DISCLAIMER: All My Children and its characters are the property of ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: The Stranger Series.

The Stranger
By Megs


-----September 10, 2003----

There was an incessant noise just beside the sleeping woman's ear. With a quick swat at the usual culprit it became clear that the alarm clock was being falsely accused. A groan of impatience was emitted from the woman the bed that was forced to roll towards the noise and open her eyes.

Once her eyes were open the college student noticed that it was only three in the morning. With a louder groan and an unspoken promise to kill whomever was calling at this hour of the morning Maggie got out of bed and picked up the phone. The downside to dorming by herself was there was no one else to pick up the phone at three in the morning, and no one else to be blamed for receiving the call but herself.

"Hello…" Maggie rasped into the phone as she threw herself back down onto her bed and pulled up her covers.

"Is this Mary Margaret Stone?" The voice on the other end asked, and the formality of hearing her full name so early in the morning caused a pit to form in her stomach.

"Yes, who may I ask is calling?" Maggie sat up in bed, now unable to sit still. Something was wrong, very wrong.

"My name is Ronald Avery," Maggie didn't recognize the name but listened nonetheless. "I am...I'm calling to inform you that your mother passed on."

Maggie felt the pit in her stomach race its way towards her mouth; by only sheer force of will did she keep herself from retching.

"Wh—um are…are you sure it's my mom?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so. I…she died of complications from a car accident earlier this evening. I'm so sorry for your loss."

"I…oh god…um…" Maggie looked around her pitch black dorm room and although she sought to find something to lock her gaze on she could find nothing in the darkness.

How fitting.

"You were her next of kin. Her lawyer will be in touch I'm sure in the morning. I…is there anything that I can do for you, Ms. Stone?"

The man sounded sympathetic. At least Maggie thought he did. He could also just be tired, after all he was obviously working the night shift and might have had to make several of these kinds of phone calls already. What could he do? Her mother was dead in Green Bay and she was here….in Pine Valley.

Maggie felt the bile rising again as tears immediately sprang to her eyes.

"I…how?" Maggie croaked out as she leaned up against the wall and pulled her knees up to her stomach.

"It was a head on collision with a truck. There was a storm here earlier in the day, the roads were slick. Apparently the truck lost control and entered your mother's lane. There was too much internal bleeding. By the time she made it to the hospital we were only able to make her comfortable."

"Oh god…I'm gonna be sick." Maggie threw the phone against the wall as she lurched off of her bed and ran towards the bathroom.

Images of her mother driving home late at night crossed her mind. The image of her mother coming home from the bar drunk out of her mind formed and it made her sicker. The images moved from it being the trucks fault towards putting the blame on her mother. It was easier that way.

If it was Gwen's fault then Maggie wouldn't have to be so upset over it. It would have just been the one time Gwen wasn't lucky while driving home intoxicated. Then the image that brought her to shambles played within her mind's eye.

The radio was playing a late night country station. The sound of a young man singing of his lost love echoed through the car as Gwen Stone listened to the lyrics and kept an eye on the road ahead of her. Another AA meeting, another week without a drink, bringing it to nearly 15 months of being on the wagon. Things were beginning to look up.

With a small smile she thought about contacting Maggie, letting her know how well she was doing. It had been far too long since she had seen her daughter. With the thought still looming around in her mind of what her daughter would look like now, after two years of not seeing her, Gwen only a second to react when the truck from the lane across from her own swerved right into her lane harrowing towards her.

Maggie stayed by the toilet for most of the morning, the shower drowning out her sobs as she held her knees up to her chest and cried for her loss.

Maggie packed up one last item into her duffle bag. Her professors were all contacted. She would not be attending this week's lessons. The explanation on the mass email she had sent out to them explained that there had been a death in the family.

There were things to take care of. She had a funeral to arrange, lawyers to contact. It was going to be a busy next few days but it was something she had to do. Now if only she could stop crying.

