A new story I have written – the first in a long, long time. Well maybe a couple of months. Feels like ages to me though. Read and then review would be good. Thanks.

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PROLOGUE

"You're awfully quiet."

Silence, except for the persistent tapping of metal on marble.

"Come on, you haven't spoken a word to me in weeks."

'Actually, two weeks and four days, but of course I don't expect you to be keeping track.' Tap. Tap. Then a grating ringing noise as the coin falls from her fingers.

"You could tell me to fuck off and it would make me happy."

'Fuck off.' She starts spinning the coin this time. It hits a flowerpot on the counter and twiddles helplessly into stillness. The silence is comfortable to her only.

Jordan sets her glass down beside the sink. "Alex," she says, going over and placing her freshly manicured hands on the marble-top, "Please don't do this." She tries to make eye contact but to Alex, Jordan is like a History textbook, too many facts and none of them really interesting. She's a science major, working towards a high A in Chemistry for her high school diploma. Five months left.

The stepmother's still talking. Being an excellent listener she's cursed to tune in. "I know it hasn't been very long at all, and we're all finding it so hard to adjust… Alex, what happened – it was horrible, and none of it, none of it we blame on you."

Alex warily eyes the hand that looks like it's about to reach out and take hers in some attempted comfort move. She doesn't know why she's still here. 'Because you've always been so goddamn masochistic.'

And then, there it is. Quick as she can, Alex whips her hand away and Jordan's freezes in midair. She sighs and moves her hand back into her personal space.

"You can't mourn her forever –" she begins.

'Here it comes.'

"—Riley will always be with us…"

Alex doesn't want to hear any more. She stifles the urge, just like she has stuffed it down so many times before since that day two weeks and four days ago. Every time they say those exact words, like a line out of 'How to Deal With Death for Dummies'.

She wants to yell at them, "Riley's not dead, you idiots!" and get to her room to cry alone, so no-one sees her breaking down. 'Riley,' she will think through her tears later, clenching the pillow long deprived of her scent, cursing herself for her weakness.

She leaves Jordan standing alone in the kitchen, knowing Jordan is despairing, at her wit's end, on how to deal with her husband's daughter. She doesn't know what harangue her father will have to tolerate later – things have deteriorated in the Parker household. Alex doesn't care.

In her room she will lie on her bed, first staring at the ceiling, later face down. She removes her glasses and presses her face deeper into the mattress. Lavender and citrus. Sometimes sandalwood.

Always Riley.

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