring break, doing a little schoolwork, read a couple of books and write some songs. Perhaps I'll be able to finish our lullaby." Seeing the other students starting to climb into the bus, she said "don't worry about me, I'm sure I'll find something to do. Guess you'd better get going now. Have a safe trip and I'll see you in three days." With a final hug goodbye, she watched Collins and Kristen disappear into the bus. Turning around, her sad and disappointed expression magically transforming into a devious and lecherous smirk she walked back to the school.

With a heavy heart, not really understanding what was so urgent as the busses were about to leave, Simone took the final steps to Mother Emaculata's office. Knocking on the heavy oak door, she patiently waited for her aunt to holler 'enter' before walking in; the ominous creaking of the door and Mother Emaculata's totally uncharacteristic pacing doing nothing to calm her frazzled nerves. Halting right in front of the huge desk, she nervously stuck her hands in her jeans pockets, rocking back and forth on her heels as she stared at the ground, looking very much like a naughty schoolgirl about to be reprimanded. Being in Mother Emaculatas presence always did that to her; somehow she always morphed into the tongue tied, clumsy teenager she used to be. Still waiting for Mother Emaculata to speak, she looked up and sighed deeply. Emaculata hadn't even noticed her, she was still fluttering about like a woman possessed, mumbling incoherently as she cleared her desk.

Sitting down on one of the hard chairs her aunt insisted on having in her office – personally Simone always thought Mother Emaculata had handpicked them to make the pupils and their parents squirm even more when summoned to the office as the chairs were murder on the backside – she looked around the spacious office to pinpoint what it was exactly that always made her feel so uneasy. Her eye falling on the photograph on the desk, showing her with her aunt all those years ago, she felt a strange mix of unease and affection flow through her. The bond she shared with Emaculata was odd and baffling, there was no doubt in her mind that she loved her aunt, but at the same time she had always considered her as the odd relative everyone seems to have hidden in the family.

But even though her relationship with her aunt had always been a bit strained, she supposed Emaculata had always been there for her, well… sort of anyway. It's just that…. Mother Emaculata wasn't really the best person to confide in, her ideas and opinions were just too rigid and outdated. She'd never understand where she was coming from, she'd never understand her hopes, wishes and desires, she'd only frown upon them, so Simone hardly ever confided in her. She wanted to spare herself the moral indignation and the starch god fearing and abiding lectures. Besides, Mother Emaculata would probably drop dead on the spot if she were ever to found out about Annabelle. Her aunt's overzealous search of her bedroom had proven that.

Chuckling as she imagined the look on Emaculata's face if she ever were to catch them in the act – a huge vein throbbing on her forehead, her eyes bulging out, her face blotted as her chin dropped to the floor – she focused her attention to the wooden desk Emaculata was still busy clearing. Running a finger over the beautiful carvings, she let her imagination run wild, envisioning rather fun ways of dispelling the awkward feeling she always got in the room, the huge desk and of course Annabelle being on the forefront of her vivid and rather explicit daydream. Anticipation fluttered in her stomach, starting a wanton fire as she imagined tracing Annabelles curves instead, having her naked, writhing and trembling underneath her, Annabelle shouting out her name as she made love to her right there on the desk. Fidgeting in the chair, unconsciously licking her lips in a highly erotic way, she was still caressing the carvings when Mother Emaculata suddenly acknowledged her presence.

"Ah Simone, good that you're here," she said, finally locating the papers she had been so desperately looking for and filing them away, not even noticing her niece's embarrassed and shocked blushing or that Simone had almost leapt out of the seat in surprise at hearing her aunt's voice. "I had a meeting planned for tomorrow which totally slipped my mind. I've tried to reschedule, but with the elections coming up in a couple of month's time, it seems that they're rather pressed for time. Anyway, as I won't be here, you'll have to hold the meeting."

"Me?" Simone screeched out flabbergasted, doing an award winning performance of the stunned fish expression, unable to utter a single recognisable word as she saw all her dreams for the next three days go up in smoke once again. Desperately trying to come up with an excuse, anything to get out of the scheduled meeting, she blurted out: "I can't hold that meeting, I mean… I don't know anything about running a school, I'm just a teacher."

"Nonsense, of course you can," Mother Emaculata said rather dismissively, rearranging her pencil case so that it was perfectly aligned with the phone and stapler. "Think of it as a good training for when you're running the school…"

"You expect me to succeed you," Simone whispered to no' one in particular, a cold chill settling in her heart at having her own Fate snatched out of her hands again. Emaculata didn't hear her of course as she went on undeterred: "not immediately of course, I still have a good couple of years left in me, but yes… I've always wanted you to become the next headmistress. I've been grooming you all these years just for that purpose." Simone was just sitting there, stunned, unable to utter a single word as Mother Emaculata went on: "now tomorrow I need you to get as much out of the meeting as you can. They called us, they have a favour to ask which means the school can benefit, either financially or politically. Suss out what they want and then state your terms. Try to get as much out of the meeting as you can, it'll only help the school in the long run. It's always good to have a politician owe you a favour." Astonished by her aunt's cold and calculated ways, Simone could only nod. "Good, that's settled then," Emaculata said. "Well, I'd better get going then."

Emaculata's hand was already on the door when Simone suddenly called out: "wait, whom exactly am I meeting tomorrow?" Then, almost as an afterthought, she added: "and what is it about exactly? I mean, is it about grades? Academic performance, ….?"

"You're meeting Senator Tillman, Annabelle's mother. I don't really know what she wants, she just called and asked for a meeting." Emaculata replied as she left the room, not even noticing that Simone sagged back in the chair, an utter mess.

Just as she was opening the heavy oak door to the school, Mother Emaculata brushed past her, not even acknowledging Annabelle's presence as she hollered 'wait for me', her arms flailing wildly about as she sped off the steps, her big wooden cross bouncing up and down with each step she took. Scrunching her eyebrows in confusion, Annabelle looked behind her for a second take and immediately wished she had a video camera on her as Mother Emaculata formed the most comical sight. Holding up her black and white nun's frock, revealing some very nifty looking thick black stockings in old fashioned leather sandals, she was running as fast as he stubby little legs could carry her. Thinking she rather resembled a crazed penguin on speed, Annabelle had to suppress a sniggering giggle, her imagination working overtime again. She was still smirking when the oak door fell closed behind her with a big thud.

