Elfen Lied AU, Bright Window, Rated T, 1/1

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gojirob, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Summary : How much will things change when one tiny life is saved?

    Bright Window

    By Rob Morris

    Prologue - Like A Streak Of Light...

    KANAGAWA PREFECTURE, THE 1990'S

    Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl. They had not yet met, but they soon would. Of course, neither of them knew this.

    Yet the boy knew that he must go up into the mountains, much earlier than he had planned. He had avoided everyone in his family, and he knew he would be in trouble for this, yet he didn't care, so up the mountain he ran.

    And the girl? She knew that running would make it worse, if anything could be worse than what they made her life every single day, but she didn't care. She held on to the only thing she gave a damn about, and she ran down those halls.

    You might think the boy had the tougher journey, but his path was clear and straight, while the girl's path twisted and turned down halls in ways that never seemed to hew to her advantage, and where laughter and taunts made what should have been a short journey seem like a walk through Hell itself.

    The girl made it outside, a confused but loving bundle of licks in her arms. It seemed very much like she had found it safety as well. Then an impact across her back sent her sprawling. The little one she fought to protect merely gave a confused yelp as it fell, and stood by her, ignorant of the mortal peril that faced it.

    "Dammit, Horns, you HAD to go and make this difficult!"

    "She sure ran like a demon."

    "Won't help her. Points off for making us run."

    "Maybe clothes off, too. I'll bet she has a thing-I'll betcha."

    A voice that the girl despised more than anything in existence now joined in.

    "I already toldja she doesn't---I can't believe you made me check."

    For the others were merely worthless and stupid, demons that lashed out at anything and everything that caught their attention. They were programmed to destroy, and harsh times had eliminated any possibility that they could overcome their base instincts.

    "Guys? Can we not do this outside? We-we could be seen."

    For this was something worse than a monster. This was a traitor, a spy, a thing that posed as the one thing the girl most desperately wanted.

    "You? I thought we were friends! How dare you pose as a friend, no matter what you think of me!"

    If she had somehow been coerced or manipulated into being a part of this great and ugly thing before them, the traitor girl now showed no signs of that, as she kicked the one she had tricked and trapped.

    "YOU! You ruined everything! This place isn't ugly enough, and it isn't hard enough to make what few Mamas and Papas stop here want to adopt? They see you, and they think maybe we'll all grow devil horns. How dare you even be born?"

    Tomoo picked up a rock, and grabbed up the puppy.

    "Now back to business. Inside-outside-what does that matter? There's no one around for the most part, either way. Most anyone who does hear doesn't like her any better than us-or maybe they know well enough to turn around. Now then, Horns---"

    He grabbed up the puppy, grinned, and pulled back the hand with the rock in it.

    "----howzabout some doggy style?"

    The girl would always remember this as the moment her world changed forever. That time when she needed help most of all, and she learned that sometimes, prayers are answered with a resounding Yes Praise Kami Be Invoked.

    "LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!"

    To his credit, the boy believed in heroes. To his detriment, he was not quite yet ready to stand as one. He was exhausted as well. When the smoke cleared, he had gotten the crap beaten out of him.

    "His own fault for butting in his nose....ahhhh...my nose."

    But Tomoo and his friends were no longer laughing, and were pulling back. The girl had not stood helpless, either, and together, they made the greatly haughty the mostly broken. The traitor ran off last of all, shaking.

    "They-they made me do it!"

    "No---you made your choice. And if I ever see you anywhere near me ever again, I'll make you so ugly, you'll only wish you had horns!"

    The girl gave the traitor a kick as she ran off, and it felt oh so good to see her stumble. Now, at last, outside of the fight neither of them had wanted, girl met boy. She expressed her enormous gratitude and admiration towards the hero who had sacrificed so much for her.

    "What are you, stupid, taking on a bunch like that? Who asked you for your help? You shouldn't have interfered in what doesn't concern you. I didn't need your or anyone else's help! I do just fine on my..."

    A solid bark stopped her gushing praise in its tracks. The girl looked at the puppy, who whimpered by the side of the bleeding boy.

    "Yeah, I know. I am glad he showed up. But who is he?"

    She found a train ticket stub on him, and a scrawled address. Stronger than she seemed, she helped take him down the mountain and found the house in question. No one was home, so she laid him on a couch, his jacket beneath him to stop the cushions from being stained. A small noise came up, a canine query made on a hero's behalf.

    "I guess he'll be all right. But I don't know."

    The pup made its choice and snuggled on the boy's chest. All seemed quiet and well for his possible recovery.

    "Who are you, and why did you hurt my cousin like that?!"

    For you see, even though this is a story of boy meets girl, this hardly precludes there being another girl. The new girl offered a further welcome.

    "And why do you have those horns?"
     
  2. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Chapter One - Like A Bolt Out Of The Blue

    The first girl understood well how the second girl could jump to conclusions, and tried to adjust her words accordingly.

    "I didn't hurt him. He stuck his stupid nose in where it didn't belong, and he got his ass handed to him as a result."

    The second girl realized that she should not have come in spouting accusations, and that toning things down a notch was the way to proceed.

    "Well, what am I supposed to think, when I see a stranger in my home, standing over my bleeding cousin? I have every right to be suspicious."

    It should be noted that both the first and the second girl were well under ten years old, leading to their forethought never quite making it to regulate their mouths.

    "Well, then you take care of him. I have to get back---get back---"

    The first girl sat down on the floor.

    "I don't want to go back. This is as far away from that place as I've ever gotten, and I just want to keep on going."

    The first girl turned and looked at the now-confused second.

    "Will you take care of him?"

    The second girl, whose name was Yuka, shrugged.

    "I just said I would, and besides, he's my cousin."

    "Not him---"

    The first girl pointed at the boy's chest, and what was sleeping snuggled against it.

    "---him---he eats a lot, and I can't take care of him anymore. They tried to hurt him once already."

    Yuka looked. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She said one word that was as much exclamation as it was a noun, her voice turning to squeals as she did.

    "PUPPY!!!"

    Yuka gently scooped the puppy in her arms, and held it close.

    "How can you give him up when he's so cute and lovable?"

    The first girl touched the baby dog as well.

    "I don't want to. But like I said---they'll hurt him, and they'll do it just for fun."

