A/N: This is done in Alice's POV, as a first person chapter. I will try to delienate her internal thoughts by making them italics. The rest will be regular text like this.


Monster strained on his leash, nearly pulling me down the street as the no-longer small puppy wanted to go investigate. It was always amusing to see him like this, yappy and friendly. Because as soon as anyone came near me, Monster reverted to his quiet, sentinel like stare, making sure no threat came near me. Considering how threatening my life has been.....no that's not what I need to focus on. I reminded myself. The hospital therapist had suggested I try to derail the thoughts that usually led to a panic attack.

I could feel the muscles in my stomach quake, but I managed to take a few deep breaths and calm down.  Stuart is dead. That fact was the beacon of my sanity, the only reason the panic attacks and nightmares had any hope of ending. Malcolm had killed the sick son of a b****. Although that had opened it's own can of worms.

Malcolm and West had come to resuce me, and people wanted to know why my teacher had been the one to fight off and kill my attacker, they were suspicious as to why I had called for him. Our saving grace, as always it seemed, was West. He lied and told everyone I was his girlfriend, and that I had seen them together and had called for both men. The rest we just tweaked the details of the attack so people believed the lies. It all made me sick. Knowing that we had to lie, that they had been hurt for me. It all added to the guilt I carried and weighed me down.

Speaking of weight.... that's why I was walking down the street. It was hot enough out that winter jackets had been discarded, skin exposed for the sun to kiss. I had big sunglasses and a ball cap stuffed on my head to try and hide the stitches, but people kept giving me that look. You know the one. THAT one, where you can see the wheels in their heads turning, trying to come up with a scenario that would explain the injuries and fit their world view. God I'm sick of people looking at me like that.

I stared down at my feet, only just realizing that I'd put on two different shoes. One was a red converse, one was blue. Maybe I did deserve a few odd looks. Monster didn't care, he just tugged me along, ever closer to the shop at the end of the street. See, I had a theory bouncing around the back of my mind, and I needed to test it. No way... it's not.. .no. I'm out of my mind for even thinking it....but what if... No.

I tied Monster up to the bike post outside and left a frisbee upside down with water for him, incase I was in there longer than expected. Some people just tie their animals up and leave them for hours, but I'm not that cruel. If it was hot enough for me to want to go dunk in a pool, it had to be worse for Monster, he has a permanent fur coat.

Stepping inside the Shopper's Drugmart, I grabbed a basket and wandered down the aisles, taking my time. I knew what I'd come here for, but there was no way I just rushed over and grabbed it. You're an idiot. There is no way.... but....no.....what if? My mind babbled as I stared blankley at the hair dye, building up my courage to grab what I'd really come here for.

I tossed a stick of deoderant into my basket, some packs of gum. As always when I came out here I picked up dog treats and a toy that squeaked. Monster had gotten into the adorable and deplorable habit of biting the ends off his toys to get at the squeaker. He loved chasing them, but the noise seemed to disturb him and he inevitably tore the toy to pieces. Which is why I never spent more than $5 on them.

Eventually I managed to 'sneak' my item of interest into the basket and walked to the front, grateful that the sun glasses ensured no eyecontact. The clerk didn't even bat an eyelash scanning it through and I felt like an idiot for thinking people would stare at me and mock. With a self-mocking scoff I grabbed my bag and went to retrieve my dog. You are so lame. So very amusingly dim. I mocked, the self taunting actually kept me from freaking out about being so exposed outside. I had done it, I had walked to the store without someone there with me and I HADN'T gone into a panic attack! All it took was self-distraction and Monster. Speaking of.... I unwrapped the squeaky toy and tossed it inside, letting the scarred puppy chase after it, h*** bent on squeaker destruction. Salali laughed at him, and let me have the privacy of not asking what was in the bag.

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