Chapter One: Part 1

"Alice." The sound was nothing more than a caress, a whisper among the leaves. Alice could barely discern it from the wind that was blowing past, cooling her cheeks.

"Mom?" she spun around. "Mom! Where are you?" she chased after the voice, wanting to hold on to it forever. "Wait! Come back!"

Alice shot up in bed, sweating hard. She glanced around her room and sighed. The meadow was gone, replaced with lime green wallpaper that partially hung on the wall. Alice frowned at it, knowing she should fix it. But she couldn't. Lime green was her mother's favorite color.

She rose, got off of her bed, and crossed over to her dresser. Her raven hair stuck out at all angles, causing her to look like a coconut tree—after it had been shocked to oblivion in a lightning storm. Her eyes, once full of light, glared sullenly. Should I put on concealer? She mused, then shook her head. Nah. After all, today's one more day. Big deal. Nothing special.

Alice methodically went through her morning functions. Brush teeth, comb hair. Pull on some clothes that reasonably matched. And to cap it all off, her favorite bracelet; a silver chain with a small bottle dangling off of it.

Putting on the bracelet was Alice's favorite part. She loved the way the chain rested on her wrist, snuggled between her wrist bones. But what she loved even more was the bottle on the bracelet.

The bottle was actually a hollowed out piece of plastic, designed to look like a jewel. It had once been a pair of earrings that her mother always wore. One day, it snapped off. Her mother had picked it up. "It's broken," she'd declared. Their dog, Ai, had whimpered pathetically.

"Huh?" Alice asked. "Whaddya mean?"

Her mother smiled, then gave it to her. "It'll be our little secret," she whispered to her daughter. "Yours and mine."

Alice fingered the bottle absentmindedly. Inside it, there was one drop of vanilla-scented body oil. Alice personally preferred berry scented, but she knew preference did not matter now. She'd have preferred her mother to be here, with her right now, but was that the case? No. Janice wouldn't be coming back.

Alice threw on her windbreaker, then gave herself a once-over. She wasn't terrible looking, she knew. With dark hair against a pale face, she was luckier than others, who had to worry about zits or pimples. Gathering her long hair and pulling it back, she readied herself for another boring day.

She jogged easily to Belleview High. Leaning against her locker, she waited for her friend Maria to arrive. She didn't wait long. Maria Harrington came speeding up on her.

"Oh my gosh!" she said breathlessly. "Kayla got concert tickets to Beyonce tonight!" She jumped up and down, obviously excited. Alice looked up at her. "Beyonce?" I'd rather chew my own thumb….

"Er…I can't," Alice lied, managing to look trite. "Need to study."

Maria looked crestfallen. "But Kayla had extras and she gave them to me…." Her voice trailed off. "I thought you loved Beyonce!"

Alice choked back a laugh. Loved Beyonce? Please! I'd rather swim with a shark, she thought darkly. "Nah," she replied. "Sorry, but I can't. Besides, what were you doing, hanging out with Kayla? She's so bitchy."

It was true. Kayla, the most popular girl at Belleview screamed money and attitude. Her demeanor was enough to send even the sanest person up the wall.

"It's probably a trick," she told Maria. "You know how much she hates us, 'cuz we're not rich."

Maria's eyes widened as she started to understand. "Yeah," she murmured. "Screw Beyonce."

Alice chuckled. "Yeah," she agreed. The bell rang, signaling the start of first period. "Well," Alice sighed. "See ya."