Wiping away the tears that fell from her face this time Maggie looked around her room. Hopefully she had everything. With a nod, she zipped up her duffle bag.

The young med student had already made arrangements. Her flight left in three hours. She had enough time to finish packing, contact David, see Bianca, and make it to the airport in time to check in for her flight.

Maggie threw her duffle bag over her shoulder and left her dorm room only cringing for a moment as she shifted the bag to her other side. She had to hurry.

The conversation with David had gone rather well. He had offered to come with her and hadn't taken no for an answer. He was now trying to find a seat on the same plane she already had a ticket on.

Anna had been by the cabin when she went to tell David, she had expressed her condolences and wrapped Maggie up in a strong hug. It had broken her, and the tears that she had fought off since she had left her dorm room came rushing down her face as she sobbed into Anna's shoulder.

It wasn't fair. There hadn't been enough time. It just wasn't fair.

Now, was the hard part: telling Bianca she was leaving.

Bianca Montgomery, her best friend. The best friend she had ever had and promised to protect. Maggie sighed. She hadn't done a very good job of protecting Bianca. Maggie cringed at the recalled memory of Bianca informing her that Michael Cambias had raped her. She also recalled seeing the cocky victorious smile the bastard wore when he was proven not guilty when everyone knew he was.

The image of him coming closer to Bianca two weeks ago at the wedding that wouldn't be—Maggie remembered grabbing the knife and putting an arm out to keep Bianca behind her. He wouldn't touch her again. Never again, and now—now that he was missing he never would touch her again.

Maggie shook her head as she entered the elevator. As if being raped by the bastard wasn't enough. Now Bianca was dealing with the decision to keep the child that now grew within her womb or not. Maggie ran her hand through her hair and fought off another wave of tears, this wave not due to her own loss but for the pain Bianca had to be going through.

Even now with Michael missing there was still more drama, and its name was Kendall.

Kendall was informing everyone that she was now Mrs. Michael Cambias. It made her sick to think about, but she knew Kendall better than this. Something was up, she didn't know what it was, but she didn't doubt that it would come out sooner rather than later.

Before Maggie realized it she had made it to the front door of Erica's penthouse, in hopes of finding Bianca within the sanctuary of its walls. Sadly, after knocking on the door and it being opened by one of the young women that worked for Erica, she was informed that Bianca was not home. Maggie thanked the young woman and asked if she could leave a letter for Bianca.

The woman took the letter. Maggie left right after handing over the message.

Maggie took one last look at the building before she stepped back into her car and drove to the airport. She would have to let her letter talk for her. It was easier than explaining to her best friend who was dealing with so much at the moment that she needed to leave. That she couldn't stay to help her right now. There were circumstances that were pulling her away, even as she wanted to stay.

Maggie hoped the letter would do her immense sorrow at needing to leave, justice.

Maggie parked her car in long term parking and made her way into the airport, her duffle bag securely over her shoulder.

An hour later she made it passed security towards her gate and to her surprise saw David already standing there. Maggie smiled sadly at her cousin. It was great of him to be doing this for her.

"Maggie…" David rushed over to her and wrapped her up in another crushing hug.

Usually Maggie would have cracked a joke after being released from David's embrace but none were forthcoming this time. Maggie looked up into her cousin's eyes and felt tears burn the back of her eyes once again.

"Thank you…" Maggie managed to croak out as she let David pull her back into his arms.

David closed his eyes and held them closed tightly. He hadn't known Gwyneth Stone well, if at all. What he did know was what Maggie had been willing to share, and much of it hadn't been pleasant. He had cursed at himself for never trying to get in contact with Maggie and Frankie long before either of them showed up in Pine Valley. He could have done something, if only he had known.

Now, here, as he held Maggie against him as she cried for a mother that hadn't been perfect, but was her mother, he would be there for her now. He promised himself that he would be there for Maggie now, because they were all each other had now.

"I'm home…" Bianca called into the seemingly empty penthouse. Standing by the door and no immediate reply Bianca shrugged her shoulders and moved to the side table by the entrance.

