The sun lit up the light yellow room with the pink borders. I didn't even like the colors and I always meant to repaint it, but something about me couldn't do it. Something was holding me back.

I sighed slightly and stood from my rocking chair. I put the book I had been reading to pass time until I had to leave for school into my bag. I was always the first one awake so I could make breakfast and make sure my father ate before he left, since my mother woke up before neither of us and preferred to eat her breakfast out. Today was different though. My dad was taking the day off to go investigate a case more closely. But even knowing that he would sleep in, I woke up at the same time as any other day. I made breakfast, ate alone and got ready. The rest of the time I usually spent talking to my father was wasted on reading.

Walking out of my bedroom, I glanced at the closed door at the end of the hallway and padded down the large staircase silently. I've always thought that the house was too big for three people to live in, but I didn't want to move. I didn't like changes because they would throw me off of my routine and that was also something I didn't like. I had to know what I was going to do and what kind of people would be there, as I didn't like to meet new people either.

Getting in my red bug, I turned on the stereo before putting on my seat belt and pressing the button to open the garage door.

Just as I was backing out of the opened gates I saw a black car coming fast from the left side. I hit the brakes, my heart beating fast as I saw the car whiz past.

I frowned and shook my head as I continued to back out, going onto the street.

Once I arrived at school I went straight to my locker before the halls could get too crowded. My best friend was already standing there, her black hair twisted in a bun on top of her head.

"Hey, Phoebe!" she said, dancing over to me and draping an arm around my shoulders.

I smiled, knowing that Lainey already had something to say about her weekend. She always had, but seeing that we spent almost all of our time during the weekend in the ballet studio together, it was always a surprise that she still had things new to tell me.

As I twisted the lock, I noticed that she wasn't talking. Quickly looking up at her, I saw her brown eyes fixed on someone over my shoulder. It wasn't necessary to ask or to see for myself who she was looking at. She only stopped talking when her crush of two years or my ex-boyfriend walked by. And since she wasn't drooling or blushing, I would have to guess it was the latter of the two.

Feeling his eyes on me, I quickly opened my locker as I started feeling my hands shake and my cheeks turn red. It's been five months and Kevin still bothered me after everything that had happened. I didn't like the way he changed me and the way he treated me towards the end. Even my dad noticed the changes in me. But if I ever told him the truth, he would make sure Kevin was locked away for life. And being in the FBI, I didn't know if he could do that, but it was best not to risk it because even after all I went through, I didn't want my father to know and tell my mother. She wouldn't want her daughter to step out of line. Which was exactly what I did.

"He's gone," Lainey said, turning back to me with worried eyes.

I nodded and gathered my books before shutting my locker. Lainey was still looked suddenly upset. I turned to her, a warming smile on my face.

"Lainey, don't worry about it," I said. "It'll pass. Everything does, right?"

She nodded, biting her lip and walking off to her first block. The thing was that I didn't believe my own words and she knew that.

In my first class, I sat in a corner by the windows. I was always early. I sat near the people that most people found annoying, but usually kept out of the way. They didn't talk to me and I didn't talk to them so we were in on safe ground. I grabbed the book out of my bag and proceeded to reading when a loud laugh cut through the air. I glanced over at them and saw that they were looking at something on a cell phone. The sounds were coming off in a buzz from where I was sitting. There were two guys and three girls surrounding a desk. They all dressed differently, colorful, but there was still black here or there. I personally liked the way they dressed and the unique colors in their hair, but I could never see myself that way. My mother would surely send me to shrink and claim that was I was losing my mind.

Keagan was blond, the only one who didn't have rainbow hair. She was beautiful with the athletic body and her long hair, but she was the opposite from what her looks portrayed. She was rude, loud, and even mean sometimes. She was the badass with the preppy look and the money. Turning around, she caught me looking at her, and her gray eyes narrowed into slits as she pursued her lips. I quickly looked away. Even being my neighbor, we had never exchanged a simple hello.

That day, Kevin didn't approach me like he sometimes did. After he walked by that morning and possibly saw that Lainey was glaring at him, I expected him to come to me and say something that would have upset me. I hated the way I was so scared of him. Lainey didn't blame me for it, but I shouldn't have been so scared. That made an easy target. I was tiny, despite my weight and height. He saw me as something delicate and fun to play with since I was too quiet and shy, also too innocent when I met him. I hated that part about me.

For a while I even blamed my mother for keeping such a tight grasp on me and not letting me see the world, but it wasn't her fault what he did. It was mine. My mother held me down and taught me to always do what I needed, not what other people were doing.