    Yuka glared, and the glare made the other girl wince.

    "Who would hurt him? Anyone who would hurt a puppy should be thrown into a meat grinder, as far as I'm concerned!"

    The first girl looked outside.

    "Tomoo and some of the other kids at the orphanage I live at. They only know how to be mean."

    Yuka looked at her visitor.

    "You're an orphan---ewww!"

    The first girl partly registered that her new acquaintance seemed more upset by her being an orphan than her having horns. But her own upset pushed this aside.

    "So what if I am an orphan?"

    Yuka looked horrified.

    "You're right, I'm sorry. But when my Papa and then Kouta's Mama died in the same year, I was afraid I might end up in an orphanage. I couldn't live without Mama around. I wouldn't want to."

    "Who's Kouta?"

    "You mean you don't even know his name?"

    "Hey! He never said his name--he just took Tomoo's bunch on all of a sudden, and then they pounded on him. They did this--not me."

    "So they hurt Kouta and tried to hurt a puppy? Why?"

    The first girl closed her eyes.

    "It's because of me. Because I'm an oxen, like they say. Because I'm not Human."

    Yuka sat down with the girl.

    "Is this because of your horns?"

    The first girl was becoming exasperated.

    "Well--what do you think it was about?"

    "Hey, don't attack me because of those jerks! And you--maybe you shouldn't have even told them you had a puppy, if you knew how they were."

    The first girl slammed her hand down where they sat.

    "I didn't tell them! They were told by my frie---"

    She stopped again and calmed down.

    "By somebody who pretended to be my friend, just so she could get close enough to me to trick me."

    Yuka saw the small dog rouse.

    "Let's get the puppy some food and water and let Kouta rest, okay? I'm so mad at that idiot for getting into a fight with ten boys like that."

    "It was really only three--and I helped once they were surprised by him."

    "Did you hit that little traitor girl?"

    "Believe it."

    Yuka walked towards the kitchen.

    "Good. People like that deserve to be killed. In fact, even that's too good."

    "Yeesh--kind of harsh, don't you think?"

    The girl didn't know where those words came from, but it felt good to say them.

    "Maybe--but making a person feel bad, and tricking them with false friendship, and hurting something they care about, all just to be mean is something I absolutely hate."

    While the puppy was feasting and drinking to his little heart's content, the two girls walked back to Kouta. Yuka saw the first girl's eyes look at him, and realized that her dismissive talk of him wasn't at all how she really felt.

    "Look, I'm sorry for accusing you of hurting him. The truth is, I really love Kouta, and someday I even want to marry him."

    The first girl looked sad at these words, but Yuka pressed on.

    "I'm glad he helped you and your puppy. I won't take him away from you. Not when he's the only thing you have to love."

    The first girl's face perked up a bit, till she realized Yuka meant not taking the puppy away.

    "But you have to. I can't take him back there. I'll have to avoid them, and I can't do that and protect the puppy, too."

    Yuka stood firm.

    "Then I'll ask my Mom to let you stay here until we can find you and him a home. After all, my kin got injured helping you two--that makes you our family's responsibility."

    "But what about--my Horns?"

    "Those again?---well, they're actually kind of---cool. Now let's get Kouta ready for his bath, so his wounds can heal."

    Smiling as one, they each pulled on different ends of Kouta, quickly stripping him and then taking him by his hands and feet to be bathed.

    "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?"

    Yuka's Mom and Kouta's Dad, with a third smaller girl in tow, stared at the two girls carrying a bleeding naked boy. The small girl frowned.

    "Now Onii-Chan has two girlfriends--yechhh!"

    Yuka shivered and shuddered, while the other girl holding Kouta felt an enormous pressure build up, and then just as suddenly felt it release. She saw the mess around her, and felt angry once again.

    "Oh crap! I just peed myself!"
     
  3. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Chapter Two - Like A Rolling Stone

    The girl noticed that the woman, Yuka's mother, didn't fuss over the tea and biscuits she offered, and didn't tell her how lucky a wretch like her was to receive such a thing. This wasn't even in her eyes. Emiko was only offering hospitality to a guest.

    "It's all so wonderful."

    Emiko touched the girl's head once again.

    "Please don't touch my horns. I'm not an animal to be petted, you know."

    Emiko looked at her harshly, and the girl was afraid.

    "Of course you're not an animal! Who's been telling you that you're an animal?"

    "I didn't say that anyone did."

    Emiko looked at her more gently now.

    "But you wouldn't have brought it up to me if someone hadn't."

    Caught, the girl nodded.

    "There are some in there who have called me an oxen--they tell me I should sleep outside."

    "Don't the guardian adults stop this?"

    The girl closed her eyes.

    "Once, when I was sick, I heard one of them call me a changeling--a fake child left by spirits in place of a real one. I--I hate that place!"

    Emiko heard the phone ring.

    "Listen--Kouta's resting and the girls are about to take a bath. Why don't you take it with them?"

    "Because I'm an animal and I stink?"

    The phone rang again.

    "No, because you're a little girl who peed on herself and who's tired from carrying a little boy a long way. And the only animal in this house is that puppy Kanae nearly smothered from hugging it so much. Understood?"

    Emiko picked up the phone, asked the caller to wait, and then asked the departing girl a question.

    "I meant to ask--what is your name?"

    The girl seemed almost hesitant to yield up even that much.

    "Kaede."

    Emiko smiled and patted her on the head.

    "Go take a bath, Kaede. You are welcome in my home."

    Kaede rushed forward and hugged Emiko about the waist before departing for the bath. Emiko noted that she seemed as starved for simple affection as for anything else. She then spoke to the caller.

    "He's fine. Just resting. None of the cuts were that deep. How is it----as bad as she said? They--what? Just get back here, okay?"

    As Emiko pondered her next move, Kaede joined the other two girls after stripping down. After a while, Kanae whispered something. Yuka reacted badly to this.

    "Kanae, that's just rude! She's our guest!"

    Kaede enjoyed the warm water, and the company of people who didn't seem to simply hate her just because. So she just shrugged.

    "There's nothing she can say about my horns I haven't heard before."

    Kanae looked puzzled.

    "Your horns are cool. It's your hair that's stupid."

    Kaede was again puzzled by this family.

    "What about my hair? You mean you don't like its color?"