Bianca looked forward to the day that she could once again move out of this place. Greenlee had informed her that she could have her penthouse, and Bianca was seriously considering taking her cousin up on her offer.

Cousin…it was still odd to think of Greenlee as family, and to think of the woman as a friend, but the cosmetic businesswoman had been trying. Until it came to Kendall that is…but Kendall was a different story.

Dropping her keys into the dish at the corner table by the front door Bianca moved further into the room and noticed a letter waiting on the coffee table in the living room. With a raised brow Bianca realized the letter had her name written on it and the handwriting was Maggie's.

A quick step brought the young woman to the letter and she opened it quickly.

Maggie must have stopped by while she was out with her mother. That was until the crisis at Enchantment had pulled Erica away. Bianca had hoped that Erica would be home already, but should have known better. Michael had left a mess of things, and Kendall wasn't making them any better.

Married to him…Bianca shook her head, it was despicable, but it was Kendall. Bianca knew, she knew that something was going on. Kendall had been trying with her, with Erica, with everyone. Only for this to happen. No, something was certainly going on with her sister and this sham of a marriage, and Bianca intended to find out what it was.

Greenlee, Kendall and thoughts of her mother were for later. Now she needed to focus on Maggie and why the older woman had wanted to talk to her.

Taking a seat on the couch Bianca read what Maggie had to say.


I hope that you don't have to read this. If you are that means I couldn't find you in time.

Bianca felt her heart sink as her fingers gripped the paper tighter. What was going on?

I'm sorry that I couldn't tell you this in person but there wasn't enough time. I found out earlier this morning that my mother was in a car accident.

"Oh no…" Bianca's heart clenched in her chest for the pain Maggie must be going through.

Bianca noticed the tear mark that scared the next word, and as she read it Bianca understood why a tear had fallen as Maggie wrote the letter.

Fatal, the car accident was fatal. She didn't make it. I've already made arrangements to go back to Green Bay. I will be back as soon as I can. If you need to get in touch with me call David's cell phone. The two of us will be back hopefully by the end of the week. I'll call you later. I'm sorry for leaving so quickly, but it couldn't be helped. I just wanted to let you know that I will be back. I'm not leaving you, I promise.



Bianca put the letter down. Maggie was sorry that she couldn't be here for her. Bianca shook her head as she covered her mouth with her free hand. Maggie was apologizing for being unable to be by her side when the pain Maggie had to be suffering through was unbearable.

Maggie had been there for her during…

"Oh Maggie, how could you ever think I'd hold this against you?" Bianca asked as she looked once more at the letter before placing it on top of the table where she had found it.

It said a lot, to Bianca, that Maggie would want to reassure her that she wasn't going to disappear. Bianca had feared that when people knew what happened, they would blame her and leave. Maggie hadn't left. Maggie had held her when the nightmares came and had stood by her side through the trial. Maggie had been there since the beginning and she hadn't disappeared.

Bianca smiled as she thought of the older woman. She was lucky to have Maggie as a friend. Now it was her turn to be there for Maggie.

Bianca looked at the clock above the fire place. 6:23. Bianca had been out since 9am in the morning. Maggie must have stopped by while she was out and couldn't get in touch with her. Her cellphone was in her bedroom charging. She hadn't expected to be out so long.

Grabbing the phone off of the cradle Bianca quickly dialed David's number.

Maggie looked around the hospital and watched as nurses and doctors ran about trying to do their jobs. The controlled chaos of the hospital wasn't something knew to Maggie. It was just unnerving to remember being in this very hospital after one of Frankie's ideas of adventures had turned sour.

"I wonder if that nurse Larritate is still around." Maggie whispered aloud as she stood alongside a wall.

"Come on Maggie it'll be fun!" Frankie coaxed from her position behind the rickety old fence.

A seven year old Mary Margaret Stone stood firm on the sidewalk outside the property. There were ghosts in that house and she was not going into it. No matter what those older boys dared her and Frankie to do, she would not go inside that house.

