Tess Harding lived for destiny. She always had, she always would. Destiny was all that Tess had. It kept her sane. It made her feel wanted. It was her family. It was everything and it was nothing.
Nothing? Nothing. Nothing because Isabel Evans was "melting the ice" with Alex Whitman. Nothing because Michael Guerin was in some kind of conflicted relationship with Maria DeLuca. Nothing because Max Evans only wanted the perfect Liz Parker. Nothing because she was alone. She had always been alone. She would always be alone.
Tess had to admit that wasn't exactly true. She had Kyle Valenti. He was interested in her. Purely sexual, Tess figured, because he was a guy and that's all guys thought about. Kyle was human, but she could deal with that. Tess just wanted a friend.
Tess packed her overnight bed and walked the distance to Isabel's house. Isabel had invited her over to stay the night. In reality, she knew that it was just a cover up so they could keep an eye on her, but it always came down to the same thing. Tess let herself get used, because she was alone and she wanted a friend.
"Come on in." Isabel said, opening the door and allowing Tess to enter the house. "Maria and Liz are already here."
"Maria and Liz?" Tess glanced over at Isabel. "I didn't know they were coming."
"It was last minute." Isabel shrugged and lead Tess up the stairs. "You can go on in; I'm going to get some drinks from the kitchen. Extra sugar, right?" She smiled.
"Definitely." Tess smiled back, before she entered the room. "Hi."
"Hey Tess." Liz smiled at Tess.
"Yeah...hey." Maria looked up at Tess and back down at the magazine she was looking at. "I'll never understand how they do these things." She sighed and undid the braid she had began on Liz's hair.
"Maria, just do it normally." Liz suggested, shrugging slightly.
"What are you trying to do?" Tess asked Maria, glancing at the magazine that was lying on the bed beside Maria.
"Some kind of complicated French braid." Liz answered for Maria. "She's convinced she can do it."
"I can!" Maria insisted. She started braiding the long, dark locks of hair again.
"Um, you should move...that one, first." Tess said quietly, motioning to the section of hair on the right.
"I thought I started at the left." Maria frowned, looking back down at the book. She pointed to a page, jerking Liz's hair as she did.
"Ow!" Liz exclaimed.
"Sorry, Lizzie." Maria sighed and let go of the hair. "I give up. Sorry, Liz, I guess you won't get your braid."
"I can do it, if you want." Tess offered, dropping her bag on the floor.
"Sure." Liz climbed off the bed and sat down on the floor. She handed Tess a brush and a ponytail holder.
Tess sat down behind Liz and brushed her hair. She separated it into sections, before she began braiding it into a long, French braid.
"You're pretty good at that." Isabel said as she walked into the room. She handed Maria and Liz a can of soda and placed the one for Tess beside her, piling a few packets of sugar on top. She then flopped on the bed, lying on her stomach with her legs up in the air.
"Thanks." Tess replied, looking at Isabel out of the corner of her eye. "For both."
"So, Isabel, where's Max tonight?" Liz questioned, keeping her head straight, facing the wall in front of her.
"Probably somewhere with Michael." Isabel shrugged, flipping through the magazine Maria had been looking at. "I haven't seen him today."
"Do you think they're all right?" Maria asked, trying not to sound concerned.
"Yeah, I'm sure they are." Isabel looked up at Maria and raised her eyebrow. "Worried?"
"Me? Worried about Michael? What gave you that idea?" Maria scoffed, brushing her hair out of her face. "Michael is, like, the least of my worries."
"Sure." Isabel smirked and turned back to the magazine.
"I'm done." Tess wrapped the ponytail holder at the end of the braid.
Liz stood up and looked at it in the mirror. "It looks great. Thanks!"
"No problem." Tess smiled.
Later that night, Tess was lying on the sleeping bag Isabel had let her borrow. It was dark blue with flecks of silver. It instantly reminded Tess of the night sky. Her home, her comfort. Her everything.
Tess sighed and climbed out of the sleeping bag. She dug around in her bag, before pulling out a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. She pulled them on over the tank top and shorts she had been sleeping in and shoved her feet into her shoes. Tess snuck out of the room, down the steps and out of the house.
Tess sat down on the porch steps and looked up into the sky, looking for the constellations. She smiled and looked at them for a while, instantly finding the comfort that she had been seeking.
"What are you doing?" A voice whispered from behind her.
Tess jumped, whirling around to see who was there. "Liz! You scared me."
"Sorry." Liz apologized. "Can I join you?"
"Sure." Tess sat back down on the steps and Liz sat beside her.
"I brought my blanket." Liz said, spreading it out over the two of them. "It gets cold out here at night."
"Thanks." Tess looked over at her and smiled.
"You didn't answer my question." Liz reminded her with a small smile. "But I can guess. You're thinking about your home, aren't you?"
"Something like that." Tess admitted, glancing back up at the sky. "I love looking at the stars. They're so beautiful. It makes me feel more connected to home."
Liz looked up and scanned the sky for the familiar patterns of stars. "There's Ursa Major...and the Big Dipper." She leaned closer to Tess so she could see more. "Ursa Minor, the Little Bear..."
Tess smiled at Liz and they continued to seek out the constellations. "There's Venus." Tess pointed to the V constellation.
"That means something to you, doesn't it?" Liz asked, staring up at the V in the sky. "I read about it on the computer at school, but it means something more."
Tess tucked her hair behind her ears. "It means more to me than it does to Max, Michael and Isabel."
"What do you mean?" Liz asked softly.
Tess shook her head. "Forget I said anything."
"No." Liz put her hand on the other girl's arm. "I want to know. Tell me."
"They have each other. They have you." Tess whispered. "Maria, Alex, the Evans." Tess sighed and looked back up at the sky. "I'm alone."
"I...I'm sorry." Liz looked at Tess and saw the tears forming in the corner of her eyes. "You're not alone. You have them, too."
Tess switched her gaze to Liz. "Can you honestly tell me that they care? Can you tell me that they don't suspect me for something? That they don't hate me?"
Liz sat there, looking down at her hands.
"That's what I thought." Tess stood up and looked down at Liz. "Tell Isabel I'll be back to get my things in the morning."
"Tess..." Liz scrambled out of the blanket. "You can't just leave."
"I don't belong here, anyway. The three of you...you have your bond. I'm the outsider. I don't fit in." Tess sighed and shook her head. "I've messed up things enough; I don't want to ruin that for the three of you."
"At least..." Liz sighed. "Let me get your things for you. I...I remember you saying earlier that your things weren't there yet and all you had was what you brought with you. I'm sure you'll need it, so..." Liz trailed off.
Tess sighed, knowing what Liz was saying was true. All she had at the moment was a couple of pairs of jeans, some shirts and a few basic necessities. At night she would make a makeshift bed out of whatever she wasn't wearing at the moment. "Ok." Tess nodded. "Thanks."
"No problem." Liz snatched up her blanket and went back inside. She reappeared a few minutes later and handed Tess her bag. "Be careful."
"I will." Tess smiled and walked down the steps, down the street and back to the house she lived in, alone. When she reached the house, she unlocked the door and went inside.
Tess unzipped her bag and threw her stuff on the floor. She saw something else in the bag and curiously pulled it out. It was the blanket she and Liz had shared earlier. Taped to it was a note. She unfolded the piece of light blue paper and began to read it.
You have me.