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Chapter One: The Mall

12 Years Ago

“Remind me why we’re at the mall again?” Ariana Reed asked her mother as she brushed her fingers across a light grey cardigan. “I told you,” her mother replied on the other side of the hanging rack “I wanted to buy more novels…” “But you got distracted” Ariana continued, completing her mother’s sentence. Ariana slowly walked to the other side of the hanging rack to stand beside her mother, Diana. “Let’s go,” Ariana’s  mother finally said after becoming frustrated by the lack of good clothes in the shop. The mother and daughter walked slowly in the large hallway of the mall, as if Ariana’s father was not waiting for them over at Starbucks.To break the moment of silence, Ariana thought it would be a good time to ask her mother what she was dying to ask for the past week, “So…you know you’re the best mom in the world right?” “What do you want now?” her mother replied, clearly still frustrated that she didn’t buy any new clothes for herself. “Can I please go to the movies with my friends on Saturday?” Ariana exclaimed. “No.” Her mother’s voice had changed its tone. She seemed even angrier. “WHY NOT?!” Ariana raised her voice. She had never yelled at her mother the way she did today. People who were walking close by the mother and daughter began to stare. Suddenly, Ariana’s mother pulled her arm tightly and brought her outside the front doors of the mall. “BECAUSE, YOU WENT OUT LAST WEEK!” she yelled once there was no one nearby. “You know what happened last time, Ariana!” her mother continued, putting emphasis on the words “last time” Ariana thought about what happened last time. “Maybe she’s talking about when she caught me kissing Aaron on the cheek,” Ariana thought to herself. She shivered at the memory of her mother catching them like that. “It’s not like I actually kissed him” Ariana muttered to herself. She met her mother’s gaze and realized that she had heard her. Ariana’s mother looked back inside the mall and opened the door wide enough for her daughter to follow behind her. Ariana shook her head in disgust as her mother continued walking. After a few seconds, she could tell that her mother saw Ariana wasn’t with her.“And where do you think you’re going?” Ariana’s mother said to her, finally coming back outside of the mall. “Go. I’m coming soon. I’ll meet you at Starbucks with Dad” Ariana said, turning her back on her mother. “Fine” her mother finally said, breaking the long, awkward silence. Ariana heard her close the mall door behind her.
Looking up at the bright blue sky on a Friday afternoon, Ariana didn't know what to do anymore. She felt like just running away. But she couldn't. She was supposed to be blessed that a couple decided to adopt her, but she wasn't. Even after 1 year of living with them, 1 amazing year.
“You okay?” a soft voice spoke beside Ariana. She jumped in surprise that someone was even near her. She didn't even hear any footsteps.
“Yeah” Ariana tried to reply calmly, although she felt like bursting into tears.
“Well, you don’t look okay. And why are you wearing so many layers? It’s June, and super hot outside”
Ariana looked at the boy. “Gorgeous eyes,” Ariana thought. The boy had pitch black hair, but beautiful light brown eyes. He was a bit taller than Ariana, who was known to be too tall for her age. The boy was wearing a plain white t-shirt, but Ariana could see he was wearing a tank top with some kind of weird design underneath.
The boy suddenly smiled, and Ariana realized that he could see her examining him. “Thomas Walters, but call me Tom,” the boy said, introducing himself. He put out his hand for a handshake.
“Ariana Reed” she replied, shaking his hand. He had such a firm grip that the handshake lasted a bit too long, it was quite awkward.
“She’s perfect for Ms. Redwing,” Tom whispered aloud.
“What did--” Ariana said, although she heard every word. Without being able to continue her sentence, she realized that Tom was already speaking.
“Nothing, it’s just that your mother asked for me to bring you to her” Tom worryingly replied.
“My mother?!” Ariana was barely able to breathe. “Wait, my mother is inside the mall! I should go back"” Ariana turned around but Tom stopped her from going back.
“I don’t mean that mother. I’m talking about your real mother. Come on,” He pulled Ariana and held onto her with such a firm grip that she couldn't resist. She was interested yet still shocked at what Tom has said.

Ariana looked back at the mall and wondered whether she’d ever see her adoptive parents again.