Ten minutes and constant begging from her twin found Maggie standing inside the haunted house. It was an old wooden house that had been condemned ages ago. There was rotting wood and rats all along the property. It was the locals favorite brank to send little kids inside to scare them around Halloween, just like now. Maggie had sworn she wouldn't get caught up in the brank, sworn it, but here she was anyway.

"Frankie…lets go. It smells in here." Maggie begged as she wrapped her arms around herself in attempt to stay warm. There was suddenly a draft that crept up her spine.

"No way, come on. We need to find something to bring back so they know we were here." Frankie, not heading Maggie's warning, continued through the house. Looking for some kind of memorabilia that the teenagers would take as proof they had been within the house. Maggie sighed and followed after her sister, afraid to stay alone in the dark and smelly room. In her haste to catch up with her sister Maggie didn't notice the rotted wood or the indication that it wouldn't be able to hold her weight. With a scream of pure unadulterated terror Maggie fell through the floorboards.

"Frankie!" Maggie cried out as she fell into the basement, her weight falling onto her leg and she cried out in pain before all went black.

Maggie didn't open her eyes for the next three hours and when she opened her blue eyes she opened them to find her face staring at her with red eyes. "Frankie…what happened?" Maggie asked and noticed that they were in the hospital and she had something in her arm.

"You broke your leg and arm when you fell. Oh Maggie I'm so sorry…" Frankie rested her head back onto her arms which were crossed on the edge of Maggie's bed.

Maggie smiled reassuringly at her twin and patted her identical head. "It's alright, Frankie…it doesn't even hurt."

"Really?" Frankie lifted her head up from the bed with a hopeful gleam in her eyes.

"Nope!" Maggie watched as Frankie relaxed. It was only a little lie, and if it made Frankie feel better it was worth it Maggie reasoned.

Maggie shook her head from the memory and smiled sadly. Frankie had always been the adventurous one. Maggie had feared that Frankie would never outgrow that childish phase. Sadly, she had been right in her assumption and her fear. Maggie lifted her hand up to her cheek as she felt a tear sliding down her skin.

Now Frankie and Gwen were gone. Now, she had no one.

No, that wasn't true. She had Anna and David and…


Maggie looked up from her musings to see David standing before her with a handsome young man.

"I'd like you to meet Dr. Avery." David introduced.

"Ronald Avery?" Maggie asked as she took the outstretched hand.

"Yes, I spoke to you on the phone."

Maggie nodded in assent as she looked at the young man. He had a few years on her and had a nice smile. He was at least a foot taller than she was and his hands were smooth.

"You're a surgeon?" Maggie questioned as she looked up from his hand to see he had shinning blue eyes.

"Yes, I'm on staff in the ER, I was on call when your mother came in." His tone took on a low tint, his sorrow obviously present that he could not save her mother, or perhaps keep his numbers of survivals up. Maggie wasn't sure she actually cared to find out which it was.

"I'd like to see her."

David's eyes widened, Maggie hadn't informed him of this when they were driving over.

"I don't think that's such a good idea," Dr. Avery mentioned with a tilt to his head.

"Maggie perhaps he's ri…"

"I want to see her!"

Dr. Avery was still against it. "She was rather beat up when she…"

Maggie looked up into Dr. Avery's big blue eyes that any woman would find dreamy, any other woman would find dreamy. "I want to see her." Maggie pronounced every syllable and held Dr. Avery's eyes leaving no room to be questioned.

"Alright, I'll have a nurse bring you to the morgue." Dr. Avery waved over an older woman in scrubs.

Maggie didn't have an opportunity to hear how the young doctor addressed the older more experienced nurse as David pulled her to the side. She would imagine that the woman was busy enough as it was, running errands for him that weren't apart of her job description only a burden. Maggie shook her head, Dr. Avery was just the kind of doctor Maggie vowed she would never be.

"Maggie, are you sure you want to do this?" David's words pulled Maggie from her internal analysis of Dr. Avery.


