The reason Brittany chose not to join Briana and stay with the Moores the week their parents were away, she said, was because she preferred to stay with some of her friends. There was actually another reason.

Brittany and Briana's mother, Veronica, is Eddy Blake's sister. When they were growing up, she, and Eddy Blake, Lester Moore, Jasmine Jackson, Anthony Jackson, and Yuwon Lem were very close and could do almost anything they pleased and were involved in many adventures. Though Anthony and Veronica were not involved in everything the others did, it was obvious their almost total freedom did them no harm. When it came to dealing with her own children Veronica had little incentive to monitor their behavior so long as they were not involved in anything really dangerous or intentionally wrong.

Briana admired Brittany though she did not entirely understand her. Brittany was both beautiful and charming, almost from the day she was born. Her hair was thick and black, like her fathers, but had a natural soft curl, unlike Briana's naturally kinky hair. As pretty as Brittany was, it was her smile that totally disarmed people.

Both girls were very popular, but Brittany was popular with many that Briana had no interest in, even though among others their age it was Brittany's friends that were considered the most, "important."

The Arnaults are very wealthy and the girls could have almost anything they wanted. Briana enjoyed having nice clothes and was careful about her appearance though she cared very little about what anyone else thought of her. She was much more interested in doing things than having things, and never wanted anything she had not achieved or earned herself. Except from her parents, she resented gifts.

Brittany wanted to have everything and didn't care how she got it or who she got it from. She was always concerned with her appearance and having the latest of everything and was very conscious of the impression she made on others. She liked to be admired, especially for her appearance.

Unlike the children of the Arnaults, Moores, Blakes, and Jacksons, most of Brittany's friends went to Forbidder schools. Though Briana knew most of them and would sometimes be found with them because she was with Brittany, Briana did not really like them.

It was an odd thing. The children of the parents we've already named were able to do almost anything they liked. There was almost no parental control, and yet they were always courteous, none of them were ever hateful or intentionally mean or vicious or destructive. Oh, there were arguments, intense hot arguments, usually about some idea or another, but the arguments were always impersonal. Name calling, except when teasing one another, which was frequent, was rare and almost always apologized for.

Though all of them were daring, and willing to do or try almost anything if there was something to discover or learn, doing something dangerous just for the sake of pleasure never occurred to them. For example, they knew about drugs, probably more than most others their age, because drugs were the Arnault's business, and Veronica had discovered how to process the drug, thessaline to eliminate the narcotic aspect from the therapeutic aspect. They all knew there was milder form of narcotic derived from thessaline that had become very popular, even though forbidden. Though none of their parents had ever said they were not to use drugs, (some of the parents did use alcohol and tobacco), none of them had any desire to try.

Briana had dinner with the Moores, and after dinner she and Connor had gone to the little reading room they liked to spend time listening to music and talking or reading together. Reading is what they were doing, that is, Connor was reading to Briana who was leaned back against him. Her head was against his chest and she felt Connor touching her hair.

"What are you doing?" Briana asked.

"I'm feeling you hair with my lips," he said.


"Just because I love the feel of it."

"You do really?" she asked amazed. Then asked, "Why?"

"A whole bunch of reasons," he said, "but mostly just because it is you. When I was very little I loved to feel Mom's hair, but yours is softer. I don't know why, I just love it, Darling," he said gently leaning over to kiss her.

"Would you like it if I had Brittany's hair."

"It wouldn't matter what kind of hair you had, Sweetheart, if it was yours I'd love it, but I'm glad you have the hair you do."

"I can have mine straightened, you know."

"Is that what you want?" Connor asked.

"Well, I have to admit I really admire Brittany's gorgeous hair and have wondered what it would be like to have hair like that."

"Mom did that once."


"Had her hair straightened."

"How did she look?"

"She looked beautiful, but she'd look beautiful if she shaved all her hair off. But she didn't look like Mom, and she knew it, so it didn't last long."

"What would you think if I did have my hair straightened?"

"I'd think you were the most beautiful thing in the world, just as I do now, but you wouldn't look like you. I wouldn't mind if you did it, but I'd sure miss rubbing my face in your hair," Connor said. "Are you seriously thinking about it?"

"No," she said. "If you love me the way I am, I don't want to change anything. Besides I only ever want to be what I am. As beautiful as Brittany is, and as much as I love her, I wouldn't want to be her."

There was a reason Briana would not want to be Brittany, but she couldn't have said exactly what it was. She did notice that Brittany had changed. Briana and Britanny were very close when they were young and they used to share almost everything they did with each other, but Brittany seldom discussed anything she did with Briana now. Briana wondered if Brittany was in love. Briana would never have shared some of the things she and Connor did and talked about with anyone. Perhaps Brittany was keeping that kind of appropriate privacy to herself, Briana thought.