When I met Kevin I was just so content that I was getting attention from a guy. I wasn't ugly, but I wasn't one the girls that walked around school. My curly hair was too wild to be tamed and like I said before, I was too short. Ballet made me gain muscles and if it wasn't for them, I know I would be like a stick. But Kevin made me feel beautiful at the beginning. I would walk in school to find him with the biggest smile on my face and know that everyone was looking and wishing that they had something I had. Until it wasn't like that anymore. He started wanting and showing his true colors and I started getting scared.

Father always had his days where he would go off for a week or two for training and mom always had days that she would go out of town to see something about the hotel company her family owned. I would stay home alone and that was time that things got really bad. Kevin always knew when my parents would be out of town and he would take advantage of that.

Hearing the final bell ring, I quickly gathered my stuff and walked out of my last class. I almost ran to my locker, not wanting Kevin to corner me. Like always, Lainey was waiting for me there, her duffel bag on one shoulder and her back up on the other. We were going to ballet straight after school and she always got a ride with me.

"Hello!" she said brightly. "Hurry up before Kevin comes."

I rolled my eyes at her, pretending not to care, but my speed did go faster. I quickly got the books I needed and shoved them in my bag before closing the locker and proceeding to walk out. We got in the crowd that was at the doors and I bit my lip, looking around frantically, but I couldn't see anything past the heads and backs.

"Oh, shit!" Lainey exclaimed and I looked to where she was looking, but couldn't see anything. "Come on."

She grabbed my hand and started pushing people aside, letting us receive a lot of complaints. When we were descending the stairs, she looked back and dropped my arm.

"That was close. He doesn't know how to drop it and I don't know why you won't tell on him," she said what was her usual lecture.

I rolled my eyes and grabbed my car keys from the back pocket.

"You're here!" I heard someone exclaim before I was being shoved to the side as a blond hair hit my face. I caught myself and blinked before looking in front of me. It had been Keagan who had rudely shoved me so I didn't even bother to look. I just kept thinking of Kevin and how I had to get out of there.

"Oh, gosh," Lainey sadly whispered. "Even the Ice Queen has a boyfriend. I wonder where I can get one of those?"

"A boyfriend?"

"No. Someone who accepts me for who I am. She's not on someone's favorite list though. And you know how she treats guys. She bites them, even!"

I rolled my eyes and looked over at them. I could only see darker blond hair mixed with the light ones that belonged to Keagan, but when they pulled away, dazzling blue eyes met mine. I opened my mouth in surprise; feeling as if he was reading everything there was to know about me with that look. And I wondered how he knew I had been staring. We weren't so close to them that we could be heard, but he looked like he had heard everything. I glanced at Keagan, but she was talking suddenly animatedly.

Feeling something in my stomach, I quickly turned around, almost wanting to run to my car, but I kept a steady pace. Lainey was following me, asking questions and still babbling about the guy. When I was strapped in and the car was on, I quickly turned to look at them and his eyes were still on me, looking through the window. But this time, I took notice of his shaggy hair, his white shirt with washed up jeans and black boots. He was leaning in an old, black car and everything screamed bad boy, especially the cigarette between his index and middle finger. He still looked at me as he raised the cigarette to his lips, taking a long drag before looking back at Keagan, like he hadn't seen anything.

I was sick of guys like him. Not that Kevin was one, but this guy made me judge him to one of those guys that was like Kevin.

Hearing Lainey snort, I turned to her to see that she had noticed the same things I had.

Lainey was still talking when we arrived at our dancing school. We were one of the first girls there and since the dressing room was empty, we took our time to change, which meant hearing her for a longer time.

"I mean, not that I ever thought she didn't date, but come on! No one would date her like that. She yelled at me last week for talking to the girl beside me. That really embarrassed me and I'm not sure why she was pissed. And the guys! She treats all of them like crap except for those dudes she hangs out with and they all have girlfriends I think, but they act too close to be together. Like brothers and sisters, so that would just be completely gross and like, I don't think she would want to date any of them like that." She took a deep breath as I finished slipping on my scarlet leg warmers, but when she had said the brothers and sisters part, my mind suddenly had gone back to the scene back at school.

"Hey," I said slowly, making her close her mouth and stare at me. "What if he's her a brother? I mean, they did look a little alike, don't you think?"

Lainey shrugged. "I was too in shock to notice."

"Well, we all know she has a brother," I said.

"A brother no one has ever seen," Lainey pointed out. "Have you ever seen him?"