Maggie looked up to meet David's eyes and nodded her head, "I want to see her David."

"But are you sure…"

Maggie sighed, "I hope so."

"Hello, I'm Nurse Larritate, would you two please follow me?" Maggie's eyes widened as she looked at the older woman and felt a smile tug at her lips. There were a few more lines on the woman's face and half of her head of hair was grey

So, she still is around. Bet she doesn't even recognize me. Maggie laughed bitterly as she and David were led into an elevator and told to walk down a dreary hallway. Well, Maggie a lot has changed since you last came here.

Once directions were given Nurse Larritate left the two to their own devices.

Maggie saw David's worrisome gaze follow her every move. He did not want her here, but Maggie had to see. She had to see so that she could finally know and accept it. Hearing it was one thing, but she had to be sure. There could have been a mistake, and until her eyes saw for themselves her mother's body, those what ifs would remain. They would drive her mad and with her family's history of insanity, she didn't need more odds stacked against her.

They came to a doorway clearly marked Morgue by the blinking neon sign above the doorframe. Maggie took a deep breath and pushed the swinging door open. Once inside she was greeted with the sight of a woman with a face mask and running bone saw. Surprised eyes turned to the new guests.

"Can I help you?" The woman asked, Maggie was surprised to find she was very attractive. The stereotype of unattractive, creepy morticians was one that even Maggie had believed in.

"We're here to see Gwyneth Stone's body…" David refrained from using the term remains, but feared that was all would be left of his aunt.

The woman raised a brow as her eyes moved from David to Maggie's form. "Are you family?"

"Yes, I'm her nephew and this is her daughter…" David explained.

The mortician took one look at the slightly deflated woman and she knew this might not be the best thing for her. "Are you sure?"

Maggie felt her ire rise, she was sick of people asking her if she was sure. If she wasn't sure she wouldn't be here right now. She turned her eyes to meet the other woman's.

"Yes, now please…can we…" Maggie sighed as her hands fisted at her side. "Can we get this over with?"

"Yeah, sure. Hold on." With the bone saw deposited on a tray before another corpse the young mortician moved to quickly take off her bloody garb and find Gwyneth Stone's file. Once she had the file in hand she flinched, this was not going to be pretty, but if the woman was sure there was nothing she could do.

"I'm Annalise."

Maggie looked away from the row of freezers, one of which held her mother, and back towards the woman that was speaking to her. "Mary,"

David's eyes widened, he had never heard Maggie introduce herself as only Mary. It left him with a sinking feeling.

"Sorry to be meeting you in these circumstances, Mary."

Maggie offered a weak nod to the young woman who cleared her throat and went back to business.

"Your mother died from massive internal bleeding. There was nothing they could do."

"Yes I know that already."

"Maggie!" David hissed, there was no need to be rude.

Maggie sighed as she ran her hand through her hair. "I apologize, I've heard all of this already. I just want to see her. Confirm it's her."

"Her drivers license…"

"Look…please. Just let me see her I need to know…" Maggie's eyes teared up as she turned to Annalise. "Please…"

Annalise offered a small sad smile as she nodded her head and moved to where Gwen Stone's body was being stored until the funeral home came, which Annalise knew would be in two hours.

"Her body was beat up, be prepared."

David, seeing that Maggie wasn't heading this warning did so for his cousin and stepped up behind her, just in case. He placed his hands on Maggie's shoulders to let her know that he was there, and wasn't going anywhere.


Maggie looked up at Annalise's green eyes and nodded her head. Within seconds there was a sound of a metal unlocking and wheels as the metal slab was pulled out from the freezer. The black bag was slowly unzipped as Maggie felt her heart race. Her eyes remained locked on the peppered hair that was slowly revealed. There was massive bruising along the forehead and then...Maggie saw her mother's unseeing eyes. Even now, without seeing more Maggie knew they were hers.