Closing her eyes for just a moment, she leant back against the oak door and took a deep breath, realising that this was probably the beginning of the best three days in her life. She wanted to savour every second, burn it into her memory for ever. As she opened them again, a big smile appeared on her face, her heart starting to beat faster. Anticipation and exhilaration made her notice every little detail: the sun shining through the paned windows, making the hallway awash with radiant multicoloured rays of light, the rows and rows of pictures of famous ex-students and headmistresses all hanging perfectly aligned, all but one. One picture was hanging rather crookedly, the piercing, menacing eyes of an old headmistress of yesteryear almost taunting Annabelle when she passed her. It was as if the old bird, not a very beautiful and attractive bird either, unless of course you fell for the old scarecrow looks, could see right through her and Annabelle felt a slight shiver down her spine as she walked past.

Solemn silence reined the hallways once again, no more hushed whispering of passing students, no more rushed clicketing of nuns' sandals. All that could be heard was the rhythmic ticking of the pendulum clock in the corner and Annabelle's own footsteps echoing on the marble floor as she walked on to Mother Emaculata's office, knowing she'd find Simone in there. With a rather lecherous grin on her face as she let her imagination run wild again, Annabelle walked right in, not even bothering to knock. Sauntering over to where Simone was sitting, she hopped on the desk, her wide smile turning into a worried frown when Simone didn't even look up, but just continued sitting there, staring in front of her.

Realising that something must have happened to change Simone's earlier rather playful mood, Annabelle hopped off the desk again and headed over to Mother Emaculata's chair, knowing she'd need the physical distance between them if they were to have a serious conversation. The way she was feeling now, her hormones rampant to say the least, she'd only end up dragging Simone on the desk to have her wicked way with her. Sighing deeply at her wanton plans scuppered yet again, she sank down on the chair, unexpectedly relishing in the extra fluffy pillows that softened the otherwise rock hard seat. Mother Emaculata certainly indulged in some hidden pleasures, she realised, making her wonder what other secrets the rather strict and fearsome headmistress might harbour. Suppressing a snorted giggle at the more illicit thoughts running through her mind and a moan of delight as she wiggled down even further in the seat, she looked over to Simone and wondered what could have caused her downcast and worried expression. Knowing that the only way to find out was to ask, she said: "Simone, what is it? What's happened?"

Annabelle's soft voice bringing her out of her dream like state - well come to think of it, it was probably more like a nightmare – Simone blinked a couple of times before saying, still not looking in Annabelle's direction: "it appears my aunt had a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. As she won't be here, she expects to hold it."

Mumbling a few unrepeatable curses under her breath, making Simone briefly wonder where exactly Annabelle had picked up such colourful language, Annabelle replied: "so this means we can only head to the beach house after the meeting?" When Simone simply nodded, she sighed deeply before saying: "oh well, it can't be helped I suppose. Who's the meeting with? I mean…. Can't you reschedule?"

Looking Annabelle straight in the eye, Simone replied: "apparently not, it seems your mother runs a really tight schedule. Tomorrow was the only time she could manage."

"The meeting's with my mother?" Annabelle said rather distractedly as she was playing with a pen, totally messing up the perfect alignment the obsessive compulsive nun had made. "I wonder what she wants….. Oh, stupid question, I think I know what she wants." When Simone just threw her a confused look, she explained: "her senatorial seat is up for grabs at the end of the year, which means she'll be on the road most of the time, trying to win everyone's vote. You know the drill: tour the whole State, schmooze with the hoi polloi to get donations, hold strategic meetings with the Party Ring leaders, help out in a soup kitchen when she knows the press is going to be there, only to skip out again when they leave, shake hands with everyone and their dog. You know …. the usual. Anyway, it means she'll have forgotten to include me in her busy schedule once again; she simply won't have time for me. She probably wants the school to baby sit me until the fourth."

"You don't have a very high opinion of your mother, do you," Simone said before asking: "why until the fourth?"

"I don't really know my mother. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother, I'm proud of what she's achieved so far, but..; I don't really know her, she's a virtual stranger to me. I mean… I was raised by a battery of nannies and then, as soon as I was old enough, I was carted off to school. She never had time for me, not when she became the C.E.O. of my granddads flailing business and turned it into a multimillion dollar company, nor later when she took her first hesitating steps in the treacherous world of politics. Like I said, I'm proud of what my mother has achieved so far, I think it takes a lot of guts to come so far in what are still basically male dominated areas and it has enabled me to lead a luxury lifestyle, something I can not deny… but at what cost?

I'm closer to the cook and the gardener than I am to my mother. I understand that she had to work very hard to get to where she is now and I appreciate that, I really do, but she never made time for me either. I've always been and always will be her last priority. Birthday presents were two days too late, school plays were seen by the cook instead. You might think I'm embittered by it all, but I've accepted it as my reality a long time ago. Actually, my estranged relationship with my mother allowed me to form a realistic picture of her, I could see her for the person she really is, the norms and values she represents and I found out that I didn't like what I saw.

I think my mother has become rather hypocritical with age, she might have entered the world of politics as a naïve idealist all those years back, wanting to change to whole world, fighting for the little man, making the lives of the ordinary American a little better, but she soon lost that cherry pink outlook on life. I don't know, I guess she woke up to the harsh reality of politics: the backstabbing, the immorality of it all, saying one thing but meaning and doing another, always having to fight to achieve even the littlest thing, having endless meetings, the tit for tat, the superficiality of power as she's merely a puppet of the wealthy businessmen who give her donations. She's but a pawn in a much bigger and more complex game. She's become the epitome of the shrewd, jaded politician, something she vowed she'd never become, but I guess such is life. But let's not talk about the immorality of politics.

As to your second question… There are two reasons I guess. The more important reason for my mother is that the fourth of July, Independence Day, is a great opportunity for positive publicity and that's extremely important to her now her political adversary scored major brownie points with the public with the birth of his first grandchild. Her spin doctor has already roped me into a photo shoot… well, blackmailed me into it is a more accurate description I suppose. She's having one of her big parties again, everybody who's somebody's going to be there and she wants us to play happy families again, show the world she's not only a brilliant politician, but also a good and proud mother. Harvey, that's her spin doctor, knows how much I abhor that kind of thing, so he promised me that he'll get my mother off my back until I go off to uni if I agree to do the photo shoot and to keep my head down until after the elections. So I said yes… Anything to have some peace and quiet," Annabelle said.

When Annabelle stopped talking rather abruptly, staring out of the window with a pensive expression on her face, lost in thought about her mother, Simone asked: "what's the second reason?" When Annabelle seemed startled by the question, looking at her in confusion, she added: "you said that there were two reasons for your mother to keep you here until the fourth of July."

Turning her full attention back to Simone, Annabelle just shrugged and said: "it's my birthday then, I'll be eighteen, officially an adult. My mom knows all too well I'll cause a stink if she doesn't let me off the hook then." Simone's furrowed eyebrows caused her to add: "my mom and I have reached a tentative truce of sorts: I'll be free to lead my own life, make my own decisions, even the financial ones and in return I promise to keep a low profile and not headline the newspapers like I did a couple of months ago. So I guess you could see my birthday as my parole date: I'll be let out of the prison that my life has been so far, free to make my own decisions, lead my own life, but at the first sign of trouble I'll be locked up once again. Anyway, is meeting my mother what had you so spooked?"