I paused for a minute before answering. "No."

"Exactly!" she said, jumping up. "People say that he goes to a boarding school, but even that, I mean, he has to come home for the summer time and holidays at least. And you've never seen him. I think it was just a rumor. Besides, Keagan does not look like someone that would be close to their siblings."

"She has a younger sister," I said. "Sometimes I see her taking her out somewhere or just hanging out with her in their backyard."

"But she's younger! It's not like she has opinions for herself yet."

"I don't know," I said, sighing. "It's not our business anyway. Not that it matters."

"Maybe," Lainey said. "Oh, today that really cute guy in my drama class—"

I drowned her out as I twisted my hair into a tight bun. My hair wouldn't usually cooperate with the style I wanted to have, but it had been so long that I tied it in a bun that it had gotten used to it.

When I arrived home, the most delicious smell filled my nose. I dropped my bag near the door and went into our huge kitchen. Everything was either silver or black, making things look clean and classy.

My father was chopping something on the island. Besides him working for the FBI, he could cook. I sometimes joked around with him and said that he should have taken cooking instead of the criminals, but that was more like a wish. No matter what anyone said, his heart was on his job. Mom even tried to stop him, but nothing she said worked.

Seeing me looking at what he was chopping, which were some carrots, he bent down and kissed my forehead.

"What are we having for dinner?" I asked.

He smiled. "Stir-fry. Your favorite."

"Thanks, Dad," I said. "I'm going to go upstairs and shower before dinner—"

"Phoebe! What are your bags doing here on the front door?" my mother's voice cut through the air. Dad and I both rolled our eyes.

She came in the kitchen, a frown on her face, which I had no idea how she could manage with the scent coming from the food cooking. "I want you to go straight to your room, take a shower, finish your homework and practice your piano. You know the rules, Phoebe."

"I know, Mom," I said, going quickly past her to retrieve my bags.

My mom was a good person. I think that was why Dad was still with her. He knew what she could be like so he didn't judge her on her few flaws. Of course, I didn't know my mother like I should. She was always working or going out with dad. We only had the family events once in a while and when I went, we kept our conversations light.

As much as she thought the opposite, she didn't know what was a mom supposed to do. She thought that she gave orders and I was supposed to follow them, which I did since I had no choice. I didn't like them, but people get used to things easily. However, my mom's family had raised her with most of the rules she gave me, so it was her background also. I didn't like her family. They thought that just because they had a lot of money stored up, they could get anything.

Going in my room, I looked out at the large window. A window that faced mine usually was dark and had the curtains pulled away. But through the curtains, the light was on, making the house look different. Even being neighbors, there was a great distance between the houses. We both had large gates on the front yard and a wall covered in ivy that separated the both houses. As their front yard was circular with a fountain on the middle, our driveway came from the sides so most of the front yard was a garden with a few fountains here or there. The thing I liked about my house was that there was a willow tree off to the side that my dad had set up a wooden swing when I was little. That was my favorite place.

Shutting my curtains, I went in my bathroom and discarded my clothes. I didn't bother to glance in the mirror and see the marks that Kevin had made when he cornered me last week. I didn't like to look at them, as it was a sign of my weakness.

-- -- --


It was 7:30 Monday morning and Everett still hadn't picked me up for school. My mother was freaking out because apparently if I was late one more time I would be suspended for a month, and of course that was not acceptable. Just as my mom was screaming that I should just drive myself to school, a purple Dodge Viper skidded to a stop in my driveway and laid on the horn. I tore out the door before my mother had a chance to yell at me about my best friend.

As I jumped in the car I yelled at Everett to floor it. Once we were through the gates at the entrance of the community, I reached to turn on the stereo. As soon as I found a station that was actually worth listening, I started singing along.

Everett turned to look at me, "Keagan, do you ever shut up?"

As the song blared into a guitar solo I had to giggle before I said, "No."

Everett was quiet for a while as I continued singing along with the radio. Even considering I'm not a morning person, if there is music involved I couldn't be more awake. As I was dancing in my seat I saw that Everett kept glancing over at me.

I stopped moving around for once in my life and asked, "What?"

"Nothing," he said. "It's just that I never noticed how stupid my best friend is."

Being the type of person I am, I pulled my Converse clad feet up onto the seat, crossed my arms over my chest, and pouted my lips.

The next thing I knew I had a hand on my elbow and Everett was saying, "Aww, Keag, you know I love you. I was just kidding. You're not stupid."

