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         Amanda watched them quietly, amazed at the way painful times seemed to draw her parents together, even as it seemed about to tear their lives apart. She hated to interrupt them, knowing that what the needed most right now was each other. But something was gnawing at her. "Mom, I'll be back. I know it's a school night, but I promise I won't be too late. There is something I have to check on."

 

         Deanna turned sharply, feeling even more cold and empty without Will's arms around her. "No, Amanda. Not tonight, please....with everything up in the air like this, I...I just need you close by right now."

 

         Mandy didn't want to hurt her mother anymore that she already was, but she just couldn't shake the need to check out her hunch. And knowing the shape her parents were in at the moment, she knew that it was the fastest way to get to the bottom of this mystery. "Mom, Dad....I swear that I will be careful, but this is really important. I'll be back before 10. Just please trust me on this."

 

         Will started to object, but suddenly, the sound of Deanna's voice in his mind ~ Will, wait. Maybe we should let her try. You know how she gets at times, she may really be on to something. God knows, I don't like the idea of her being out alone right now, but it may help her deal with this. ~ Will sighed and nodded to his wife before looking at Mandy. "Go, if you really feel you have to. But be careful, and I want you back here by 9:30, understood?"

 

         Mandy tossed a smile over her shoulder to her mother and father as she ran upstairs at top speed to gab her purse. As she raced out the door, she turned briefly at her mother's fearful voice asking her to be careful.  ~ She is afraid that whatever happened to Alexandra will happen to me too ~ she suddenly realized. She walked over and threw her arms around her mothers neck. "I'll be fine, Mama, just like always." Then she hurried out the door and toward her destination. It was already 7:30....She didn't have much time.

 

*  *  *

 

         Alexis's mind was still reeling from the information she had just read. She had always known that whatever Jackie had been doing, it had to be illegal. But she had never imagined this.  ~ Dear god, how may lives did I help her destroy? ~

 

         Logically, she knew that she had had no other choice. She had been so young, and helpless and so totally alone back then. Without the help of Jackie and the others, she would never had survived on her own. She had done as she was told, using her gift to pay her way, until she could find her way out. And when she did, she ran, and never looked back.

 

         Now, when she had seen there in back and white just what Jackie had used her to do, she was horrified. She didn't have time to lose herself in the horror of her past, however. Her doorbell chimed, bringing her out of the dark recesses of her memories.

 

         She jumped off her couch and ran to the door. "Amanda?" She was shocked. Why on earth was this girl here? They had never even truly met, despite the awkward encounter the night before, and now here she was at her apartment door. "What are you doing here, at this time of day? Is your mother alright?" she asked, all the strange events of the last few days swirling through her mind at once.

 

         "My mom is....well she could be better, but she will be OK, eventually. I'm really sorry, but something came up at home, and I think you may have something to do with it. Can I come in?"

 

         Dread mixed with confusion mixed in Alexis's mind, but she nodded and opened the door wider. "Of course, anything to help Deanna. Take a seat, and tell me whatever's on your mind. Can I get you a drink?"

 

         Amanda settled herself on the couch and accepted the drink. As soon as Alexis had settled herself across from her, she went straight to the point. "Why haven't you told anyone you have telepathic abilities?"