Squirming uncomfortably in the rock hard chair (she couldn't really feel her arse anymore), she tried to find a better position, but soon gave up. Sighing deeply, she stood up and walked over to where Annabelle was sitting. Leaning against the desk, their knees touching, she looked down at Annabelle and said, rather embarrassedly: "well, partly I suppose … I mean, I'm meeting your mother, a famous politician, notorious for her cutthroat approach. It's like being thrown before the lions without a weapon of defence. She'll want to talk about your education and your progress and all the while I'm… erm, you know."

Annabelle just laughed at that and with a defiant smirk she suggested: "and all the while you're doing me?"

Refusing to look up, staring at her feet as she turned bright red, Simone mumbled: "well, that's a rather crude way of putting it, but yes."

"Well, what's the other reason then?" Annabelle asked, finding Simone's obvious embarrassment totally endearing. Watching her hop on the desk, she felt her heart swell with love. Though she had vowed to keep her distance while they had this talk, the urge to touch Simone was just too strong, she couldn't help herself, she needed some sort of contact. Reaching out a trembling hand, she started to rub small circles on Simone's thigh as she waited on her reply.

Momentarily distracted by the loving caress, her skin burning under Annabelle's fingers, the intoxicating tingling of arousal migrating upwards and making her breath hitch, Simone just mumbled: "oh, just something aunt Emaculata said." When Annabelle looked at her in confusion, she sighed deeply and clarified: "she sees me as her successor in this place, she wants me to become the next headmistress."

"And that's not something you want?" Annabelle asked hesitantly, her hand slowly meandering its way up Simone's thigh.

"Yes, no, I don't know," Simone sighed, her fingers toying with Annabelle's before looking her in the eye. "If you had asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said yes …. it's definitely something I'd have considered. It's a great career opportunity, but now….." Pulling Annabelle up so she was standing between her legs, she used her other hand to caress the younger woman's face. "So much has changed now, I have changed. You were right, I have been burying myself here. I've used the school as an excuse to stop living, I was merely existing here. I allowed aunt Emaculata to dictate my life. The school became my prison, a place I was safe, a place where nobody defied the emotional walls I had built around myself…. and then you came along. You rattled my cage, you made me question the value of and the satisfaction in my safe existence. You made me think about everything I once held true, you dared me to live again.

I want to be back in control of my own life again, do all the things I always wanted to do, but couldn't … because I was too much of a coward to go against Emaculata's wishes, because I allowed her to rule my head and my heart. That has got to stop. I want to make my own decisions, even if they go against everything my aunt believes in, especially if they go against everything she believes in. I want to break free from the prison Emaculata has kept me in. Though I love teaching, I now know that there's more to life and I can't wait to go out and experience it. I guess like you I now have a parole date to look forward to, my life sentence has been overturned."

The excited gleam in Simone's eyes making her smile, Annabelle crept even closer and asked: "what do you want to do then?"

"I don't know yet, I might take you up on your suggestion of becoming a photographer, I might do something completely different, I simply don't know yet," Simone replied. "For the first time in my life I have no idea what I'll be doing next and you have no idea how liberating that feels. I'm no longer guided by restricting schedules and Emaculata's authoritarian regime, I'm free to do what I want, when I want and how I want it. I have no idea what I'll do after the summer holidays and you know what? I'm not even worried about it. All I know is that you dared me to live again, you dared me to feel again. You make me want to break all rules and boundaries. Your love for life is so intoxicating that I want to experience it too, I want to experience it with you." Taking Annabelle's head between her hands, looking her straight in the eye, she said: "I might not know what I want yet, my future might be unclear, but I do know that I love you, that I want to share my life with you, even if it's just for a little while. I love you Annabelle."

Though perhaps it wasn't the most poetic or eloquent declaration of love, of a future shared, Annabelle realised just how much it took for the reserved Simone to open up so completely, to change her life so radically and drastically, that to her it meant more than a thousand romantic poems ever would. "I want that too," she whispered softly before kissing Simone, "I love you." Pulling back from the heated kiss, her hand continuing its maddening caress of Simone's thigh, her breathing rapid and haggard, she looked at Simone in wonder, as if in a gaze, as if she couldn't believe she were really there. Bewitched and mesmerised by the shiny flecks of desire in the soulful blue eyes and the silk, golden tresses, she watched Simone lick her lips ever so slowly, the unhurried and sensual movement starting a roaring fire deep inside of her. Liquid desire shooting through her, making her slightly tremble in awe of such beauty, she had to close her eyes for just a moment to suppress a moan of wanton lust. Feeling Simone's warm, ragged breath on her face, her lips mere centimetres from her own, she husked "how adventurous and rebellious are you feeling right now?" her fingers tracing Emaculata's massive desk in invitation.

As she stared into Annabelle's eyes, transformed into dark pools of desire, a ghost of a smile played around her lips and she whispered "you've read my mind" before crashing her lips against Annabelle's, exposing her raw need. She took the lead, duelling with Annabelle's tongue, the kiss becoming frenzied as days' worth of pent up frustration, of only snatched moments here and there was finally released. Both of them were fuelled on by adrenalin, by the thought of the forbidden, by the need to reconfirm their love, by the illicit brush with danger. Truth be told, that extra little element of danger, Sister Claire was still around somewhere after all, only turned them on even more, taking their lust to incredible heights. After the powerful first kiss, the kiss slowly turned from turbulent and tempestuous to tender, their lips meeting again in soft, wet, languorous caresses, trying to convey all the love and tenderness they had inside. As she kicked off her shoes, Simone wrapped her legs around Annabelle, pulling her even closer.

"I love you," Annabelle huskily whispered before capturing Simone's lips again. The kiss was soft and teasing at first, but both women needed the kiss to deepen so when Annabelle's tongue slid across Simone's lower lip she was only too willing to open her mouth even further. One of Annabelle's hands slid underneath the shirt Simone was wearing, kneading the muscles of her back and pulling her impossibly close, her fingers drawing nonsensical caresses across her back, sending shivers down Simone's spine, making her moan softly at the maddening torture. Annabelle backed up for a minute, gasping for breath, her heart hammering in her chest. Seeing the same lust and desire reflected in Simone's dilated and almost feral eyes, she shivered involuntarily before targeting her lips again. After giving her an almost uncharacteristically chaste peck on the lips, she began placing kisses on Simone's jaw and neck, infinitely pleased when she heard her breath hitch.

