Page 3

Maybe I was starting to miss her a little.

2 Aria, Sixteen Years Old

I should’ve been sleeping.

The rain hammered against the rooftop of the house at unforgiving speeds, leaving me with my eyes opened wide. I turned to the alarm clock sitting on my nightstand. The red laser lights were bright and reminded me over and over again why I shouldn’t have been awake.

2:22 A.M.

I slid my body up, my back landing against the headboard. Tossing my peach and mulberry-colored comforter from my sweaty body, I took a breath. My thumb sat between my teeth as I proceeded to chip away at my short nail.

I hated the calmness of the household. I hated how everyone else in my family was able to sleep through the sounds of the current storm passing through Mayfair Heights. I hated how they were probably dreaming of something magnificent and happy while I sat up in bed overthinking everything.

I stood from my mattress and shut my bedroom door, which was covered in my random artwork and pictures of me and my family. The cutout letters ‘A-R-I-A’ that curved over my doorframe showcased my coolness factor.

Or lack thereof.

My feet slipped into a pair of old, mint-colored flip-flops. I tossed my fringed purse strap across my body, and it wasn’t long before I climbed out of my first floor window. I hadn’t had enough brains to think of putting on a jacket to cover my tank top and pajama shorts. The August air was cool as it brushed against my skin, but the rain was unapologetic. It washed over me, soaking me from head to toe before I reached the street corner.

Putting on my thinking cap, I took a shortcut through Mr. Myers’ woods at the end of the block. It seemed like a grand idea, until I started slipping through the muddy grass, instantly transforming my flip-flops from mint to hickory brown.

The heavy storm was torturing me, almost as much as my mind had been attacking my heart. I knew it was stupid to head out so late at night, but when your heart is under attack, only a few people can put a shield of protection around said heart.

When I made it to the edge of the woods, a breath of relief left me as I reached Mr. Myers’ property. It was the only house on this side of the road for miles, and for the most part, the house was exactly like the person who lived inside: broken down. It was a single-level home with more trash than treasures, including the winking porch light, the shattered gnome next to the mailbox, and the beat-up car that looked older than my grandpa.

Mr. Myers didn’t know me, and it was probably best that way. He was the kind of person I never had the need to get to know. Mom called him the neighborhood loner. Dad was much less nice about it, calling him nothing but a stupid asshole. The weekend before Mr. Myers had driven his car into Ms. Sammie’s mailbox on Ever Road. Most people would’ve reported it to the cops, but Ms. Sammie said the guy just needed a Bible and a talk with Jesus. She even made him a sandwich after they backed his car away.

Across the road I could see Simon’s porch light shining.

Thank God.

Simon was my best—and only—friend. We’d known each other since we were in diapers. Our moms were best friends, so Simon and I were destined to be united in friendship. I think both parents were a little disappointed when the two of us didn’t fall madly in love and live happily ever after. Simon was more into blonde hair than my auburn, and I was more into boys who called me cute and then pretended I didn’t exist, so our love story never came to fruition.

The rain was freezing. I tried my best to cover up my soaking wet, see-through white tank top as I snuck into Simon’s backyard and tapped on his bedroom window, hoping to not wake his parents. Although I was close to his family, the idea of Mr. Landon finding me standing in a see-through shirt would be cause for a nice round of therapy.

I shivered, standing in a puddle of water.

It took a few minutes before Simon woke up and walked over to see me. He blinked a few times, rubbing the palms of his hands against his sleepy eyes. The window opened and I climbed inside, something I’d done for years.

Simon went on to lock the window. He double-checked and triple-checked the lock, and then—for full certainty—he checked it once more.

Most boys would’ve at least glanced at me in the state that I was in, my top clinging to my braless breasts, but Simon didn’t flinch. Plus, he didn’t have his glasses on, so he was pretty much blind as a bat. One time when we were younger, I was changing in his room when he walked in on me. That time he did have his glasses on and his eyes met my chest instantly. Pretty sure he blushed every time he saw me for two months straight.

“Are you okay?” he asked, a hint of unease in his voice. If there was anyone who was more concerned about me than my parents, it was Simon. He was a natural worrier—for good reason, too. After a rough past, Simon was allowed to worry a little more than others.

“Just cold,” I replied, not really wanting to alarm Simon more.

“Did you randomly decide to take a walk at two in the morning?”


“In the pouring rain?”

“It wasn’t pouring when I left,” I lied.

“Pretty sure it was pouring when you left.”

“Well, I thought it would slow down.”

“You should’ve checked the weather.”

“Next time.”

“I’ll grab some towels so you can dry off, and I’ll get a wet rag for the muddy feet you’re dragging across my carpet.” He didn’t sound bothered with the muddy floor, but I knew he was.

Simon headed for the bathroom, and I tried my best to keep my muddy feet in one place.

When he brought me the towels, he opened the bottom dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of my pajamas that I always left at his place. As he handed them to me, he turned away to give me privacy. After removing all of my soaked clothing, I took my new top and slipped it over my head.