    The little girl shook her head.

    "No--that's cool too. Its just---the way it falls down on your head. It looks weird."

    Yuka poured the contents of her washbucket over Kanae's head.

    "Whether it is or not, it's still rude to say such a thing."

    "Because she's our guest?"

    "That's right."

    Kanae pondered for a moment.

    "But I think your hair's stupid, too--and you're not a guest."

    A fourth voice was heard as the nearby toilet flushed.

    "Stop it, Kanae--both their hair look fine."

    "I'll stop if you tell me to, Onii-Chan---ONII-CHAN?!!!"

    The great irony is, Kouta was turning to leave as the fuss began. Yuka, as expected, began this fuss.

    "Kouta, you shouldn't be in here when we're taking a bath!"

    That this boy was very much on her mind and under her skin was evidenced by the fact that Yuka stood up to chastise him, unwisely rendering her valid points about modesty and privacy completely moot.

    "Give me a break, Yuka-chan. I had to pee something fierce. And I'm so tired I can barely see straight. Maybe--maybe you should sit down?"

    "DO NOT tell me what to do, you pervert! If I want to stand up, I'll--eeeeeeekkkkk!!"

    Yuka quickly followed Kouta's advice. Kanae merely sighed, such intrusions a household hazard for her. But Kouta's attention was on neither of them.

    "Hey---is your puppy okay?"

    If Yuka was not cognizant of her earlier exposure, Kaede was uncaring, as she got out of the bath and embraced an embarrassed Kouta.

    "He's safe--because of you. No one has ever just helped me before. I love that stupid little yelping eating machine. When they aimed to hurt it, I felt like my head was going to explode."

    Kouta embraced her back, mainly because he had no idea what else to do.

    "I think my head is about to explode."

    Kanae stared at the odd pair.

    "Should they be doing that?"

    Yuka was off elsewhere in the same bath.

    "He saw---he saw it all---I'll never get married!"

    Kanae saw an opening.

    "That's okay, Yuka-San--at least you can attend their wedding!"

    As Kouta prepared to faint and Yuka prepared to strangle, certain words were heard yet again.

    "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?"

    Kouta looked at his father and aunt in the doorway, and tried to plead his case.

    "I just came in to pee---but they won't let me leave!"

    His father quickly led him out, while Emiko stared at the trio of girls.

    "Kaede, why were you hugging him while naked?"

    Open emotions were still new to the girl, so she had not a prayer of keeping ones this raw back.

    "Because I'm like Yuka. I love Kouta, and I want to marry him someday--even if I never will."

    As those words hung in the air, the girls dried and dressed and all made for the living room.

    Juniuchi, Kouta's father, started the talk.

    "Kouta, why did you leave so suddenly and go so far away without telling anyone?"

    Kouta closed his eyes.

    "I will accept whatever punishment you say, Papa. But I---something inside me told me to go to that exact spot without delay. Like the whole world depended on it. I thought I was going to be a hero, but I only got beat up."

    "At least you saw naked girls--boys like that."

    The adults glared at Kanae.

    "Well they do."

    Juni nodded.

    "This once--and only this once--there will be no punishment. You saved Kaede and her puppy. And I now know that place she came from to be an awful one. The people there spoke in scandalous terms about their treatment of her, and they offered no apology for their behavior. When one of the other children chimed in with an insult towards Kaede, the teachers and staff laughed along with it."

    Emiko looked at Kaede.

    "Kaede--about the orphanage--"

    "When do I have to go back?"

    So lost was Kaede's soul that she could not see what everyone else in the room already had in Emiko's response.

    "Never. You are never going back there, except when you come with us to make the arrangements."

    Now, even she caught sight of what was being offered.

    "But I have horns."

    Emiko smiled.

    "Now you have a family."

    Kouta seemed happy, Kanae confused, and Yuka?

    "I have a sister now?"

    And both of them wanted the exact same thing.
     
  4. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Chapter Three - Like A Prayer

    Inside the orphanage offices, Emiko and Juni proved formidable advocates for both a child that was theirs, and the child they wished to make theirs.

    "A fee, you say? We've already paid the state's fee for her care this month. I don't see what else is in order."

    In fact, given Juni's report, Emi already knew exactly what to expect. Juni in Hokkaido and Emi there in Kamakura had each in their time sought building variances, only to encounter the hand that blocked, and discovered it was also the hand to be greased. Juni took point next.

    "Look, in my previous talks with you, you said that you would be delighted to see this girl off your hands. Well, we would also be delighted to take her off your hands. I don't see a lot of people lining up to take her. We walk into this with eyes wide. We know she's going to have problems adjusting. Her care may on occasion be a burden, but it's a burden we want and choose lovingly. Now, how about we drop all talk of this foolish fee, or we may be forced to let those *delightful* kids out there know that you kept 'the oxen' around when you could have had done with her."

    Neither knew where the other side would amp up the conflict, only that they would.

    In the common yard of the Child Welfare Facility, Yuka found less potential conflicts with her stated rival for Kouta's affections, and more with the treatment of the girl who would soon be one of two sisters.

    "What are you doing back here?"

    "Didn't they finally chase you out?"

    "Like an unlucky coin, you keep turning up."

    "Hey, Horns? Go Nagai-San wants you to return to his art board!"

    "Next time you get sick, take the hint and keep right on back to where you belong--in Hell."

    Yuka was about to stand up at that one, but Kaede urged her down.

    "Don't feed them. We'll be out of here soon. A fight will only keep us longer, and I do not want to be here one second longer than needed. Please, Yuka?"

    Kaede suddenly moved behind a tree, and Yuka, curious, moved with her.

    "What?"

    Kaede pointed to a girl who really looked like almost any other girl, but who in Kaede's eyes, had horns that made hers look like bangs.

    "That's her, isn't it? The one that set you up?"

    Kaede bit back.

    "I can't be sure she did it deliberately. She could just be a blabbermouth, or an airhead."

    Yuka looked out with a vengeful glare that scared Kaede. She was certain that Yuka's look could, if harnessed, tear a person apart or punch holes in them.

    "Kaede? You must trust me."

    Kaede frowned.

    "I'm not really big on that. Not just for you, but for anyone."

    "Well, you have to at some point. But if you can't trust me, then promise you'll ignore my words until I come back to you. Let them pass, even if they make you upset and hurt."