I grabbed the hand on my arm and held it in a death grip. I glared at the face in the seat next to me and growled. As he tried to pull his hand away I yanked it towards my face and bit him.

"Ow! Keagan! You're a freak! Give me my hand back!"

The rest of the way to school Everett ignored my singing and dancing. Before he had even gotten the car to a complete stop I was jumping over the door so I could make it to my first block on the other side of campus on time. I bypassed my locker completely ignoring the fact I needed books.

I hauled my ass into my class with minutes to spare and flopped down into my seat. As I pulled out my phone a group of my friends surrounded my desk. My phone started vibrating and I flipped it open to see who was sending me a message.

"Oh my god! Is that Phoebe?" my friend, Chloe, said a little loudly.

"It can't be," Frank said. "Have you seen what she looks like?"

Margo was next to put in her two cents. "Holy Fuck it is Phoebe! Woah. I never knew she was such a whore. I'll be damned!"

As my friends continued on with their ranting and laughing, I sat there a little ashamed. I'd know Phoebe since freshmen year and I knew that wasn't the type of person she was. As horrible as it would be for my friends to find out, I kind of envied her and yet nearly every time I saw her, I felt sad for her. Just as I was thinking this I turned towards where she was sitting in the back corner. She was staring at me. I hate when people stare. I think it's rude, so I glared at her. Her face turned white and she snapped her head to look in the other direction. As the day went on I couldn't help but wonder if Phoebe had overheard any of my friends back in first block.

During my study hall, my cell vibrated in my pocket. Since my teacher wasn't paying attention, not that she would have cared anyway, I pulled it out and hit ok on the keypad.

"Tell Everett you have a ride. Have your favorite car."

That was all the text said but it was enough. From that point of my day until the last bell I was ecstatic.

After tracking Everett, the genius, down after study hall I said, "Hey, asshole, I don't need a ride home. Someone is picking me up."

"Keagan what did I tell you about hot dates right after school?" he asked. "Wasn't it something about letting me know in advance so we can double?"

I had to laugh. "Everett it's Jude that's picking me up. Besides, the only person in this friendship with the chance of a hot date is you. If you haven't noticed people are kind of afraid of me."

Everett rolled his eyes and said, "Whatever, I have to get to class. Let me know if you need a ride tomorrow."

Before I could say anything he was on his way to his last class. I, however, chose to skip mine to spend it in the auditorium messing around.

As soon as the last bell rang I was out the door. Reaching the parking lot I found who I was looking for and ran at him. "You're here!" I squealed as I brushed past someone in my rush to tackle Jude.

After the initial shock of my attack wore off, my twin was finally able to regain what little dignity he had had left. "Keagan Skyler," he said, "are you trying to kill me? I've been home for nine hours and you're already attacking me." This time he laughed.

"Judey! Do you have any idea as to how much I've missed you?" I questioned. "That stupid community of ours has been torture without you. You should have come back sooner." As I went on and on with my rant I realized Jude was staring at something. Since I didn't really care what it was I screamed, "Jude Benjamin, you just got home and you're already ignoring me! Humph!"

"Sorry, sis," was all he could say as he pulled a cigarette out of the box in his hand.

I sighed and got into the 1968 black Dodge Charger. He was right. This was my favorite car. Jude and I had all but built the entire thing ourselves. After watching The Dukes of Hazard for as long as we could remember, that's what we did. We found an old shit ass car and made it amazing. It was a gift.

Following my lead, Jude got into the drivers seat and asked, "Where to?"

All I had to do was smile and we were off. We both knew where we were going and we both knew that it had been too long since we had been there last. As we crossed the bridge into the city we sang along to the radio, which of course we had both agreed on. It didn't take us as long as it normally would have to get into the city because one, Jude was driving, and two, Jude was driving. We pulled into a parking garage and found a place to park. After going to our favorite café of all time we made our way to Coney Island.

Teacups, as stupid as they were, they were the first thing we ran to when we got to the park. After we rode them a few times we just walked around and talked, trying to catch up.

"Jude, how long are you here for?" I asked.

Jude grabbed my shoulder and pulled me towards him in a side hug. "I honestly don't know, Keag. It may be for a few days or it may be for the rest of our lives. Don't worry about that right now though. I'm here so we should enjoy it while we can."

I sighed. I always hated my brother's answers. "But, Jude, what about Luca and Malea? I don't think Malea even remembers you! She was so little last time you were home. Luca isn't much different. He's only 6. I can't stand to see them not being able to know their big brother. They don't deserve that. Malea, she's so cute, last night she asked Luca to read to her. He had such a hard time with some of the words in the book but even so when he finished she said, 'I love you Luca. You're the bestest big bruder.' I want her to be able to say that to you, Jude! Hell I want Luca to be able to say that to you."