It was obvious Brittany loved Briana, and she was always pleasant and affectionate toward her, but there was also an aloofness Briana did not understand.

One evening when Briana got home very late, she heard Brittany crying in her room and went to see what was wrong.

"What's wrong?" Briana asked coming into her room.

"Get out!" Brittany screamed at her. "I didn't invite you in."

Briana ignored her. "I don't care what it is, Brittany, please let me help."

"You can't help," Brittany said. "Nobody can help. It's too late. I already got rid of it."

"Got rid of what," Briana asked, bewildered.

Brittany just stared at Briana. "What do you think?"

"Brittany, I honestly don't know what are you talking about."

"No you wouldn't," Brittany said. "You're so innocent, so good," but there was a note of sarcasm in the words. "I was pregnant!" she blurted out.

"Oh!" Briana said.

"'Oh,' is all you have to say?"

"Brittany, I'm sorry but only because you are so unhappy. I still only want to help you, although I cannot imagine what I could do. At least you've talked to me, you haven't done that much recently."

Brittany suddenly got up and took a small bottle from her purse, shook out some pills, and went into her bathroom for some water with which she took them.

"Needed them for my headache," she said, then added, "I'm sorry Briana for yelling at you. I've never done that and I wouldn't hurt you for the world."

"Forget it," Briana said. "If you want to talk, I'll be glad to listen, but you never have to explain anything to me. If you're alright, I'll leave you alone, if you like."

"That might be better," Briana said. "Do you mind?"

"Of course not," Briana said, going over to Brittany and hugging her. "I'm right next door if you want anything."

"I guess I sometimes forget what a wonderful sister you are, Briana. We did used to have some wonderful talks, didn't we?"

"Yes we did," Briana said.

"Do you have to go?" Brittany said.

"No, of course not," Briana said.

"It was nothing, you know. They just put me to sleep, and when I woke up it was over. I was only a little crampy for a couple of days, but I just took my pain pills and didn't notice."

"Is that what you took for your headache?" Briana asked.

"Oh yes," she said enthusiastically. "You should try them, Briana. They make everything good."

It was obvious to Briana whatever Brittany had taken had completely changed her mood. Brittany was suddenly talkative and seemed to take delight in telling Briana everything.

"I'm really lucky, you know. It could have happened anytime, but never did. Do you know how many boys I've had? I'm sorry, you wouldn't be interested in that. Actually, I don't know which boy it was. Isn't that funny?"

Brittany laughed like it was a big joke.

"You're right Britanny, I'm not interested in the details of what you've done. I'm only interested in whether you are alright. What are those pills you took?"

"Why do you want to know. Who are you going to tell?"

"I'm not going to tell anyone, Brittany."

"I don't care anyway," Brittany said. "You ought to know what it is. Mother is the one who developed it, though it was by mistake. It's NT, 'Nut,' Neo-Thessaline."

"Oh!" Briana said. "I guess you're right, I should have known. I just didn't know what it did to someone."

"What do you mean, 'did to someone?'" Brittany asked. "It doesn't do anything except make one feel good."

"Brittany, where do you get 'Nut.' None of Mom's company's synthesize it anymore."

"You can get it anywhere. The Trashers have dealers, but lots of people, like my friends, will just give it to me.

"What's the matter with you, Darling," Connor asked Briana the next morning.

"I didn't get much sleep. Had a very long and disturbing talk with Brittany," Briana said.

"Want to talk about it?" Connor asked.

"Yes I do," she said, "but I have a class. I'll tell you everything this evening."

"Where?" Connor said.

"Your house. I don't want Brittany around when I talk to you."

"Alright, Darling. Want me to pick you up?"

"No, I'll just show up later," she said.

"Make it early. Mom will expect you for dinner.

"Love you," she said with a hug and a kiss.

After dinner, Briana and Connor went to their little reading room.

"Connor, Brittany has gotten herself in a lot of trouble," Briana began.

She told him about her discussion with Brittany the night before, than asked Connor what he thought she ought to do.

"Nothing," Connor said. "I know how close you are to Brittany, or were, but her life is hers to live as she chooses. I agree with you she's not living her life very well, and it will probably end disastrously for her, but that's her choice. If you attempted to interfere, it would only make it worse.

"I know you're right, Darling, but I can't help wanting to do something."

Just at that point, Jasmine came into the room looking a little frantic.

"Briana, do you know where Brittany is?"

"The last time I saw her was last night in her room. Why? What's the matter?" Briana asked.

"You haven't seen her today?"

"No." Briana said.

"Oh, I don't know what to think. Your Mom just called me and was almost hysterical. You know your Mom almost never gets excited, but she just received a note, hand delivered, that said Brittany was being held for ransom by the Trashers."

"Oh Jasta!" Briana said.