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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 2, 2015, morning

Angie scraped the frying pan with the spatula, scrambling the eggs in the pan. At the kitchen table sat Christian, his eyes slightly red and his hands clasped in front of his face. Ella sat across from her father, also sitting silently with an occasional sip of orange juice to mix things up. Arnold was outside on the back patio, having a smoke, while Edie began to pour a few cups of coffee.

"Angie, are you sure you don't want help?" Edie asked.

"No, it's fine," Angie said. "You're letting us stay here. The least I can do is help with the meals."

"Okay then," Edie said, carrying two of the mugs over to the table.

Edie set a mug in front of Christian. Christian nodded, and took a sip. Arnold walked into kitchen as Edie brought the rest of the coffee mugs to the table.

"Is Kelly here?" he asked.

"No," Edie said. "She hasn't come down yet."

Angie took a free plate and plopped some eggs on it. She handed the plate to Edie, who added some bacon from the nearby paper towel to the plate. Edie placed the plate on the table in front of Christian. The two women continued this until the five all had a plate.

"So, I guess we should say grace," Edie said.

"That would be a good idea," Angie said.

Edie, Arnold, Ella, and Angie all made the signs of the cross and clasped their hands. Christian remained frozen.

"Dear lord," Edie began. "Thank you for the meal. Please look after our Noah and ensure he and all those other kids are brought home safely. Amen."

"Amen," chimed Angie and Arnold.

"Amen," Christian mumbled.

Ella remained silent.

The five began to quietly eat, the sound of silverware scraping across the plates being the only sound in the kitchen. As they ate, Christian heard a creaking noise in the hall. He turned his head and saw Kelly walk in.

"Good morning, Kel," Christian said.

"Morning," Kelly said, walking to the coffee pot.

Edie stood up from the table and walked over to her daughter.

"Here, let me get you a plate," Edie said.

Kelly moved slightly away from her mother. "I'm not hungry. I just need some coffee."

"Dear, you should eat."

"I will," Kelly insisted, "but I'm not hungry right now."

Edie stepped away from Kelly and back to her seat at the table. The others in the room looked over Kelly. She was dressed in her morning robe, an old pink robe that had been worn for at least half a decade. Her hair was greasy and loose, spilling just past her shoulders. Her eyes were puffy and red, with dark circles forming under them. She slowly moved and added a few spoons of sugar to her coffee, stirring the coffee. Edie and Arnold both struggled to speak, each one prepared to ask the one question everyone in the room wanted to know, but were too afraid to ask. Ella kept her gaze away from Kelly.

"So...what's happened so far?" Angie asked, finally breaking the silence.

Kelly sighed.

"He's still alive. For the first day, at least," Kelly said.

Edie let out a sigh of relief and put her hand over her heart. "Oh thank god."

"But is he okay?" Angie said. "I mean, has anyone hurt him?"

"No, he's fine," Kelly said before taking a sip of coffee. "He's run into some girls and they're all working together. He also got some weird tool that throws saw blades that he gave a weird name to. I think he named it after someone from Drag Race. I don't get it, but that's what's going on."

"Well, it could be worse," Angie said.

"It is for others," Kelly said. "At least one girl killed herself."

"Oh god," Angie said. "Did he see it or-"

"One of the girls he met saw it. I'm not watching any other stream, so I don't know who exactly this girl is. But it looks like not everyone is coming home."

The room fell silent. Edie looked down at her food, while Arnold took her hand. Christian remained silent and fixed at Kelly.

"So, what now?" Christian asked.

"I'll keep watching," Kelly said. "I fell asleep after they met some other girl at a radio tower. So I guess I'll pick up from there."

"Let us know if you need anything," Edie said.

"I will, Mom," Kelly said.

Kelly walked out of the kitchen and back up the stairs. She paused at the bottom of the stairs and sighed. Once she was ready, she trudged up the stairs and into her bedroom. She took her place on her bed, Angie's laptop set up with Noah's stream ready to play. She put her headphones on, took another sip of coffee, and stared at the screen.

In a way, Kelly was proud of her son. When faced with a terrible situation, he had remained calm, tried to take charge, and was now in a group that seemed to believe in him. Kelly couldn't imagine what she'd do if she had been forced into such a game when she was 18, much less now at 42. Granted, she didn't know everything Noah was thinking, but as a viewer, she could see he was doing what needed to be done in this situation.

Of course, what Kelly didn't tell everyone downstairs was what Noah had said directly to the camera. Kelly had known from years of watching reality TV with her son and watching the videos he posted on YouTube that when placed in front of a camera, Noah was always truly himself. Sure, he'd have a wig on and a fake accent at times, but this was the person he wanted to present and the personality he wanted to display. This was when he felt the most candid. At times, this was how Kelly could learn about her son; learn about what he felt, what he was paying attention to, and what was on his mind.

Still, there was a line that kept playing in her mind. Last night, when Kelly was lying in her bed watching the stream, Noah showed that candid side of his. When Noah and the girls were in the tower, Noah looked directly at a camera and spoke.

Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Angie, Ella, if you're watching this...please don't. Please find something else to watch. Please don't watch me die.

When that line played, Kelly paused the video and pushed the laptop away. She covered her mouth and began to breath heavily. That was when she decided to go to sleep. Or rather, when she attempted to go to sleep. All sorts of horrible images filled her mind that night. Noah being shot repeatedly, being stabbed with a spear, being betrayed by those girls, being killed by his saw blade weapon, or throwing himself off a bridge like that one girl. For most of the night, Kelly was plagued by these images of her boy dying horribly.

That's when she knew: Noah was acting. He was wearing the blonde wig and making jokes. He was acting calm, but he wasn't calm. He was acting brave, but he was scared. Her little boy was putting on a front for those around him, but in actuality, he was mortified for his life, and he was aware it was likely to end terribly.

And what's worse was that Kelly was already betraying him. He didn't want them to see his death, and yet here she was, watching the spectacle like it was the Superbowl. That's when Kelly realized she was being as fake as Noah was. She wanted the others to think she was brave to watch the footage. That she was making a huge sacrifice for all of them. That she was willingly hurting herself to spare them the pain. She could pretend it was fine, that she could handle this task and that they could all take some comfort knowing Noah had someone watching over him.

But honestly, it made her so sick she couldn't even stomach the idea of eating.

Now, Kelly sat at the laptop, the video still paused at the moment after Noah spoke to the camera. She stared at the image of her son, his blonde hair and blue eyes just like hers. She took a deep breath, then clicked the play button. The footage continued.

"I'm sorry, Noah," she said. "I'm so sorry."

Kelly blankly stared at the video. Even though Noah was cracking jokes with some new girl, she couldn't bring herself to crack a smile. She had failed to live up to her son's last request, and she had lied to her whole family. The only thing she could do now was force herself to keep going. Noah didn't want her to watch his death, but Kelly knew she had to. It was the only way she could atone for letting him down.

Kelly took a sip of coffee as Noah and the others left the tower. This was only the first day of the broadcast, Kelly had to remind herself, and it could all get worse at any moment.
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