    "I--I can probably do that. But why?"

    Yuka crossed out from behind the tree, away from Kaede, who remained hidden. She saw Yuka approach the one she hated most of all, feigning a look of glancing around confused.

    "Are you new here?"

    Yuka turned suddenly, looking surprised, as the nemesis girl asked her question. Her look of surprise was so smooth, it almost unnerved Kaede.

    *Damn--she's good.*

    "Oh, Hi! No--my parents are here, looking to adopt a little girl to be my new sister."

    Yuka had warned Kaede, but this warning now had a different effect than Yuka had intended. Rather than mistrusting Yuka, Kaede saw with crystal clarity exactly what she was doing.

    *Oh, Yuka--please don't do this. It's never right, no matter what.*

    Back inside, one endgame was beginning to take shape.

    "Your son did start an unprovoked altercation with some of our poor underprivileged boys. Keeping all that quiet is difficult work. The fee we discussed would make that difficult work somewhat easier."

    The trick might have worked, but Kouta had said how the boys had spun the occasion to teachers that showed up while he lay semi-conscious, in hiding with Kaede and the Puppy. So Emi simply shrugged at Juni.

    "I told you his problems would come to light. Your boy has deep issues."

    Juni frowned.

    "He's always been so violent. I'll--turn him over to local authorities, and let them sort it out."

    The man and the woman on the opposite side of the desk now seemed alarmed.

    "There's--there's no need for that. We--understand how the boy might have problems..."

    "Yes! Certainly our fee can be negotiated in that light---"

    Juni waved his hand.

    "No! You say Kouta started a fight? Well, then he must answer for it. And as for your poor boys--we must insist that state counselors be brought in to check if he left them with psychological scars."

    Emi nodded firmly.

    "In fact, my nephew is so violent, he could have scarred every child here. They may all have to be interviewed on the impact of such casual destructive power."

    The two leaned forward.

    "In fact----"

    "We Both---"

    Together, they ended the lesson.

    "---insist on a full and unrestricted investigation on all levels."

    Kaede was adopted without further debate.

    But outside, she felt not hope but a sickeningly familiar emptiness. She wanted to stop Yuka. She also wanted to hand her a stake and a hammer. The third girl, an object of both pity and scorn, was being set up in a way she was familiar with, just not from the opposite direction.

    "Adopting!? Have they decided yet on who they're adopting?"

    Yuka again made a very good play out of acting confused.

    "Well, I know they're in the offices right now, but I don't know whether it was to finalize an adoption or check out the girls here. Are--are you here with your parents?"

    *How can Yuka want to do this?*, thought Kaede. *And why am I not stopping her?*

    "I--live here. I don't have any parents. I'd like to have some."

    Kaede knew the other girl was an actress as well, and could not tell whether or not the hurt look on her face was practiced or the simple yearning that every child there, even to the vicious Tomoo, kept on their secret wish shelf. Yuka was not an orphan, and she had no horns. But she could destroy, as she would ably demonstrate.

    "Well, maybe I could talk to my parents on your behalf, before they make their choice."

    Kaede saw the girl light up so fast at this, she wondered if her status as a schemer was now in question. This would not last long.

    "That would be so great! But listen--there's no need to go telling anyone else about this. You and your parents would be overwhelmed by con artists and lowlifes."

    "Oh my! I would never want that---glad I ran into you first. Well, we might even adopt two girls. My poor aunt suffered a disfigurement, so maybe the other girl could be someone with a facial problem of some kind. Could you mention anyone you know whose looks are maybe a little off or odd? Maybe someone that others make sick fun of?"

    The girl giggled a bit.

    "Not unless you want an oxen living with you."

    Yuka kept up appearances, but it was a near thing.

    "Huh?"

    "Oh, nothing. Look, a lot of the girls here have been in this so long, they no longer know how to act around people. You lucked out when you talked to me--so let's forget anyone else and talk to our parents, alright?"

    Yuka shocked the girl and Kaede by laughing loudly.

    "Oh, wait! I forgot--MY parents had already selected a girl they want to adopt. I guess you didn't luck out, after all."

    The girl pulled back, looking hurt.

    "How can you do such a thing to me?"

    Yuka folded her arms.

    "You look so sad. Maybe I should buy you a puppy."

    Kaede emerged from behind the tree.

    "Yuka, stop this! I hated it when she played with me like this, and I hate it now."

    "Kaede---"

    "I know you meant well--but you have to understand--I don't want payback on this place, or these people. I just want to leave it, and live with you and Kouta and Kanae. In misery, they lashed out at me, the only creature more miserable than themselves. Let them live with their own stewing misery."

    Yuka did look hurt, but swallowed some pride and closed her eyes.

    "Yeah--this didn't feel very good, anyway."

    Kaede knew what would follow as she extended her hand, but felt obliged because of the line Yuka crossed.

    "I'm sorry you were hurt. No one deserves to be deceived that way. Not me, or even you, even after what you did."

    The hope in her soul had taken root, a potent drug that had killed something horrible inside her, and silenced forever a voice that some say we all hear in bad moments.

    "I'm not saying we could ever be friends. But we can walk away from this moment as nothing to each other, a fresh start and a declaration that the past is all done with. We won't ever see each other again, and while a lot of hurt has been done, nothing unforgivable has happened yet. What do you say?"

    The girl did not even bother to hide her contempt. She looked at Yuka.

    "You--you're adopting this fake Human over me? This monster? Did she tell you how she attacked me and four boys yesterday? She even brought in a thug to help her out!"

    Yuka slapped the girl's hand.

    "I plan to marry that thug someday, and if it isn't me, maybe it will be Kaede. You--you deserve to be ripped in half, and a hole blown in your ugly little face. How could you pose as a friend? Isn't that just as bad as what I did to you?"

    "NO! Because she's not a real person. You never hurt real people like that. Hurting her doesn't count, because she is just a talking animal."

    The new Kaede may have discovered hope and desired peace, but to paraphrase a holy book's sage words, both cheeks were now sore. She smiled, walked up--and hugged the stuffings out of her enemy, speaking in a loud, joyous voice bound to draw attention.