It played out before her mind's eye, the crash, her mother's illuminated face from the brights of the truck heading straight for her car. Maggie heard screeching tires, the whine of a country song, and the unmistakable cry of a woman about to die.

"Mom…" Maggie gasped and before Maggie could see anymore she lost all sense of being and fell into David's arms her world going black.

David looked down at his watch and sighed, it had been three hours. After Maggie's fainting spell at the hospital David had brought Maggie back to their hotel room. When they had first arrived Maggie refused to go to her childhood home. David, sensing that it was better to go one step at a time, had agreed and got them two rooms, adjoined rooms.

The young woman was now safely locked away in her bedroom and had been since they arrived. Room service had delivered dinner a little over an hour ago. It was sitting untouched outside her door.

David shook his head as he moved away from Maggie's door. He had already tried twice to get Maggie to open the door and let him in. She refused. He had been ready to break down the door until Maggie told him, through the door, that she just wanted to go to bed. So, not knowing what else he could do, left her be.

David had called Anna to update her on how things were going, which frankly wasn't well. Maggie was a mess and David didn't know how to comfort her. Anna had assured him by just being there he was helping more then he knew. He took her word for it and promised to keep her updated. If there was anything that they still shared, it was their unconditional love for the young med student.

David looked towards his bedroom when he heard his ringtone. Jumping up from the couch David moved into his room and grabbed up his phone.

"Dr. David Hayward," He greeted, having forgotten to look at the caller id.


David felt a smile tug at his lips, "Bianca." Perhaps Bianca could get Maggie to open up.

"I just got Maggie's letter, what happened David? Are you two okay? Did you get to Green Bay alright? Is there anything I can do?"

David wanted to laugh but refrained from doing so. The young woman rambled on question after question that by the time she took her first breath David had lost track of many of them. It was classic Bianca Montgomery, a one and only classic Bianca Montgomery trait.

"Slow down Bianca, you need to calm down." He didn't mention that stress was bad for the baby, she didn't need that reminder right now.

Bianca followed orders and took a deep breath. "I'm calm. I'm just worried." Bianca admitted, and David could picture the young woman sighing as she ducked her head to the floor and slipped her hair behind her ear. It was a comforting image, one that he was sure Maggie would find just as comforting.

"First, Maggie and I are fine. We arrived about five hours ago."

"Good…" David heard Bianca sigh through the phone. "How is she?"

David shook his head, how was Maggie?

She was a wreck, not that he imagined she would be anything but. It seemed as if she had become a different person. Within the last few hours alone everything David knew about the young woman began to change before his eyes. He believed it was due to the devastation of losing her mother so soon after losing her sister, but he could tell there was something else.

The way she had introduced herself today, Mary, not Maggie, not even Mary Margaret. Just Mary, it was a drastic change. David knew how Maggie despised her name, why she preferred being called Maggie. Now, David sighed, now she was Mary. It worried him.

"Can I talk to her?" Apparently he hadn't answered quickly enough.

"Let me see if she's awake."

David hoped that Maggie was awake, maybe then she would open up. If she wouldn't open up to him then maybe Maggie would with the young girl on the phone.

Bianca had that affect with people. David had watched Bianca reach people who he never thought could be reached. He had watched as Bianca instilled herself into Maggie's life and heart without the young woman even knowing how it had happened or the extent it truly went.

David knocked on Maggie's bedroom door, noticing that her dinner was no longer outside the door. It made him smile, just a little. At least she was eating.

"Maggie, someone's on the phone for you."

"Who?" Maggie asked as she opened the door to her room slowly.

David bit the inside of his lip to keep from sighing at Maggie's appearance. Her eyes were bloodshot and her face was streaked, just a reminder of her tears.

"Bianca…" David held up his cell phone for the young woman to take. He saw how her eyes lit up and knew that if anyone was going to be able to reach Maggie right now and help her climb back from this sorrow, it would be Bianca.

Maggie only hesitated for a moment before she took the phone. "Thank you, David."

Maggie closed the door before David could even answer her, locking it for good measure. David meant well, but she wanted to be left alone.