Sucking at her pulse point, feeling it hammering wildly beneath her lips as Simone craned her neck, giving her more access, Annabelle slowly trailed her fingers towards the buttons on Simone's shirt, teasingly cupping a breast and raking her nail over an already hard nipple, making Simone arch her back. Kissing her again, groaning softly as she felt Simone's legs squeeze her even tighter, she began to undo the first button, her hands shaking vaguely. Frustrated that the tiny button proved torturous, she broke the contact between their lips to concentrate on the tiny loophole. Finding the look of intense concentration on Annabelle's face utterly adorable, Simone moved her hands to cover Annabelle's, holding them until they stopped shaking. Her hands still covering Annabelle's, she slowly began to undo the buttons of the shirt, exposing the swell of her breasts and then the porcelain expanse of her abdomen to Annabelle's eager eyes.

As the first button popped open, Annabelle kissed her way down. Eagerly kissing and nipping at the freshly exposed skin, she looked up to Simone as they reached the final button. Almost tearing it open, exposing Simone's bra clad chest to her hungry roaming eyes, Annabelle whispered "you're beautiful" before placing a tender kiss on Simone's bellybutton. Eliciting a small moan from Simone, her fingers roamed all over her stomach in a feather light, tantalising caress, making Simone suck in her breath, before venturing upwards, trailing them up her sides before brushing the shirt off of her shoulders. As the shirt slid to the floor, Annabelle's fingers slowly crept downwards again, leaving behind a trail of goose bumps and quivering muscles as Simone exhaled audibly.

Lazily cupping a breast through the satin bra, unhurriedly rolling the nipple between her fingers until it was painfully erect, Annabelle reached up her other hand, her fingers sliding over Simone's cheek to tuck some stray hairs behind her ear. Softly stroking Simone's jaw with her thumb, her eyes ablaze with molten desire, she looked her straight in the eye before whispering reverently: "I adore you." The heartfelt honesty behind the simple words turning her on even more, Simone kissed her without any hesitation, a deep tongue duelling kiss full of passion and desire. Slowly they tasted each other, their tongues dangling and colliding together, leaving them moaning in each other's mouth. Annabelle started trailing open mouthed kisses again from Simone's lips to her collarbone, licking her pulse point before sucking on it, marking Simone as hers. Deftly opening the satin bra with one hand and discarding it without a second thought, she licked her lips, making Simone moan at the lust filled look in her eyes. She ran her tongue along the curve of one breast while her fingers kneaded and massaged the other.

Scraping her nail over Simone's right nipple, making it even more erect, she flicked her tongue over it before sucking it gently. When Simone's back arched and she hissed her name in approval, she started sucking harder, her tongue rhythmically rolling over the rock hard pebble. Turning her attention to the other breast, she captured the hardened nipple between her teeth, scraping over it just hard enough to elicit a yelp of surprise and a gasp of pleasure before licking it soothingly with the flat of her tongue. Slowly pushing Simone down on the desk, papers and pens flying everywhere as she pushed everything out of their way, her fingers crawled downwards achingly slow, making Simone's stomach flutter and quiver at the touch. Deftly unbuttoning Simone's skirt, she pushed her hand inside, finding the thin material of the satin panties soaked with want.

Simone groaned and lifted herself up on her elbows so Annabelle could pull the skirt lower before leaning back on the desk, waiting for the touch she so desperately craved. Annabelle proceeded infinitely slowly, trailing the top of her fingers over Simone's thighs in a maddening caress, Simone's skin burning everywhere she touched. Simone's breath was ragged, fighting the urge to press Annabelle against her. She became solely focused on the meandering fingertips stroking and caressing her sensitive skin. Annabelle's hand slowly snuck upwards, moving up and down over the silk panties, creating an intense friction that sent Simone into a frenzy. She tried so hard to resist moving her hips, but she couldn't help herself, rocking against Annabelle's hand, inviting it to enter her.

Softly sinking her teeth into Simone's nipple, relishing in the feel of Simone's hands in her hair, pushing her even closer, she pushed the flimsy material of the panties aside and trailed a finger through the copious amounts of wetness, making Simone whimper and resume her rocking. Slowly she pushed a finger inside, quickly followed by a second one, venturing in and out, matching the rhythm set by Simone's rocking hips. Still nipping and sucking at Simone's breast, she continued to trust her fingers in and out, pumping harder and faster each time while keeping a constant pressure on Simone's engorged and throbbing clit with her thumb. Sliding in and out at a frantic pace, she felt the first signs of Simone's impending orgasm and curled her fingers, finding that special spot.

Breathlessly Simone called out her name over and over again as she came, her vaginal walls clamping down around Annabelle's fingers, trapping them motionlessly inside. Riding out the last of the waves, she pulled Annabelle up so she could kiss her, passionately. Her breathing still erratic she eased back so Annabelle could retract her fingers still trapped inside, moaning loudly when she saw her licking them clean. The exquisite taste of Simone's juices coating her fingers not nearly enough to satisfy her, Annabelle pulled up straighter. "I need to taste you," she whispered, making Simone shudder. Sinking to her knees on the floor, she pulled Simone's skirt all the way down, along with her panties and brought her knees to her shoulders in a posture of worship. Kissing her way up Simone's leg, she nibbled on her thigh, making her quiver in anticipation. With her hands on Simone's hips, she placed her tongue flat and broad against the base of her slit and slowly pulled her tongue upwards. She lapped softly, flicking her tongue over Simone's clit achingly slow, enticing it to come out and play some more.

With tender strokes she got Simone to call out her name again, gyrating her hips at Annabelle's incessant tongue. Moaning loudly Simone felt her orgasm come closer and closer until Annabelle stopped her ministrations just torturous inches away from release. When she growled in protest, Annabelle really got down to business, increasing the pace with every stroke until she was lapping in earnest like a cat licking cream from it's bowl, revelling in the sweet nectar offered. Swirling her tongue through the moisture, she snaked her tongue upwards, licking Simone's clit before sucking it in her mouth, making her cry out in delight. Feeling the end was close, she replaced her tongue with her thumb, making hard eights on the pulsating clit.

She licked her way down again and pushed her tongue deep inside, immediately feeling the spasms of Simone's release under her open mouth. Gently coaxing her down from her high, her tongue darted out to taste the oozing honey. Licking her clean before crawling her way up Simone's spent and worn out body, she sucked the still rock hard nipples for a moment before kissing Simone passionately. Pushing herself up, sitting on the edge of the desk, enjoying the taste of her own juices mixed with something uniquely Annabelle, Simone kissed her languidly, her tongue roaming all over Annabelle's mouth. "I love you," she whispered, her hands snaking underneath Annabelle's shirt. Impossible aroused by the feel of rough denim between her bare thighs, by the love in the cerulean eyes that held her, she husked: "your turn".