    "Oh, Thank You! If you hadn't told me about what Tomoo and the others had planned, my puppy would have surely died! You have been my only friend in this place------"

    Kaede moved from Kanto to Sicily as she kissed the girl on the cheek.

    "...and I will always think of you as a sister!"

    The girl shuddered, saw eyes upon her and heard endless whispers.

    "Damn You!"

    Kaede's smile turned into a more wicked grin.

    "You first."

    The girl marked for real pain now ran. Yuka and Kaede saw their parents emerge, final papers in hand faster than the speed of bureaucracy. Juni looked at his new daughter.

    "You look tired, kid. Want a ride?"

    She hopped on his back, smiling at all three of her advocates, and began to feel ecstatic as that hated place faded into the distance behind her.

    "Yuka?"

    "Yeah?"

    "Thank You."

    "Humph! You can thank me by calling me Onee-Chan. I am older than you."

    When she saw Yuka wasn't completely serious, Kaede smirked.

    "You are older--maybe I'll call you Oba-San."

    Emi teased her daughter as well.

    "My little girl is an Auntie? How wonderful!"

    "Mother!"

    Juni felt Kaede hold him firmly as he walked.

    "Do you like the ride, Kaede?"

    "You--have a strong neck."

    "Who has a strong neck?"

    Kaede smiled anew as their home came into view at last.

    "Papa! My Papa has a strong neck!"

    Inside the house, a young man got his rest from a recent beating, while a little girl held a puppy and frowned at his sleeping form.

    "Onii-Chan--Kanae doesn't want to share you!"
     
  5. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Location:
    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    Chapter Four - Like A Family

    Her new parents were loving, caring, firm and fair. As they talked to the school principal, she also learned that they were hopelessly naive.

    "I must think of the other parents."

    Emiko leaned forward.

    "Kaede deserves an education, same as our other kids. A condition of birth should not separate her from that right."

    It had been three months since the couple married, and on that same day, all the children were formally adopted by the parents, in Kaede's case, twice over. They were fixing up a restaurant owned by Emiko's family, and there they were staying as well.

    "You've already told me that the girl was the target of taunts and pranks at the Child Welfare Facility. Why do you think it will be any different in a public school?"

    Juni was nearing the end of his patience.

    "We could have just sent her in without showing you her horns. We did you this courtesy so you could prepare, not so you could stand blocking her way at the schoolhouse door."

    "Are you two even thinking of your other three children? Besides the horns, her hair is an odd color. That alone could draw unwanted attention on all of you. Do you want your Inn to prosper or be driven around by the wary?"

    Kaede remembered an excuse one of her teachers had used at the orphanage.

    "I could wear a hat. We could say I was in an accident as a baby, and it left my forehead disfigured. A kid with a scar might get teased, but what kid doesn't?"

    The principal was indignant.

    "Do you know how to address people properly, young lady?"

    Kaede knew how to talk down the officious.

    "Apologies, Principal-San. But this is also the first time in an over an hour that we've been here that you've spoken directly to me. But my point is, no one has to see my horns, and we can have a story ready for those that do."

    Emi smiled at her, then looked at the principal.

    "I can't see parents caring about this, if it's not in plain sight."

    Outside the office, three children waited for the trio. Two looked delighted. The youngest one did not.

    "Kouta---do you like Kaede as much as you like me?"

    Kouta had learned how to dodge both punches and words.

    "I like that she's going to be okay now. I like that she's going to be with us."

    The boy had come to feel a bit like a hero. It had been his bold actions that saved Kaede and their puppy, and brought the two families together. His confidence began to increase.

    "Yuka-Chan--I've always liked you. But Kaede needs both of us--all of us. I can still see the hurt in her eyes sometimes. I had to scold her for something the other day--I didn't even raise my voice, but it's like she thought I was going to kick her out."

    Yuka nodded.

    "I guess we are Onii-Chan and Onee-Chan now as well. That's a big responsibility. At night, sometimes she asks to sleep next to me--like she's afraid I won't be there the next morning if she lets me go."

    Kanae tried to inject some venom.

    "She grabs your boobies."

    Yuka winced and blushed.

    "Kanae-chan---that is not to be discussed. She's asleep then."

    If the little girl thought this would shake her onii-chan, she was wrong.

    "Kanae! That is their private business and I doubt Kaede does it on purpose in her sleep. Besides, aren't you better off now? Because Yuka and Kaede are with us, I don't bust in on you in the bath anymore. I can ask them if you're in there. I think it's wonderful that we have each other like this. Don't you?"

    Kanae did not see things that way. In her mind, she had gone from being the main girl in the life of two men to being almost invisible. Yuka was louder, and Kaede was always so needy--and always getting sick, too.

    "You bust in on Yuka and Kaede--especially when they're taking a bath together."

    Yuka smiled, made a fist and punched Kouta in the arm.

    "Kanae-chan is right, but we always tag him for his peeping. We'll make a solid citizen out of this pervert!"

    Kanae glared at her.

    "You bust in on him and Papa too. Kaede does that dumb smile like she doesn't know what she's doing, and then you both act so shocked. You're bigger perverts than him!"

    Yuka blushed again and was about to respond when their parents emerged with Kaede in tow. She was smiling.

    "I'm going to attend a real school!"

    The principal emerged, seeming more restrained.

    "It will be up to you three children to keep thugs and pranksters off your sister. I understand that Kaede-San has the right to be here, but children here are only a little better behaved than those I've heard about in Child Welfare. I can call their parents, the same as yours, but that only settles trouble after the fact."

    Kouta stood.

    "I'm a new kid here, too, Principal-San. I can take a punch, and Kaede and Yuka can give one, if they have to. Heaven help anyone Imouto Kanae kicks--because they won't forget about it, ever!"

    Kanae seemed to light up at this brief recognition, but the Principal's further words prevented her from thanking her onii-chan.

    "I don't want a lot of fights, young man--but it is good to hear that you will stand up for your sisters like that. I will make you all promise to do your utmost to walk away from trouble, if you can. Despite what some might say, it doesn't mean you're weak, should you turn the other cheek. I hope you're old enough to understand my words."

    Four children bowed and said Hai, but one meant it a little less than the others.

    September actually passed without anyone tugging on Kaede's hat, which the teachers were informed was for her health. The very careful Kaede made sort-of friends with several students. Kouta and Yuka were ready with a rehearsed story--never any added details--about why that hat must stay on.