"Oh thank god, Maggie. I'm so sorry I wasn't here this afternoon."

Maggie found herself smiling, if only slightly. "It's not your fault. You got the letter, obviously."

"Yes, I did."

There was a silence that stretched longer than either young woman wished it to. The silence was uncomfortable, like the silences they used to lapse into when Maggie first arrived and started asking questions about Frankie. Or Bianca asked about her childhood and her relationship with Frankie. Funny how this time it wasn't Frankie that was the cause of their silence, but her mother. The mother both her and Frankie disliked talking to others about.

"Maggie I…"


The two girls laughed.

"Go on…" They both coaxed at the same time once again.

Maggie found herself genuinely smiling. "I can be there by the end of the day." Bianca informed confident that she could be in Green Bay before the night was through.


"But Maggie…"

"Bianca, please don't. I…I'm already…" Maggie shook her head unsure what she wanted to say. "It's like I can't breathe…" Maggie sobbed, desperately trying to keep from breaking down completely.

"Oh Maggie…" Bianca felt her own tears burn her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Bianca. I need to go…" Maggie hiccupped as she shook her head. She couldn't do this now. Not with Bianca. "I'm sorry."

"Wait, Maggie do…" The line went dead. "…n't hang up."

Maggie put David's cell on the bedside table before curling up in a tight ball on her bed. The only constant these last few days was the tears that slid unashamed down her cheeks soaking the bed cover beneath her.

Maggie shook her head at the sight before her. There she was, like she had expected, passed out on the kitchen floor. Beer and liquor bottles littered the floor. She thought she had gotten all of her mother's stash, apparently she hadn't. Maggie shifted the duffle bag on her shoulder over, hissing as she did.

Getting rid of Gwen's stash had been more painful this time. The bruises along her right side proof of how painful it had turned out to be. She couldn't do this anymore. She couldn't stand around here and watch her mother sink further and further away from her. Try to bring her back, do her best to show her that it didn't have to be this way, only to be pushed, hit, or kicked away. It wasn't fair or right.

Maggie was done. That scholarship was her ticket out and she was going to take it and never look back.

Maggie wondered why she hadn't just run away with Frankie when she had the chance. Sadly, that was two years ago and she hadn't heard from Frankie in months. The weekly letters she used to get from her sister had stopped four months ago. Maggie hoped that Frankie hadn't gotten involved in anything too big that she couldn't chew her way out.

"I can't stay here anymore!" Frankie admitted only after Maggie had caught her sister about to sneak out. What made this night different was the duffle bag packed with most of Frankie's clothes. Frankie wasn't going to come back and she had been about to leave without saying goodbye.

"Frankie you're only 16!" Maggie didn't know what to say, what to do to keep her sister here.

"So what? I've been taking care of myself since I was 10. I've had a lot of practice taking care of myself and you." Frankie's words were meant to sting, and they did.

"We've taken care of each other." At Frankie's cynical laughter Maggie felt her anger rise.

"We shouldn't have had to! We've had to take care of her for six years and I'm done. I'm done coming home to a house that smells like booze and throw up. I'm out." Maggie knew pointing out the tears that fell from Frankie's eyes would only anger her sister more, so she remained quiet.

"Frankie two more years and we can leave. Please just two more years…" Maggie begged while knowing she had no right to beg her sister to stay. Frankie had the right idea, but she couldn't leave mom behind. One of them had to stay and she had always known she would be the one to stay.

"I can't! I can't stay anymore, I've stayed long enough. I have no future here. If I stay…I can't stay. You.." Frankie shook her head and suddenly dropped her duffel bag and moved closer to her twin. "You have a chance Maggie. You're smart. You can get out of here with that. What do I have…?"

"Frankie you have so much to…"

"Don't lie. We both know that I'm nothing."