No matter how hard she tried to have a little lie in in the morning, Annabelle always woke around six. She didn't know why her mother had insisted on buying her a state of the art clock radio all those weeks ago, her own internal clock was so spookily accurate. She supposed it was due to the prison like regime in this school. Although pupils didn't have to get up that early in the morning, she had trained herself to wake up at that ungodly hour. Not to be first in line for bath and breakfast when the nuns finally decided to herd in the cattle, what passed here as breakfast really didn't tickle her taste buds to that extent, no she had totally different reasons for getting up that early. Not only did it give her the chance of sneaking off for a smoke, deftly evading Mother Emaculata and all the other nuns when they were roaming the hallways on their way to vespers, it also gave her the chance to sneak into Simone's room for a quick kiss, though she had to admit the latter was only a semi recent development.

She didn't really mind waking up early today; at least it gave her a chance to cuddle up with Simone, a treat that meant the world to her. A bottle of really good wine $25, a beautiful bouquet of flowers $10, waking up in Simones arms…. Simply priceless. She loved basking in the warmth of her lover's embrace, it was an opportunity to just quietly be as nothing was expected of her, nothing really mattered as daunting worries were temporarily cast aside. She couldn't get enough of watching Simone sleep, she always looked so adoringly angelic and seemed to snuggle closer as if sensing Annabelle was watching her. Sleeping in the same bed as and indeed waking up with Simone was such a rare treat, she cherished it for all it was worth. It was only the second time they had slept together, well third time if you counted the time at Simone's beach house, but to Annabelle it felt like they had done it all their lives, they just were a perfect fit. Being held by Simone was the most wonderful feeling in the world, she always felt so safe there, wrapped up in a cocoon of love and warmth, like they were the only people in the world, a safe little haven where no' one and nothing could touch them.

Today was different though, even combing her fingers though Simone's hair as her lover lay half on top of her didn't give her the peace of mind she so desperately craved. She was too pumped up, too wired to stay in bed, she had all this nervous energy coursing through her, aching for release and it was making her jittery. She always felt like this on important events and today was no different, her lover meeting her mother, though of course her mother wouldn't be privy to that little titbit of information, had her stomach in a knot. She was absolutely dreading it, but at the same time, in a rather sadistic way, she was looking forward to it too. Cracked up or what?

She couldn't really explain why, it wasn't like she was after her mother's permission or consent, she had lived without it for far too long, but still …. the two of them meeting felt very important to her. Perhaps she wanted Simone's opinion on her mother, perhaps unconsciously she wanted her mother's approval after all, perhaps unconsciously she wanted to compare the two of them to see if she didn't suffer from some mixed up Oedipus complex, though at first glance Simone and her mother were nothing alike. <And thank God for that,> she thought, shivering at the unwanted image of Simone morphing into her mother. Thinking it was far too early in the morning to psychoanalyse herself, she pushed the meeting to the back of her mind.

Knowing her eternal tossing and turning would only disturb Simone, Annabelle gently detangled herself from her lover's octopus style embrace and reached for her robe. If she were at home, she would have rushed through the house in a mad, frantic dash, banging all the doors and cupboards as she scurried around, loudly singing along with the stereo on full blast, but …. she was at school, nuns were still about and although they were rather old and hard of hearing, she highly doubted Simone would appreciate being woken up like that. She still had a lot to learn about Simone's moods, facing the wrath of a cranky and sleep deprived Simone before her first cup of coffee could very well be sheer suicide. Besides … gaining the attention of a passing nun wasn't on Annabelle's most wanted list either, she still had nightmares about seeing Mother Emaculata in her nightwear. Either way, the chances of getting out of the battle unscathed were slim to non-existent and with odds like that, even Annabelle didn't want to place a bet.

Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she stretched out lazily before shrugging her robe on. Yawning widely as she rubbed her eyes, she padded around the bedroom on her slippers. Opening the French windows, she went to stand on the little balcony overlooking the school's gardens. Leaning against the wall, she shivered lightly in the early morning chill and pulled the robe tighter around her. With a contented smile on her face, she watched the world slowly come to life. She loved watching the sun rise, it always calmed her, and it let her know that everything would be alright in the end. The beautiful simplicity and serenity of nature left her in awe, making her realise how tiny and insignificant her problems really were in the bigger scheme of things. She really missed watching the sunrise, her room being on the wrong side, but watching it from her secret hide out place first thing in the morning when she had her smoke was a more than worthy substitute.

The sun, a big orange angry ball of fire, was slowly rising over the trees and painted the once ink black sky in a beautiful tapestry of light colours as the early morning mist gave it that mysterious shroud. Sighing contently, Annabelle felt a warm invigorating sense of calm invade her being once again. The fresh smell of morning dew, a sole bird in a nearby tree tweeting his early morning serenade, ducks quacking in the nearby pond, the sun tickling her face with the promise of a hot summer day…. It made her smile and realise that a brand new day had begun. Taking a deep breath of air, really feeling it fill all her senses, she stepped back into the bedroom, leaving the window slightly ajar to allow a cool breeze in.

The wind toying with the curtains, intermittently bathing the room in shadow and light, she walked the short distance to the bed. Not wanting to break the spell just yet, she knelt beside it and watched Simone sleep. Her soft murmurs, at times bordering on a light snore, making her smile, she reached out a hand and with trembling fingers she lovingly caressed Simone's cheek, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. When Simone stirred and pulled Annabelle's pillow closer, really snuggling into it, mumbling something incomprehensible, Annabelle gave her a light peck on the forehead before pulling the covers higher over her sleeping lover and quietly leaving the room.

Not wanting to wake up the still slumbering nuns, knowing just how hazardous and detrimental that would be for her continued psychological wellbeing, she slowly and carefully made her way down the stairs, almost taking a tumble whilst trying to avoid the creaky last step when she heard a noise in the distance. Heaving a small sigh of relief when she reached the hallway without making too much of a ruckus, she combed her fingers through her still tussled hair and opened a side door to the little patio, secluded from view by a huge oak tree. Knowing the nuns wouldn't be able to see her there in her very own little hiding spot when they sleepwalked their way to vespers, she sat down on the step, sighing contentedly as she enjoyed the warm sun, sheltered from the still chilly breeze by a bricked flower bed to her right. Patting the pockets of her robe for her cigarettes and lighter, she closed her eyes for just a moment in unadulterated joy as she inhaled that first drag.