    *Her Birth-Papa dropped her and it led to a scar on her forehead that healed funny.*

    It wasn't the nicest story, but Kaede herself said that bad stories made people less curious, as long as they weren't too bad.

    "Kaede, please try and have your homework done on time. Just because you are new here, don't expect all kinds of leeway."

    The teachers could be strict, but never capriciously or strangely so. When Kaede made sure from then on to have her lessons done well and on time, she was let alone. She was even praised for her well-done homework, a by-product of having learned to do it quickly and under harassment at the orphanage. With no bullies to dodge and the teachers having no specific dislike of her, her work was markedly better than most, a fact she shrugged off.

    "Where I used to live, I never had time to do my homework properly. I got used to doing it in a rush, so now I can do it right."

    Her advice to her siblings on who to trust and who not to trust turned out to be sagely given. The ugly episode that had united them aside, Kaede had a sense of people and their tricks. Had the needs of the puppy (Now a small dog named Pietro) not demanded it, Kaede would never have trusted her false friend back at the orphanage.

    Each day the children would come home together, with the elder three not noting the way Kanae held back from them while they chatted about stupid things. When they would get home, one also ignored by accident always ran up to greet her.

    "Pietro-Chan. They act like we're not even alive--like we shouldn't even be here."

    She stroked the small dog, occasionally remembering that she wouldn't even have the pet had Kaede not entered their lives. This did not ease her bitterness at all.

    "I'll show her----"

    Kanae smiled.

    "I'll show them all!"

    She deliberately waited past Halloween, in order to make sure a certain excuse was off the books. It had been a warm autumn, so her trick had at least a chance of working. She approached Kaede in the common yard between the two different levels of school they attended.

    "Kaede Onee-Chan! There's a bee near your head!"

    Kaede knew the warmth from her cap drew what bugs there were in like a magnet, and so bent over to Kanae.

    "Chase it away, Kanae-Chan! I don't wanna get stung!"

    Contrary to the mangas Kouta read (and sometimes hid), Kaede had not run afoul of the top student, the top athlete, or the social rulers of the school, who frankly had their own lives to live, and no student was so tough as to scare the teachers or principal. But Kanae still planned to put her under a very bad spotlight.

    "I'll chase you away!"

    The hat came off, and the secret beneath it exposed.

    "Ha!"

    Just not the secret Kanae wanted.

    "Oh, Kaede!"

    "That's just horrible!"

    "Ugly!"

    "Who could do such a thing to you?"

    As one of the social rulers (really just a girl some asked for her opinion on clothes, and who made up answers when she didn't have any) walked over, Kanae flashed a wicked grin.

    "Kaede-San---did your mother force you to wear that horrid hair-ribbon?"

    Kanae looked, and indeed, a pair of inter-connected hair ribbons provided extra coverage to Kaede's secret, something her adoptive father had suggested from an old comic book he read as a boy. Kaede slid her hat back on.

    "You know mothers, Tara-San. They think they know today's fashions. But I'm so grateful for a home, I mustn't offend her."

    The girl walked off, muttering about what a trial all parents were, and in the future actually protected Kaede from fashion criticism in a quiet way. This had not been part of Kanae's plan. Nor had Kaede's tears.

    "Why, Kanae-chan? Please, what did I do to offend you?"

    They did not see Kouta and Yuka until much later that same day, and Kaede forced on an extra smile to hide her hurt.

    "Kouta-Kun? Why don't you let Kanae ride on your back?"

    "Huh? She's big enough to walk, and she has two legs...oww!"

    Both adopted sisters punched his arms to remind him of his duty to his little sister by blood.

    "Okay...Kanae-Chan, the violent girls here insist I give you a ride."

    Kanae folded her arms.

    "Carry one of your girlfriends instead."

    Kouta pulled her cheek.

    "Maybe someday one of them will be my girlfriend. But you will always be my sister. That can never change. Besides, you're such a dummy, if I don't carry you, you might become lost, and then how would I feel?"

    Kanae at last took the ride she was offered, and was teased by Yuka as they proceeded.

    "Kanae-chan is traveling first class these days."

    Kanae decided she'd had enough of hate, but also wanted to make Yuka's life difficult.

    "Yuka Onee-Chan? Pleaaaaaase carry me next? Pleaaaaaase?"

    Yuka, it should be noted, took a long bath that night, and complained of aches until that weekend. Kanae had almost forgotten resenting anyone--except herself.

    "Kanae? Where are you going?"

    The girl looked down.

    "To tell Papa and Mama what I did to Kaede-Onee-Chan."

    Kaede stood in her way.

    "Baka! If I wanted that, I could have told them myself. Just don't do it ever again, and maybe then it's just sister stuff, okay?"

    Kanae ran and held her, finding her strong grip comforting like Kouta's.

    "Kaede-Chan has horns, but Kanae acts like the devil."

    Kaede grinned.

    "Wait--I think you do have horns. Mind if I check for them?"

    Kaede playfully ground her fist into Kanae's head as the smaller girl giggled. As the pair scrubbed the floor in one room, it seemed that all was settled. That weekend, though, Kaede had a surprise. Yuka was aghast.

    "Back that way? But Kaede-Chan, why would you ever want to go back to the orphanage?"

    Kouta shook his head.

    "Not that way, Yuka-Chan. Kaede's path would take us near the orphanage, but really we'd avoid it entirely. She actually told me about this idea for just her and me, but I didn't want Papa mad at me again for just going off by ourselves."

    Kaede shrank a bit from Yuka's glare, but this didn't last long.

    "Can Kanae come too?"

    "Of course! You get to take care of Pietro while we all walk. He loves it up there."

    Kanae now seemed afraid again, but said nothing more as they informed their parents and went off. Once they had made it to a certain point, the hateful orphanage was in view, but at a very good remove.

    "Kanae doesn't understand."

    Kouta shook his head.

    "What don't you understand now?"

    Yuka sighed.

    "What she doesn't understand does tend to cover a lot of ground."

    Kanae shouted.

    "I understand! I understand that now that you have Kaede, you don't need Kanae! The only thing I don't know is how I'm supposed to get to the orphanage from here---it's a really long walk, and you should at least drop me off yourself---"

    Each one of them embraced her all at once. Kaede kissed her cheek.