Jude cut me off. "Keagan, listen-."

"No, Jude," I retorted, "you listen. Malea and Luca have me and to an extent that's fine. But I can't be there for Luca in the same ways that I can be there for Malea. I'm not a guy. I don't know guy stuff. Sure I can rebuild an engine and replace and transmission just as well as most professional mechanics but let's face it, I'm a girl. I know about girl stuff. Please, Jude, for the sake of your 6 year-old brother and 3 year-old sister, if not for the sake of your twin, please stay."

"Are you done?" he asked me in a dry tone.

I didn't say anything so he turned me towards the park gate and said, "We're going home."

The walk back to the parking garage and then the ride back to Jersey were both silent. For once in our lives, neither of us had anything to say.

The silence echoed around us as I thought about what I had said. I didn't regret saying any of it, at all. He had needed to hear it. But maybe it hadn't been the best time. Maybe it had been too soon to say anything about it. I was so lost in thought that I didn't even realize where we were until we pulled into our driveway.

After I got out of the car I walked straight through the front door and up the spiral stairs to my room. I locked my door and collapsed face first onto my bed with a grunt. A few minutes later I rolled off of my bed and went to my closet. Very few people knew that I actually had a second room behind my closet and because of this fact I spent a majority of my time at home there. I grabbed my laptop off of my desk and fell onto a chair. I twisted the screen of my computer so I could use the touch screen to draw.

A few hours later, after I had calmed down a bit, I went down to the kitchen to find something to eat. Luca was sitting at the bar eating a banana when I walked in. I grabbed a carton of strawberries from the fridge and the sugar bowl and sat beside him.

"Sissy," Luca said in a tiny voice, "why is Jude so angry?"

I turned to look at the sweet face of my eight year-old brother. How was I supposed to explain to him that I yelled at Jude and basically called him a horrible brother?

Luca took a strawberry and dipped it in the sugar just like I always did. Finally I said, "Jude and I had a fight but it's going to be ok. Don't worry squirt he's not angry with you, promise."

After reassuring Luca not to worry he crawled into my lap, gave me a hug, kissed me on the cheek, and said, "I love you sissy."

I smiled. "I love you too squirt."

Then he ran from the kitchen and up the steps. I'm sure Malea wanted him to read to her again.

I finished the strawberries left in the carton and went up stairs to say good night to Malea. When I was at her door I stopped when I noticed Jude reading to her and Luca. I stood in the doorway while he finished the story.

"…And they lived happily every after. The End."

"Jude," Malea squeaked, "you and Keagan are bruder and sister right?"

"Yes, Malea," he said, "we are."

Malea thought for a minute. "So does that mean that you're my bruder too? Like Luca is?"

I had to hand it to her; the girl was way smart for her age.

Again Jude said, "Yes, Malea. I'm you're brother just like I'm Luca and Keagan's brother. But now I think its time for you to go to sleep."

"I love you, Jude," the little girl said.

"I love you too," he replied. "And you too, Luca. Come on I'll tuck you in."

Jude picked up Luca and carried him like an airplane towards the door. When he saw me I moved aside to let him pass to take our brother to his room. When he was gone I walked over to Malea's bed and sat down on it.

"Hi sweetie. Did you like your story tonight?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered. "I like, Jude. He's fun."

I smiled. "I like him too. He is fun. But sweetie, you really need to go to bed."

"I love you, Keagan," she said.

"I love you too, Malea. Sweet dreams."

With that I kissed her on her forehead, stood up, rustled the feathers on her dream catcher and started to leave the room. I had just turned the light off when I heard a little voice saying, "Keagan."

I sighed. "What is it sweetie?"

Malea didn't say anything for a minute. I thought she had fallen asleep but then suddenly, "Do you think Jude will stay?"

Crap. What is it with the little kids in my family being so freaking smart and observant? I took a deep breath before saying, "Yeah Malea, I really do. Now go to sleep."

And with that I shut her door to go to my own room. When I got there Jude was sitting on my chair. I ignored him at first and went to my bathroom to shower. However, when he was still sitting in the exact same spot when I was finished as he was when I first got back, I figured if he wanted to talk then whatever. It couldn't really get any worse than it had earlier. I sat down on my bed and brushed my hair as we looked at each other waiting for someone to say something.