Exhaling in slow puffs, amused by the smoke rings dissolving in the early morning air, she thought about the day before, a bright smile plastered on her face at the memories. After a fun filled afternoon in Emaculata's office, the illicitness of their little tryst turning them on even more, they had retreated to the kitchen, hunger making a temporary halt to their love making. Talking about everything and nothing, she had witnessed Simone's abysmal attempt at making them supper. As Emaculata had given the kitchen staff three days off, they had to fend for themselves and it seemed Simone wasn't that much of a kitchen princess. Even though Simone's rather experimental cooking style, tossing herbs and ingredients in at random, had made her question her culinary abilities, she had been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

When supper had tasted like cardboard however, she had been faced with a rather interesting dilemma: should she force herself to eat it all to please Simone, she had put a lot of effort into cooking it after all or should she just be brutally honest, even though it would probably hurt Simone's feelings? Luckily for Annabelle, the dilemma had solved itself for as soon as she had taken her first bite, Simone had quickly grabbed both plates and rang for a pizza to be delivered. The pangs of hunger letting themselves be known again when her stomach grumbled loudly, Annabelle quickly stubbed out her cigarette and went back inside. Thinking it would probably be wise if she prepared breakfast, she walked towards the kitchen.

Checking the contents of the kitchen cupboards, mentally debating the culinary possibilities, she found a rather expensive Columbian coffee blend hidden away at the back of a cupboard, behind a box of dried prunes. Thinking the cook definitely didn't want this little treasure to be found, she set to work, the coffee machine soon gurgling and hissing. Realising that this was perhaps the perfect opportunity to serve Simone breakfast in bed, a romantic gesture that couldn't be repeated when the others were back, she sprung into action, tying an apron around her and peering into the fridge, taking out milk, butter and eggs. The breakfast tray soon laden with fresh fruit, coffee, toast and eggs, she was busy turning the pancakes when Simone walked into the kitchen, still rubbing her eyes.

Blinking a couple of times, Simone lazily opened her eyes, squinting against the unrelenting brightness of the rising summer sun. Yawning widely, she stretched out with feline grace, chasing away the last remnants of sleep before looking at the alarm clock. Immensely pleased to know she didn't need to get up just yet, she turned to her side, a smile curling around her lips as she remembered why certain muscles pleasantly ached. Patting the bed beside her, realising that she was on her own, she called out Annabelle's name, but when she got no reply, she settled back under the blankets for another couple of minutes, not really ready to leave the safe haven of her bed just yet. Out there the harsh reality of the big, bad world awaited her, she'd need to talk to Annabelle's mother in less than two hours and she needed just another couple of minutes more to steel herself for that.

Realising that she couldn't hide in here forever, she was a grown woman after all, she should be able to overcome her petty fears, she quickly tied her robe around her and went in search of Annabelle. The divine aromas drifting out from the kitchen making her mouth water, she quickly stepped inside, just in time to see Annabelle deftly flip a pancake in the air. Walking over, she stepped behind Annabelle, holding on to her hips as she peered over her shoulder into the pan. Sliding her arms more firmly around Annabelle as she gave her a light kiss on the cheek, she whispered: "fetching apron" before adding "breakfast smells great."

Turning around in Simone's embrace, leaving the stove unattended for just a couple of seconds, Annabelle replied, uncharacteristically embarrassed all of a sudden: "it was supposed to be a surprise. I wanted to bring you breakfast in bed, you know …..".

Looking at the laden tray on the table, the unexpected romantic gesture making her heart swell, no' one had ever bothered to make her breakfast on bed, Simone didn't know what to say for a moment. Then she stammered: "erm… I didn't know… you should have told me."

Looking at her with a playful, indulgent smile on her face, Annabelle replied: "Telling you about it would have gone against the whole concept of a surprise breakfast on bed."

Laughing softly, Simone said: "true enough I suppose. Anyway, it's the thought that counts…. I'm just as happy having breakfast here. It certainly smells delicious." As if on cue, her stomach grumbled. Embarrassedly she added: "seems I'm rather hungry too."

"Well, we both burnt a lot of energy last night," Annabelle replied cheekily, waggling her eyebrows to emphasise her point. When Simone turned beet red, it really didn't take much for her to blush, she waved her down on her seat with her hand, saying: "well, don't let it grow cold." Sinking down on her chair just as Annabelle put a full plate in front of her, she waited on the younger woman to sit down too before tucking in. Wolfing down her breakfast really wouldn't make a good impression, so she decided to keep herself busy with pouring them both a cup of coffee, though the divine aromas of the pancakes were making her mouth water. Looking around for the milk, she was just about to ask when Annabelle put the carton in front of her. The radio a soft background murmur, she buttered a piece of toast as she watched Annabelle pour a glorious amount of syrup over her pancakes before cutting it in tinier pieces. Stealing a piece, she hummed her approval before asking: "these are delicious. Where did you learn to cook?"

"I haven't, not really," Annabelle replied, dipping a piece of pancake in the excess syrup. "I guess it's just one of the perks of a lonely childhood." When Simone looked at her rather perplexed, she clarified: "like I've said before, my mother never had a lot of time for me when I was a kid. The only really constant in my life was our cook Beatrice. God I loved her, she was one of those typical grandmotherly types, you know? A pinkish perm, big flowered dresses, an old fashioned apron, always giving me biscuits and milk when I got home from school. I used to follow her around everywhere, she affectionately called me her little shadow. Anyway, I was always hanging around in the kitchen, so after a while Beatrice appointed me as her official helper. I diced the vegetables, stirred the soup, I was the official sauce taster too. She probably let me help her because she knew that at least that way I'd stay out of trouble, that I wouldn't get in her way. I guess that after a while I picked up a few things. It certainly proved helpful when she unfortunately died a few years later. I was left to feed myself and I was really glad Beatrice had taught me the basics. I mean, you can only abide junk food for so long. As long as it wasn't too complicated, I always managed to whip up something to eat."

"Well, you can cook for me anytime," Simone said, "as you probably noticed last night, I'm not much of a cook. I guess I never felt the need to learn. I've been here since I was thirteen, so I always had my dinner cooked for me. Sheer luxury, I do realise that. I first realised how lucky I was in that respect when I went to university and was expected to cook for myself. After I managed to burn eggs and beans within my first weeks on the dorm, I quickly bribed my roommate into cooking for the both of us. Something campus security was grateful about as I set the smoke alarm off half a dozen times." As Annabelle laughed at her exploits, she could just picture Simone setting fire to her dinner, Simone was lost in thought for a while, thinking about her university years. Spooning out a melon while Annabelle grabbed the last pancake, she was kind of hungry too, the silence that fell, was neither awkward nor oppressing. They were comfortable enough with each other to let the silences stretch out.