    "I would never--ever--send anyone to live in that place. Don't you get it? I'm the new sister here. It's like you're my Onee-Chan. I need you to show me things about people--because they scare me. People--can hurt you---and not even have a reason to do it, like you did."

    Kouta bonked her on the head.

    "You are too much. Even if I wanted to send you there--and you are a brat sometimes--when have I ever gotten away with anything I pull in Papa's eyes?"

    If the other girls thought that fell short, Kanae's face showed it did not for her. Yuka concluded.

    "We're stuck with each other, alright? How can we live together for as long as we have to and not figure out how to get along? I liked Kanae as my cousin, and I like her as my sister. Someday, I might want to make her my sister again."

    Kaede nodded.

    "Me, too."

    "Shut up! We can't both marry him."

    "Guess you'll have to settle then, Yuka-Chan."

    "I saw him first."

    "Yeah? Welll---I heard the Americans are gonna take over any day now, and there, cousin marriage is illegal!"

    "I'll bet they also outlaw hair the same color as bubble-gum!"

    "I picked up five centimeters this summer, and you're still an ironing board!"

    "Like I'm gonna marry either of you certifiable psychos..."

    Kanae pushed the verbal combatants off.

    "----need---to---breathe!"

    Kanae looked at her feuding onee-chans.

    "Please don't start a fight because of me."

    Yuka chuckled.

    "We fight like that all the time, Kanae-chan. We both like the same boy--so we agreed it's just going to happen."

    Kaede checked the time, and then shrugged.

    "I'm so happy to have any of you as family, no little thing matters anymore. I used to see myself as this hateful, sickly little girl spewing venom in the corner, but lately--it's like that other girl died."

    Kaede scooped little Pietro up and he licked her face.

    "And I don't miss her a bit. This fella here used to be my only friend--but not anymore. Now--it should be almost noon. That's when she comes out."

    Kouta surged into the vantage area.

    "Does she get naked?"

    Kanae shook her head.

    "Should we get him a cold shower?"

    Kaede rolled her eyes.

    "Wouldn't do any good."

    Yuka sighed.

    "The world doesn't have enough cold water to calm our pervert."

    But since leaving him behind seemed somehow equally unthinkable, they all sank into position.

    "Everyone--shhh."

    On a cliff opposite their hidden lookout, a girl about Kouta and Yuka's age emerged and stood. Throwing back her arms, she began to sing. All were entranced.

    "She--she sings like an angel!"

    Kouta's exclamation got him a nudge from Yuka.

    "Still want to see her naked?"

    "No--she probably doesn't have anything more on her than you, at this point, and I---owww! That's it!"

    "Owww! You hit a girl?"

    "A girl who tells me to be more polite by hitting instead of asking? Yeah--I do."

    Kaede glared at them.

    "If you scare her off, I will hit both of you so hard..."

    "Shhhh-Kanae can't hear the angel-girl sing!"

    And sing she did, Kaede's find at a time she had nothing now shared with her new family.

    "Well-she's done. We better leave while she's resting."

    Kouta smiled.

    "I wonder who she is?"

    Yuka seemed at peace.

    "We should ask around and maybe we'll find out."

    Kanae made a mistaken assumption from all this, and shouted across the gap.

    "Hey, YOU! We really liked your beautiful singing, and wanted to ask your name!"

    The girl spotted her no-longer secret admirers, and fainted dead away. Kouta looked concerned.

    "This is bad! If she wakes up too suddenly, she could end up falling off!"

    Yuka gulped.

    "We--we have to be here when she does, and warn her--but--what if our calling to her makes her walk the wrong way?"

    Kanae saw the unsteady figure begin to stir.

    "This is Kanae's fault! I'll jump over and save her from falling!"

    "KANAE!"

    All three yelled helplessly as she jumped, a distance no one could probably have ever made. Worse still, the dog Pietro jumped with his current best of the best friends. Kouta began to tear up, and Yuka with him. Kaede stood and grabbed at her own head.

    "no...no."

    Her eyes opened, and they were like twin stars.

    "I SAID NO!!!!"

    Kanae and the dog had begun their uncontrolled plummet, only to find it now very much controlled--by one who loved them, and pulled them back to safety with arms no one could see--or at least that no one should have been able to.

    "Kaede Onee-Chan has extra arms---that come out of her head?"

    Kanae and the dog were dropped from a very safe distance. Kaede slapped the little girl.

    "You stupid---how would we all feel, if Kanae were to die like that and go away? Haven't I told you by now that I don't want that?"

    "Kanae was only--only--trying to help. But why did arms come out of Onee-Chan's head?"

    "Kanae, don't lie like that!"

    Yuka looked at Kouta.

    "Ummm-Kouta? If that's not what happened, then just how did she save them?"

    Kouta was about to respond, but just fell silent. Kanae nodded.

    "It's alright Yuka Onee-Chan. Our brother just says stupid things like that sometimes. It's why we love him."

    Kouta blushed in embarrassment.

    "And we love Kanae for being a smartmouthed brat, Yuka for being violent--and Kaede for always being full of surprises. But how did you do that?"

    A voice came from behind them.

    "That's what I'd like to know. It was the most amazing thing I ever saw."

    The quartet looked and saw the singing girl now standing next to them.

    "My name's Nozomi. Why were you all watching me sing?"

    Kaede, despite her recent miracle, was as freaked out as the rest of them.

    "I--used to live at the orphanage, and I would see you come here to sing sometimes, so I invited my new family. Nozomi--how did you get over to us so fast?"

    Nozomi pointed behind her.

    "I just took the back way that connects the two areas."

    All stared at where she pointed, with one feeling more sheepish than the others.

    "There's a back way?!"

    Kanae then fainted.
     
  6. Gojirob

    Gojirob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Location:
    Going Super Diclonius 4...
    Chapter Five - (It's Beginning To Look A Lot) Like Christmas

    DECEMBER 24TH

    Nozomi finished singing 'O Holy Night', and then, as per her agreement with her father, gargled first with Listerine and then with warm salt water. She then took the L-Lysine supplements someone had said could alleviate sores in the throat and vocal cords. Hot lemon tea also awaited her. Her father then nodded at the girl who always wore a hat, who had told him that even parents sometimes needed to explain things, like the horns her own parents would never be able to explain to her. Some would call the arrangement between Nozomi and her father still off-putting. To Nozomi, the arrangement the younger girl she yet called Onee-Chan made for her was as seismic as anything the US and Russia had recently done. Emiko rose and toasted their guests.

