The cold November morning's air hung over the small town of Cadiver like an invisible curtain, giving the town an almost haunted feel. Perched delicately on lawns covered in the dying Autumn's leaves were individual houses as solemn as the chilly wind that gently sway their window panels, each giving off a low groan in aged protest. Absent was the children's laughter, the merry giggle of a couple enjoying the crisp, frosty weather, leaving behind a grave-like hush.

At the very end of Skeltin boulevard loomed the three story mansion of a wealthy couple with a single living child. They once had two, but the other died nearly a year ago, mangled in a freakish car accident. The surviving offspring was not only the witness of her older brother's death, but of her friend's suicide and the untimely demise of her favorite cat. Depression cast her out of favor amongst her peers, and insomnia coupled with a quiet, distant attitude created a void between her parents from what was once a loving, close relationship. Cradling herself wide-eyed in front of a flickering television, the clock bringing her out of a quiet daze, looking up to realize that the gentle ring informed her of the hour. 3 A.M. was no stranger to her, and as such, it hardly fazed her to see it. Three more hours and she would be on her way to school.

A sudden light flickered on, causing the pale, lone figure seated atop the black leather recliner to shrink back, startled. As her eyes adjusted to the light, her ears had the misfortune of a less generous adjustment to her mom's steadily rising yell.

"Azelia, what the hell are you doing? Did you stop taking your meds? Oh, never mind, will you get into bed before you actually do need to get up! Child, you need to learn to take care of yourself. I swear, if your father caught you…"

It was all Azelia could do to drown the voice out. She had heard it a million times before, and this morning was no different. Sliding from her chair, she turned the TV off and simply walked past her still ranting mother. A quick run up the stairs, a turn to the right, and Azelia found refuge in her room. It was dark within, not a speck of light breeching her doorway or covered windows. It took a few feels around before she was able to crawl into her cushiony bed. She hated everything at that moment, and curling her arms around her pillow, began to cry softly. Her mother was always too busy with her own life and her father was never there. Since her brother died, everything changed. For Azelia, she found the true meaning of what it meant to be lonely. Her brother and she were very close. It wasn't just her brother that created a sense of emptiness in her; it was the passing of her best friend and cat that officially disengaged any feeling of closeness to the waking world. It seemed, to her, solitude was the only thing her future had in store.

The light of her lamp slowly flickered on with a gentle 'click' of the pull chain. Wiping her eyes, she reached for a framed picture. It was the treasure of her life, the one thing she would protect and fight for out of all of her material possessions. Housed inside the braided wood border were two smiling faces and a wide eyed black cat. Her brother was on the right, holding the cat up right below his chin, and her best friend next to him making bunny ears. They were celebrating her thirteenth birthday party when her cat had jumped onto the table and licked away the icing off of half of her cake. The wide eyed feline still had a bit of white frosting on his nose. Azelia smiled softly to herself, rolling to her back on her bed and looking over their jovial expressions. When she became really lonesome she would lose herself into the moment when that picture was shot, remembering when everything was just as it should be.

Her mind wandered, fingers tracing along the border, recalling the time when she was very ill and in the hospital. Her brother and her friend drove nearly three hours in a raging snow storm to get her there and then stayed for the next two nights. That was when she got the black kitten that was found in the snow right outside of the hospital. Without a better name to give him, she simply called him Snowshoe, the perfect name for a pitch black cat. The memory made her smile. She looked down to their faces once more, taking a deep breath. It seemed so sudden when their delighted, grinning faces turned to wretched, mangled faces, the same exact way they appeared when their disfigured bodies were discovered.

Screaming, Azelia shot out of bed, eyes round and bloodshot. She looked over at her framed picture sitting neatly on her night stand, lamp still on, with smiling faces staring back at her. The sudden buzzing of her alarm clock caused her to jump, startled, and she flipped back her messy black hair. She must have fallen asleep at some point. Trying not to think about it, she began to get ready for school.