Suddenly realising that Annabelle was about to go off to university too, that their very own little bubble the school formed was about to burst, Simone asked: "we've never discussed what your plans are after you graduate. I mean, even though we have to sneak around, we can still see each other on a daily basis at the moment, which is great, but ….. all that's going to change once you've graduated. Though the summer holidays probably won't pose too much of a problem - if your mother is on the road all of the time, campaigning for the elections like you say she is - you could always stay with me at the beach house, but what when the holidays are over? If we are to spend a lot of time together, if we are to be a true couple, which I think is something we both want, …." At this Simone looked up to gauge Annabelle's reaction, suddenly uncertain, thinking that perhaps she was getting ahead of herself. To her great relief, Annabelle nodded enthusiastically, so she continued: "….your decision will concern me too. I know I said that my plans for the future are still up in the air, but whatever you decide, it'll have an impact on me too. I mean, do you plan on going to university or were you thinking about taking a gap year?"

Draining the last of her coffee, Annabelle replied: "you're right, we haven't talked about this and we really should, when and where I'll be going to university will have a definite impact on both our lives. Anyway, in answer to your question, I'm not going to take a gap year, I plan on going to college straight after the summer holidays, just not the one my mom wants me to." She stared into her now empty cup for a while, trying to gather her thoughts before continuing: "it's probably perfectly natural, I'm sure parents map out the lives of their children from the minute they're born, but …. ever since I was a little girl, my mom has wanted me to succeed her as the C.E.O. of the family business, never once asking me if that was something I wanted to, if it interested me. No, she just expects me to do it, she has it all worked out already.

She was over the moon when I applied for colleges and universities a couple of months back and the letters of acceptance came flooding in. I thought she'd have an aneurysm when even a couple of Ivy League universities accepted me, which, given my expulsion rate, is nothing short than a miracle. Guess my academic track record is still good enough to impress even the sternest of judges. Anyway, according to my mother's master plan I need to enrol at an Ivy League university first, preferably Brown or Columbia, far enough away not to embarrass her anymore with my exploits but prestigious enough to brag about to her so called friends. Then, still according to the master plan, I have to ensure a place at Harvard Business school, where I'll be groomed as the perfect company director. Never once has she asked me if this was something I wanted to do, if I could see myself as the future C.E.O. I don't know …. I guess it's the presumption that I'd just do as she says, no questions asked, that bugs me the most. She seems to think she has the right to make all decisions about my life, like she's judge, jury and executioner all rolled in one. I mean, sure she's my mother, she gets to call all the shots when I'm a kid, but not when I'm an adult, not about something as important as the rest of my life.

I was quite serious when I said I saw the fourth of July as my parole date. I'll be eighteen then, legally an adult. I'll be able to make my own decisions, both the insignificant as the life altering ones. I'll be free, I'll finally get to chose what I want to do with the rest of my life and rest assured that my choices probably won't please my mother. She'll only frown upon my career choice, mock it as insignificant, threaten to withdraw my allowance, force me to pay my own way through university, but you know what… I don't really care, I'll be free. It'll be about what I want for a change. Sure, even though I have an inheritance kicking in, money will probably be tight in the beginning, I'll have to make some drastic lifestyle changes, but…. I think the satisfaction I'll get, knowing that I'm finally living the life I want to lead, will be worth all the aggravation in the end."

"So, if economics isn't something you're interested in, what do you want to study then?" Simone asked, so sure Annabelle would tell her she wanted to pursue a music career.

"Psychology," Annabelle replied.

«Psychology?!?» Simone squeaked out flabbergasted. "What…. but, "she stammered incoherently. Taking a deep breath, she then said: "I was so sure you were going to say you were going to study arts, that you'd want to pursue a music career."

"Music is indeed a very important part of my life, but I'm realistic enough to realise that the chances of ever becoming a successful musician are slim to none. Unless I somehow become a bestselling artist, I'd never have job security. Besides, music's only something I dabble in, I use it as a kind of therapy… When I feel strongly about someone or when something is bothering me, instead of writing it down in a diary, I try to make a song about it," Annabelle said. When she saw Simone was about to reply to that, she added: "I realise that I might seem a bit hypocritical, I mean I've asked you why you haven't pursued a career in photography while personally I've never had the intention of doing the same thing with my music. It's kind of hard to explain. Erm I really take pleasure out of my music, I pour my heart and soul into it, but I'm self conscious enough to realise that I'm not that good a musician. It's never been my dream to become a famous rock star.

I know being rich and famous appeals to most people, but being a senator's daughter and a relatively rebellious one at that, always headlining the newspapers, whether I wanted to or not, I've seen the downside of popularity and I can honestly say being popular doesn't appeal to me in the least. Leading a rock and roll lifestyle, always on the road, getting harassed by paparazzi and fans isn't something I want or crave. Sure, the money would be great, but I'm not prepared to pay the cost. To me, job satisfaction and my general happiness are more important than money. You'll probably laugh at this, but my desires are pretty simple really, I want to live a quiet life, do a job I love, be disgustingly happy with the woman I adore, perhaps even have 2.4 kids. I guess I long for the white picket fences, only with a slight variation. Deep down I'm quite traditional I suppose. I'm not saying that I'm saying goodbye to music altogether, but I'll keep it very low key. I'll still have fun with it, use it as an outlet for my emotions and frustrations, but I'm not hell bent on signing record deals and securing gigs."

"You're quite right, you should do something you love, not something you're bulldozed into by your mother or something you know you'll hate in the end. And then there's of course, like you've said, the insecurity factor to consider, never knowing if you're going to have that ultimate breakthrough, if you'll have enough money to pay next month's rent," Simone replied. "I guess that's why I'm still torn between teaching and photography. I don't like taking risks, I need the security of knowing when my next pay check is coming on the one side and I do really like teaching on the other."

"So you're considering staying on as a teacher here at Saint Theresa's?" Annabelle asked.

"No, not at all," Simone said, clearing the breakfast table, "at the moment I'm torn between photography and teaching at another school. You were right, I was burying myself here, I need a change of scenery, I need to spread my wings. Saint Theresa's no longer an option for me. I just haven't quite figured out the next step yet. Another factor to consider of course is that I have no qualifications in photography, I've never even followed a lesson. I hardly think employers will be jumping at the chance of hiring me. I haven't even got a portfolio. No, at the moment I'm leaning towards the option of teaching at another school and following evening classes in photography. That way I can combine both." Putting their plates in the sink, she turned back around to face Annabelle and asked: "why psychology?"