"No! That's her talking. That's her!" Maggie shouted as she pointed towards the bedroom door. She pointed her finger to a woman that had instilled in both of their minds that they weren't worth the time of day. That they would amount to nothing, but Maggie knew it wasn't true. She would get out of here because she needed to but she wasn't ready yet. Frankie couldn't stay anymore. Maggie knew it. She did, it just hurt to know she'd be alone with a woman she didn't recognize anymore.

Frankie shook her head, and sadly Maggie knew she couldn't convince Frankie of her true value and that made her cry all the more.

Frankie wiped away Maggie's tears and was suddenly struck with an idea.

"Come with me. Come on, we'll pack your stuff and we'll get out of here. Come on…" Frankie rushed over to Maggie's closet and pulled out a suitcase. Frankie already had half of Maggie's top drawer packed away before Maggie could even speak up.

"I can't go, Frankie…"

Frankie heard it, heard the sorrow behind the words, she felt her own sorrow at having to hear them. She had always known Maggie would be the one to stay. Frankie kept her back turned to Maggie as she put down the bunch of clothes she had lifted from Maggie's drawer.

This was it.

Frankie closed her eyes and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from sobbing. It wasn't fair!

"Why do you have to be so strong!?" Frankie accused, her eyes trained on her sisters image through the mirror on top of Maggie's dresser. "Why do you have to be so god damn strong!?" Frankie spun around and ran into Maggie's arms and they both cried for what they were about to lose.

Maggie wiped the stray tear that had fallen. Maggie didn't know how she could watch Frankie leave and not follow. It had been the hardest thing she had ever done. Right now, leaving now, was the easiest thing she had ever done. Gwen would be furious, but Maggie was beyond the point in caring. The woman lying unconscious on the kitchen floor was not her mother. It was a shell of a woman that had killed her mother. Killed her long ago, Maggie just hadn't believed it then. Now, she wished she had. Two years of a hell on earth worse than Frankie could have even imagined.

"Bye, Gwen." Maggie whispered to the prone figure on the floor.

No letter, no explanation. When Gwen woke up from this stupor, she'd find an empty house and no dinner waiting for her. Maggie thought it was only fair because she didn't know the woman she was leaving. That woman was not her mother. That was a wolf in sheep's clothing. She was just the stranger that Maggie had come home to find eight years ago. She didn't deserve anything more then what Maggie was giving her. Nothing.

Oh god…Maggie pushed her head further into her knees. She felt sick. She had left her mother when she needed her most. She had refused to answer any of Gwen's letters or phone calls. She had refused to believe that Gwen had changed, had once again been the loving mother that Maggie had known for ten years. The eight years of hell and living with a stranger had left a shadow too powerful to overthrow by a dozen letters and phone calls.

Maggie had let Frankie leave without her and look what had happened. If she had been there that bitch would never have gotten her claws into Frankie. Frankie wouldn't have needed to cling to the only family she had in years because she would have been there. They wouldn't have needed anyone else if they had each other.

The phone beside the bed rang. Phone calls...

Maggie needed to learn to pick up the phone more often. She would never forgive herself.

Gwen had called three days before the accident and she hadn't picked up. She hadn't picked up. A week before Frankie died an unknown number had called her as she was going to class. She let the machine pick it up instead of staying to take the call. It had been Frankie asking if she could come and stay with her. Saying things had gotten too out of control and that she needed to leave, and she wanted to see her. Then before Frankie had ended the call she had spat one last hurtful jibe at her being too busy being a smart college student with friends and a life to pick up the phone to talk to her sister.

What use was she? She couldn't even pick up the phone to talk to her sister because she needed to get to class. Seven days later Frankie never got the chance to stay with her, she was dead. Gwen never got to apologize in person because Maggie refused to see her and now she was dead. Now they were both gone and she was all alone.

Maggie felt her heart pound against her chest as she gasped for air.

They were gone and she was here and it hurt so much to be alone.

"I'm so sorry…" Maggie whispered as the phone stopped ringing. "Oh god, please I'm so sorry…"

Who she was apologizing to, Maggie didn't know anymore.

The End

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