    "In the spring, the House Of Kaede will open again for real. We welcome you, our friends and neighbors, to this first celebration of a family regained. This has always been Kaede House, but now it is doubly so, as it was finding the last member of our family that made us complete."

    The other children made Kaede get up and take a bow. She felt silly in her Santa hat.

    "Honestly, Mama--I'm not an elf."

    Mama and Papa hugged and teased her, and now Juni spoke.

    "I don't mind telling you--these are some good kids. They didn't even complain--much--for all the work we had to do in getting this place ready. I propose a toast to my family."

    "To my wife Emiko--she has reminded me of her late sister, and helped me to at last accept that her sister is gone. Don't credit me with any boldness in proposing marriage. I'm not that smart."

    A mutter of 'You were at least once' traveled the room with a chuckle. He kept on.

    "To my son Kouta--who made me proud by getting his ass handed to him by three other boys--all because someone needed help. I credit his mother with giving him such spirit, and I pray his new mother will help her sister's boy be more and more like her as the years go by--she also liked ecchi manga, by the way."

    Kouta was turning red, and was almost upset, but the night was too joyous to stay that way for more than a second.

    "To my daughter Kanae--who for some reason thinks she is not noticed in what has become our very crowded house. My darling girl, you see with eyes that make me feel alive again. You--are more like me, though again the best in you I credit to your mother. You are noticed--it's just that the blessing you are is such a calming comfort, it is easy to take for granted."

    Kanae looked so pleased with herself, all three of her siblings began to plot horrid post-Holiday revenge.

    "To my niece, now my daughter, Yuka--I would not ever want to be in the way of you and your goals. For your is the spirit of determination and drive, and of the flexibility to adjust. Despite giving your new brother certain looks, you have also found room for your two new sisters as they also give him looks of varying intent. I hope and pray that your Old Uncle will become and remain a fit and worthy New Papa."

    Yuka could not help but run into his arms at that, and a tender minute passed before she sat back down.

    "To a girl who sees wonder and joy in the everyday and the mundane, and who shows gratitude for every last thing she is given, I find that words fail me. You should be bitter, Kaede, but you seized upon the small happiness we offered and have turned back what must have been a severe temptation to have done with the sometimes awful-stupid thing called people. I thank you for keeping your head, and keeping such misery from splitting you in two. You are not merely my daughter, you are a treasure that we were all so lucky to find. I will quote from my favorite film to praise you, beloved daughter of our choice. Do not fear being sent back. We are and shall always be your family. And more--of my Kaede, I will proudly say--of all the souls I have ever known, yours is the most---Human."

    "Papa--Mama---I Love You!"

    The girl who might not have been felt fully Human for the first time in her entire life. She thought nothing could make her feel any more joyous.

    "Excuse me?"

    A girl about her own age tugged at Kaede's sleeve.

    "Yes?"

    "Ummm--I just wanted to thank your family for opening this old place up again."

    Kaede smiled.

    "It was a lot of work--with more to come. But I hope you'll come around when we open for real."

    "Oh, I won't. Not that I wouldn't want to. But see, I'm moving to Paris with my mother. She's an artist, and she came back here when she heard that this place was going to open again. I hadn't seen her for a long time, and now I'm going with her. My father and I---didn't really get along, so he won't miss me much. So if you people hadn't opened this place up----"

    The girl's mother called for her.

    "Aiko-Chan! Open your gift!"

    The girl squeezed Kaede's hands and ran off to a destiny as a great artist. In secret, she sketched the girl with the odd hat and made that sketch the basis of her great masterpiece.

    Kouta opened his gift, boots capable of hiking the most stubborn terrain. He gave his gift, two king-sized blankets for his parents and sisters, to end all fights over them.

    Yuka opened her gift, the Third International Dictionary, a great aid in the studies of a very smart girl. She gave her gift, a scented bath and salt set meant for the sore muscles her family got from their extraordinary efforts to build their small business.

    Kanae opened her gift, a deluxe set of Disney Princesses in Barbie style. She gave her gift, Christmas-Tree shaped chocolate pieces too pretty to eat--except for Kouta and their mother.

    Emiko opened her gift, perfect noise-canceling headphones coupled with a comfortable nightmask, so a mother could sleep when she knew her family was safe. She gave her gift, fluffy pillows so she could return the favor to that same family.

    Juniuchi opened his gift, a powerful shortwave radio so that a man who as a boy dreamed of exploring the world could do so by audio. He gave his gift, special oven mitts so that every last member of the family could grasp the hot food they served easily and without worry--a bigger gift than some present really understood.

    Kaede opened her gift, miniatures of the animals of Africa, that had so entranced her on a trip to the zoo.

    "Everyone--I have my gift ready to give. Papa--is the VCR hooked up to the projector?"

    "Just like you asked, Kaede."

    Emi seemed as anxious as any youngster.

    "So what's the movie?"

    Kouta, Yuka and Kanae showed that they were just as anxious to see it, and this traveled through the first customers/well-wishers in a heartbeat. Kaede's saved pocket money would prove to have been well-spent indeed.

    "I wanted to see this movie at the orphanage, but the teachers said it would scare us. I think they just took it home for themselves, but...while I've never seen it, I have a feeling that it will be loved by all of us. I can tell I will love it, just from the title."

    Kouta restrained himself, though only barely.

    "Don't make us wait, Kaede!"

    Yuka nodded.

    "Tell us the title!"

    Kanae was shaking with anticipation.

    "Tell us, Onee-Chan!"

    Juni inserted the tape, and Kaede looked out at all she had to be thankful for. As Pietro happily yelped and jumped into her arms, she finally revealed the title of her selection.

    "It's A Wonderful Life."


    Author's Notes :

    1 - Yes, there will be a sequel. I can't say when, but this story was in me for a while, and I wanted to post this much at least.

    2- This may be the single most predictable, overtly sentimental story I've ever written, and I don't care. Merry Christmas!

    'Goji' Rob Morris, 11/22/2010, 11PM EST, Belmar, NJ