Sighing deeply, Annabelle rubbed her eyes before answering: "that's a very difficult question to answer. I don't know, to me understanding the human mind is one of the greatest and most fascinating challenges. I want to know why people do the things they do, what drives them, why they're sometimes overcome with fear, why we're so easily influenced by others. I like knowing 'why'. I think I can cope with things better when I understand why they're there or why they happen. I find people the most complicated creatures in the world. Everyday I'm struck by just how much goes on underneath a person's one action and reaction. How someone you love can hurt you so much, lashing out, turning ugly when underneath all that, they just want what everybody in this world wants—love. And yet they'll do everything to drive you away. How a person can be so afraid of being alone and yet do exactly that—be alone, not taking anyone in. How a person can look so self-assured and confident and yet be a real mess inside. I want to know why some people turn to drink, drugs or self mutilation to cope ….

It's a very f*cked up world, there are a lot of messed up people out there and I just want to help them, even if listening to their stories is all that I can do. I guess what I'm saying is that I want to become a counsellor. I don't want to listen day in, day out to desperate and bored housewives, lusting after the pool boy or middle aged men, trying to get rid of their guilt over replacing their wives with a piece of eye candy. That's not really what I have in mind. I don't want to sound belittling or anything, but in my opinion those are luxury problems. I want to help people with real problems, people like Collins, straight A students who still feel the need to cut themselves, street kids who turn to drink and drugs as a mean to escape the harsh reality they live in, little boys who are so traumatised that they refuse to speak, …

Leaning back in her chair with her cup of coffee in her hand, stretching her legs out beneath the table, feeling totally at ease, Simone looked at Annabelle with a somewhat odd expression on her face. Annabelle had managed to surprise and baffle her once again. To Simone she seemed a fascinating mix of odd quirks and eccentricities, deep, volatile emotions and interesting contradictions. Every time she thought she began to know her young lover, she hit a deeper layer, Annabelle did or said something that took her by surprise and made her adjust her original perceptions. Annabelle showed an emotional maturity and depth that she hadn't expected, that perhaps people twice her age didn't always show. As she listened to Annabelle explain her career choices, she looked at her with new eyes, noticing, not for the first time, how Annabelle used her hands to emphasise her point, how her eyes sparkled when she was enthusiastic about something. All of a sudden, she realised that Annabelle was so much more than meets the eye, she was more than what the 'pretty face' or 'teenage rebel' tags would lead you to believe.

Once again she realised how intuitive Annabelle was and in that instant, she knew Annabelle would be perfect for the job. She had a knack for reading people correctly and she truly was a caring soul. Hadn't she consoled Collins over the death of her pet porcupine, trying to help her deal with her cutting without passing judgement? Hadn't she tried to console Kristen when her parents refused to bring her daughter along with them on Spring Break? Hadn't she reached out to Kristen when she was feeling low, trying to cheer her up with the simplest gesture of writing a lullaby, knowing it would give Kristen and her daughter more bonding time and the best memories? Hadn't she accurately predicted Cat would kick up a fuss over her absence during the Dance, reading the other girl like a book? Sometimes it seemed to Simone that she was completely transparent to Annabelle. Annabelle always seemed to know what she was thinking and how she felt. She always knew just the right thing to say or do to alleviate her fears. Did this mean Annabelle was only drawn to her as she regarded her as yet another tortured soul she needed to help? The thought evaporating as quickly as it came, she cleared her throat and said: "I think you'll be perfect for the job."

"You really think so?" Annabelle asked with an uncharacteristic display of self doubt.

Clasping her hand over Annabelle's, Simone said reassuringly : "I know so. Anyway… why do you say your mother would consider this an inferior career?"

Sighing deeply before letting out a self depreciating snort, Annabelle replied: "well, first off, I wouldn't be pursuing her ideal career choice and for a control freak like my mother, defying her wishes would be a blow to the ego. Then of course you have the 'glamour factor' to consider. Working with underprivileged kids isn't exactly something she could brag about to her wealthy and influential friends, it's not prestigious enough for a Tillman. Helping someone go through a cold turkey detox isn't something she could put on the cover of a magazine, unlike being the successful C.E.O. of a business. It's not something she could spin to her advantage, on the contrary even… I think it would show too many governmental flaws. It would make it clear, quite painfully even, that sometimes people slip through the net, that there's not enough help available, that not everyone is living a fairytale life, that the American dream doesn't hold true for some people. Sadly appearance is everything to my mother and she wouldn't really appreciate the mirror I hold to society."

"In the end, it's your life. You need to do the job that makes you happy, not your mother. If being a youth counsellor will make you happy, then I say go for it. Like my gran always said 'no matter what you do, as long as you put your heart and soul in it, you can't go wrong'," Simone replied. "Anyway, I guess we'd better get ready now, your mother will be here soon."

Sitting on the small couch in Simone's room, soft jazz music in the background, Annabelle read a magazine as she waited on Simone to finish getting ready. Sighing deeply as she flipped through the articles, none of them catching her interest, she tossed the magazine back on the coffee table, sinking back into the couch, her army issue boots firmly planted on the table. When Simone came out of the bathroom a few moments later and walked over to her dresser, she quickly sat upright again, not wanting to receive a bollocking, Beatrice had drilled her well, but Simone didn't even notice, too caught up in her own thoughts. Taking out two outfits and holding them out, she asked Annabelle "which one"? When Annabelle pointed to the one on the right, in her eyes the less conservative, more daring one, she just nodded and hung the other outfit back before disappearing into the bathroom again, leaving Annabelle on her own once more. Bored out of her mind, she laid down on the couch and closed her eyes, tapping her fingers in rhythm to the music, submerging herself in the haunting melody of love lost. Soon the bathroom door opened again and still brushing her hair, Simone asked: "any last minute tips on handling your mother?"

Slowly cracking her eyes open, Annabelle's breath hitched at the sight greeting her and she croaked: "you look beautiful." When Simone just cocked her eyebrow, she cleared her throat and said: "tips on handling my mother, let me see ….Well, never show fear and don't let her get to you, she's like a pit bull: the moment you show fear, she goes straight for the jugular." When she saw Simone gulp at that, she smiled and said: "don't panic, you'll be fine. The trick is to keep talking, never give her the time to interrupt you. Besides, you have the advantage: you're on home turf and she wants something from you, so she'll have to do all the giving in this meeting."

Letting out a shaky breath, she said: "guess we'd better get going then." When Annabelle didn't follow, she scrunched her eyebrows and asked: "aren't you coming? I mean, your mother will be here soon, don't you want to see her?"

"Not particularly no," Annabelle said. "I thought I'd make my overnight bag and then head to the library, there are a couple of things I still need to check out for an assignment. I'll just wait for you there."

"Ah… erm okay then I suppose," Simone said, "wish me luck." Giving Annabelle a small peck on the lips as the younger woman whispered 'good luck', she walked out of the room, her heart hammering in her chest with nerves.

Part 5

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