A/N: Trying to decide how to get from here in the story to the next big events without racing through the stress and details.....This is not an attempt to drag the story out, but instead I think this chapter is more about getting a real sense of how the characters are feeling. There are a few very emotional chapters coming up, and this is the ground work for that. I'd love to hear everyone's theories in the comments, so please post them, even if they are wrong for this story, they might be perfect in West's and I'll dedicate the chapter to you for it.

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Alice started down at her bleeding hand, wondering just how the day could have deteriorated to this.

Monday morning bloomed like any other day in March, with gusts of wind and cold biting pellets of rainy snow. Or snowy rain, depending on how you looked at it. Either way it was dreary and miserable, everyone hurrying inside the school, huddled into jackets and under umbrellas, no one talking or even looking at each other as they all just wanted to get in out of hte weather. That suited Ace just fine, she didn't want anyone to start in on her this morning, they'd get going once they realized who she was of course. Her bruised and battered visage had been plastered onto the front of several tabloids, with luridly detailed accounts of hte abuse she suffered at the hands of the Walter men. At 7 am this morning she'd received a phone call from a stiffly apologetic Officer Bradley. Apparently one of the younger officers that had been assigned her case had carelessly left his notebook behind, and that innocent, easily forgiven mistake had surred all of this publicity. Because the person who picked the book up next had been a reporter trying to impress his boss....

So now Alice walked into the school with dark sunglasses on to obscure her face, and her long hair tucked under a toque, and her body wrapped in the dripping jacket she wore. She went straight to her locker, hoping that maybe everyone would have the Monday funk going on and not bother her about it? Ace came to a crashing halt as she saw her locker though. When the first of her secrets had been exposed, her friendly schoolmates had scratched, scrawled and scribbled insults and stupidity into her locker. Now that the last of her secrets had been brutally exposed for public consumption, her locker had been targeted again. They'd had a week to learn about her life history, and the locker was their sounding board it seemed. The front of it was written on and scratched over repeatedly.

Whore was scratched out, the word hero written in big letters overtop of it. Weak had been carved into the metal door, but then there was an army of sticky notes taped all telling her that she was brave. Alice blinked at the contrary words and she turned around and walked away from it, not even bothering to put her books away. She heard someone suck in a breath as they recognized her, and she couldn't explain why, but she ran from them, bolting for class. She tumbled into her seat, chest heaving even though the run had been light and easy. It wasn't exertion that stole her breath, but emotion. She could feel it churning in her stomach, an acid bubbling pressure that made her feel sick. She reluctantly pulled the hat and sunglasses off, tucking them into her full bag and pulling out her course work. Hamlet was long over with, and they were ploughing through a book that Alice hadn't actually read before. It was called Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. She'd read it in one sitting and was now flipping through it again, wasting time by picking out random words off the page and writing them down in a sentence that made no sense. It was very mad gabs and kept her occupied while hte rest of class filed in.

She could feel the weight of their eyes on her, studying her as if they could see the damage that had been done to her. As if they should have been able to tell that she carried nonphysical scars all over. She scoffed a little at the thought, annoyingly amused by their sudden curiosity. They had to peer at her as if she suddenly looked different than before. Alice looked at her hand, it was a little darker looking, more dusky but that was all thanks to the Mexican sun, not Stuart. A pair of legs stopped in front of her desk and the tension in the room sky rocketed. Alice slowly looked up, a bored air radiating off of her. It was the kid who sat behind her, the one that had hit on her and she'd busted his nose up. He was looking sheepishly at her and held a cupcake in his hands. He set the pink icing pastry down on her desk.

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