Chapter 1

I awoke groggily to the sound of a light knock on my bedroom door. Before I could respond, Dad's head appeared, craned around the slightly opened door. I squinted at him, my vision slowly coming into focus as I propped myself up on my elbow. I rubbed at my eyes and flopped back down onto my pillow and pulled the covers up to my chin.

"It's summer break. No school," I protested before rolling over onto my side so I was facing away from him.

"Hey kiddo, didn't you say that you started work on Friday?"

It took a few moments for my half conscious self to process his inquiry. Work? What work? Then it hit me.

"Oh shit." I muttered before leaping up from bed. My eyes darted to the alarm clock on my desk. It read 8:39. Which meant I had twenty-one minutes to make it to work on time.

"Thanks Dad. I'll get ready now," I quickly thanked him before closing my bedroom door.

Deciding it was too late for a shower, I then dove into my closet, searching for my favourite pair of jeans. I pulled them out from beneath a heap of unkempt laundry and snatched a t-shirt from its hanger. I scrambled to get dressed and quickly pulled a comb through my tangled bed head before rushing into the bathroom that connected to my bedroom. My hand fumbled for the light switch, then grabbed my toothbrush from the counter.

While I scrubbed away at my teeth, foam spilling out the sides of my mouth, I stared at myself in the mirror. My chestnut brown hair was a tangled mass of hair atop my head and my green, amber-flecked eyes had dark circles beneath them.

I look like a bloody lunatic.

I thought, before spitting out the toothpaste and foam in my mouth. Taking one last discerning look at myself in the mirror, I wiped the back of my hand across my mouth and strode out of the bathroom. I then leapt down the stairs, and hurried into the kitchen, where Dad was reading the newspaper and sipping at a coffee. He looked up when I entered the room, waving his newspaper at me.

"Better hurry… You have" he glanced up at the clock, "ten minutes before your shift starts."

I nodded and plucked the last apple from the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter.

"See you tonight." I called over my shoulder as I made my way into the front hall. My eyes then scanned around for my keys and messenger bag. I spotted them on the front window sill and I hastily lifted them from where they rested and darted out the front door and towards the car.

The car pulled into the parking lot and I rolled down my window, tossing my mangled apple core into the manicured shrubs that I passed, then rolled the glass back up again. I then eased my old ford pinto into a parking space in front of The Coffee Bean, the java shop where I'd be working for the summer. Sure, the pinto wasn't exactly luxury, but it had proven itself reliable and I have to admit, I've grown quite attached to my ol' clunker.

I pulled the keys from the ignition, wiggled the sticky handle loose, then pushed open the car door. I slammed the door shut behind me and locked the door before rushing into the Coffee Bean.

As soon as I pushed the door open, the delicious smell of coffee beans filled my head and the emphatic sound of blenders and coffee bean grinders resounded throughout the small café. I made my way towards the counter, making sure not to bump into any of the bustling customers. I tried to ease through the squeaky swinging entry door that lead behind the counter, but Kiel had spotted me.

"You're five minutes late, Mara… and it's only the first day," She grinned at me, her purple hair pulled into a high ponytail on her head.

"Since when have you become Miss Punctual?" I said this while hanging up my bag and attempting to tie up my apron at the back.

"Since I've been getting a ride with John," Kiel nodded towards a tall, greasy looking guy working at the register. I wrinkled my nose at her and she batted my arm with the back of her hand, "Oh, come on. He isn't that bad." I shrugged before facing my back to her.

"Tie this up, would you?" I motioned towards my apron. She nodded and began fastening the two pieces of material.

"There," She declared, tightening the bow just for good measure.

"Thanks," I said absentmindedly before striding over to the counter to take orders.

I'd worked at this place last summer for some extra cash and had ended up actually liking the job. So the owner of the Coffee Bean, who also happens to be one of my dad's old buddies, had offered me the job again this summer. So, obviously, seeing as I had nothing better to do, had taken him up on the offer, and had also introduced him to my best friend, Kiel, who was also in need of some summer funds.

So here we are. The first day of work. Me, looking a total mess and Kiel being her usual optimistic self. She trotted over to me again, balancing a tray of mugs on her arm.

"Are you busy tonight?" She called over her shoulder while sliding the tray into one of the lower cabinets.

"Depends. What do you have in mind?" I questioned, while ringing a woman's order into the register.

"Well, there's this party at this guy's house"

"Who's this guy?" I cut her off before she could say anything else.

"Just a friend of a friend. Come on Mar… Don't be such a drag. It's summer break! We should be out there celebrating! So you're coming?" She looked at me hopefully.

"Fine, fine. I'll have to call my Dad though, so no promises," I said reluctantly.

"Mara, you're the best!" She squealed, as an old man shot us a dirty look as he snatched up his drink from the counter.

I glanced up at the clock hanging up on the wall as I continued wiping off the coffee table in front of me. It was 5:50, which meant my shift would end in ten minutes. I tossed the rag I had been using into the mop bucket beside me before hearing Kiel's familiar cheery footsteps coming from the supplies closet.

"Called your dad yet?" She asked casually while beginning to empty the cash register.

"I'll do that now," I said, then reached for my messenger bag that was hung up on the coat rack.

I unbuttoned the front pocket and searched for my cell phone inside. My fingers met the familiar plastic cover and I pulled it out then flipped it open, dialling Dad's office number. He was an accountant for a successful company and usually had long hours, so I doubted he'd have a problem with me going to the party.

"Hello?" I could hear Dad's voice on the end of the line.

"Hi Dad, it's Mara."

"Look, can I call you back, honey. I'm about to go into a meeting," he sounded distracted and kind of irritated.

"I just need to ask you something quick. Can I go to a party with Kiel tonight? We'll be back by" I turned to Kiel, my eyes questioning her. She held up three fingers and mouthed the word, three to me, "one," I finished.

"Yeah, sure Mara. Just be sensible. I have to go now. Talk to you later."

He clicked off before I could say anything else.

"One?" Kiel groaned., "Parties are just starting at one, not ending."

"Hey, you're lucky I even agreed to go." I stuck my tongue out at her and grinned.

"Yeah, yeah, I know," She said before finishing off with the register and striding towards the back room to switch the lights off.

"I'm locking up the back door, girls! See you tomorrow!" I could hear John calling to us before shutting the back door behind him.

Kiel rolled her eyes and turned to me, "Everything finished?"

I nodded and quickly untied my apron, hanging it up, then grabbed my keys and slung my messenger over my shoulder. She flicked off the lights and we hurried through the dark towards the front door. She locked the door behind us and I nodded towards my car.

"So, where are we going then?" I asked her, tilting my head slightly.

"Let's pick up your clothes and then go back to my place and get ready there," She said, sure of herself, as usual.

I nodded and unlocked the door to the pinto, jiggling the key slightly to the left so it would come open easier. I pulled the key out and hopped in, leaning over to unlock the passenger side. Kiel immediately hopped in, her feet adorned in the usual combat boots. She slammed the door shut and I turned on the engine, then backed out of the parking space.