Prologue

Prologue

I blinked, feeing my cheeks flush. Fully aware of all the eyes staring at my back, I cleared my throat. Looking down at his sleek, black casket, I knew he would've made fun of me. Totally opposite of each other, he loved being in the spotlight. I clutched my single white rose closer to my chest, and took a deep breath.

"My brother…" I had to stop to cough. The words had come out forced, painful.

"You were too young. I'll thank God every day for blessing me with such a great role model and friend. Not once did you let me down, never did you disappoint me. I… I loved you," I said, fading away. No matter how much I wanted to cry for him, the tears did not come. With a sigh, I held the rose over his grave, and slowly pried away every finger until the delicate flower dropped. I took my time walking back over to my seat where my mother and father waited, both crying quietly. No matter how much I wished I could join in their mourning, my body seemed to refuse.

I looked down at the ground and waited patiently as everyone else walked by and said a few words to Shane. Everything that was murmured was polite, either about what a great kid he was, or how much he'll be missed. I was staring at a particularly interesting clump of sod when I realized that nothing had been said for a while. I waited, but still… silence. My gaze flickered up to the casket.

Standing there was a tall, thin teenage boy. I decided he couldn't have been one of Shane's friends; he looked too young. Besides, his friends mostly consisted of the college football and softball teams, and everyone was present and accounted for. I watched in mild curiosity as the boy seemed to struggle with words, and in the end decided on silence. He held several daisies that he allowed to lightly drop, and with a grim nod, he began to make his way back to his seat. My eyes followed him, and just before he sat down, his gaze turned and met mine.

I blinked in surprise, and quickly looked away as the blood rushed to my cheeks. I waited for approximately two minutes, counting to myself, until I discreetly looked back over in his direction. He was still watching me, his expression unreadable. His dark eyes held mine for a brief moment before turning away. I didn't look up for the rest of the service, though that piece of sod wasn't nearly as interesting as it had been.

I went throughout the rest of my day feeling numb; forbidding myself to think about why I had on a black dress, why the doorbell was constantly ringing, why our fridge was loaded with consolation casseroles. I waited patiently until I figured it was late enough, and excused myself to bed early. As I wandered into the restroom to brush my teeth, I winced at the girl looking back at me in the mirror.

Her long, curly brown hair was a tangled, frizzy mess, and her normally bright green eyes were pale and watery. The black dress she was wearing made her already fair skin look abnormally white. The long day had caused deep circles to form under her eyes, and her delicate features appeared fragile. I forced myself to look away.

As I climbed into my bed, a wave of exhaustion hit me with such force that my eyes struggled to stay open. Despite the fact that every part of my body willed me to give in to the enclosing darkness, I knew that I couldn't trust my mind in unconsciousness. I pulled my body into a tight ball, perhaps in a measly attempt to defend myself from the emotions I had taken care to bury, and was immediately pulled to sleep.