Prologue

I used to have this dream, the same one all the time. You finally figured out that I was the girl you needed and you came up to me with a flower, this huge pearly-white lily thing, and you held it out and said, "This is my heart. It's for you." It was the most beautiful flower I had ever seen.

In my dream we walked for hours holding hands, the lily around my wrist like a big corsage. We went barefoot through the undergrowth of the forest and emerged unscathed, our clothes tattered but our skins and the lily as white and clean as new snow. Your eyes were greener than all of the trees.

But then something happened. That part of the dream changed every night. Sometimes we came upon a cottage like Hansel and Gretal, except the witch won in the end. Sometimes snakes dropped from one of the trees, hissing, and wolves emerged from hidden caves. Sometimes we crossed a river and the water turned red and we didn't figure out we'd stumbled into Hell until the bodies started reaching from the river, fingers wrapping around our ankles. Sometimes a vulture swooped down from the sky and started pecking at your beautiful eyes, leaving gaping, bloody holes that didn't know how to see me anymore. Sometimes our hands just slipped away from each other.

Either way, it ended the same. The lily was ruined. You were gone.

I visit Kyle and he says the dream must have been a premonition. His arms are so tiny now. The doctors have put him on more medicine, but he's getting worse if anything. I read somewhere that they may have finally found a cure for it, this killing love-disease, but they haven't given it to him yet. I don't understand why. Kyle plays guitar like he is a god and his lyrics are getting better every day. Why wouldn't you want to save someone like that? He's a little bit sadder, and I'm afraid he's started to accept that he's not always going to be there with his Hendrix posters and his vinyls. "It's okay," he says when I start to leave, and he grabs my wrist, nearly wider than his. "I mean, I want to leave a legacy. I would never have done half the things I've done if I wasn't sick. And it'll be cool, you know, to see him again. It'll be great. We'll jam for eternity."

Stella tells me that Kyle is a great, sweet guy, but he's wrong about my dreams being premonitions. "Like an ugly-ass bird would stop Lucas," she says. "Please."

She stirs the rice she has on the stove, scraping off what's starting to stick to the sides, and looks at me. I wonder if she sees what I see every day, my oily hair, the hollow of my stomach. "Look, don't try to follow him or anything. Those dreams of yours are crazy, but they're, like, grief or whatever."

When the rice is done, she puts way too much on my plate and gives me milk instead of the beer I ask for. "You used to write, didn't you?" she asks. Writing seems like a thought I had years and years ago, even though it's only been a few months, and I'm not sure if I should say yes or not. I don't do anything these days. I don't answer, but Stella continues anyway. "Maybe you should write about it," she says. "Get it out."

"I can't write," I tell her, poking the rice around my plate. She raises an eyebrow.

"You can do anything if you set your mind to it, girl. Besides..." She shoots me a look that lets me know that I should probably take a bite of rice instead of just playing with it, "...people need to know his story. Don't you think?"

And I do. I mean, I did. I thought so.

I haven't had that dream in a few days now. That probably has something to do with the fact that I haven't been sleeping much, but I also think that Stella was right. I need to tell your story, my story, Kyle and Stella's stories, my brother's story and my sister's story, my mother's story, all our stories together. I'm not sure what will happen, but I'm putting it down in front of me. I have my typewriter, some leftover rice in the fridge. I have my memories like a scrapbook, a movie playing behind my eyelids.

I don't know the end of the story, but this is the beginning.