Author's Note: I'm currently working on about four stories at a time at the moment, + real life, and it gets a bit hectic, so just yell at me if it's taking too long to update. :)


Chapter One.

'Gone'

I refused to accept what I was hearing – my mind couldn't wrap itself around the words, couldn't absorb them, they were just bouncing around in my head, unable to take on any real meaning.

All I felt was shock. My whole body was slow on the uptake. Only half of my brain knew what was going on – the other half wondered what I was doing here, wondered if I was dreaming, thought crazy things like "Did I remember to take out the garbage?" . This couldn't be happening. It was all a sick little joke of Brooke's – she'd always had a twisted sense of humor. But then, why were there police here at my school? A part of me knew, though I didn't want to accept it, that Brooke would never have been able to enlist the police in playing a part of her silly prank.

So then it was true.

The words rang out, loud and clear, ringing like a bell through my head: "Brooke is dead." No. It couldn't be. She was only sixteen.

"… Her body was found last night, behind a dance club just outside the city," Officer number one stated, sounding cold and detached in his "professional voice". "Her wallet was still on her person, so we know she wasn't robbed. She also had sticker on her hand with the words 'firestarter'... Her teachers say you and she were close?" It was more of a statement than a question, really. But there was something more there, an undercurrent of accusation. They thought that I had something to do with it? "Did she have any rivals, anyone who had threatened her or hurt her before? Did she have people who didn't like her?"

I scoffed, my sarcasm coming back to me, though the rest of my brain was still uncomprehending. "It's high school. Everyone has rivals and enemies. Or fake friends. This isn't petty hatred you're talking about, though, is it?"

"There was a high level of alcohol in her system," Continued officer one as if I hadn't spoken. "Her murderer could've gotten her drunk, and easily overcome her, he could've taken advantage of her, or suffocated her, anything… But we haven't ruled out suicide yet."

The word sent arrows throw my chest. "Suicide?" I choked. Officer number two raised an overly bushy, toot thick eyebrow.

"You don't think she'd have any reason to want to kill herself, do you?" He asked unapologetically.

I shook my head. "She'd just broken up with Tyler, but she wasn't too beat up about that. She was always such a positive person, and she was the one who broke up with him." I said numbly.

The policemen shared a darkly significant look. "That will be all. - We won't know anything until the autopy results come back, anyhow." Said officer number one brusquely, "Thank you, Miss Davis."

They got up and left, but my muscles refused to move. I sat paralyzed, frozen in my seat, horror-struck, forced to stare miserably at the wall. Brooke, my best friend since grade two, the person I'd shared everything with, was gone. She was … dead. She'd been murdered, or had committed suicide. It was a lot to swallow at once, and it caused a lump in my throat. The feeling just wouldn't return to my legs – I couldn't stand up, and I was having trouble breathing.

I thought a teacher would come and find me, but no one came for a long time, at least an hour passed with me glued stiffly to the chair. I was starting to debate screaming, when someone walked past the doorway, and turned to look in, surprise written all over his face.

Tyler James was crouching in front of me, peering at me with eyes shining with concern. I was surprised he had the nerve to talk to me after what he did to Brooke – it may have killed her.

"Daphne … What's wrong?" Tyler asked quietly, grasping my shoulder. I blinked at him, managing only a kind of whimper in reply. He shook me gently, but my teeth still rattled. "Daphne? What's the matter? Did something happen to you?" There was a slight panic creeping into his tone now. I had to respond.

"Not … not to me." I breathed, "To Brooke. Brooke is gone, Tyler." I watched him gape at me for a few seconds before his mouth popped open to form a little "o" of horror.

"What do you mean, 'gone'?" he asked shakily. I suspected that he already knew the answer, and I hated to be the one to voice it out loud – saying it just seemed to make it real, I hated it.

"Gone. Brooke is … they said she's … they think it might've been suicide." I croaked. I didn't stay to watch his face as what I said sunk in. I didn't dare to watch as the denial, the shock, the horror flickered across it, as I was sure it had mine. The second I gained back the feeling in my legs, I ran for it.

I was headed for sanctuary, for escape; for the girl's washrooms on the second floor.

I pushed the door open, my knees already starting to give way, they were shaking so badly, and I crawled for a stall. I managed to haul myself in and slam the door shut behind me, and I sank to the floor on my stomach, my forehead pressed against the cold toilet, breathing hard, blinking away tears.

My best friend couldn't have died. She couldn't have. That would mean that I would never get to hear her laugh, or joke, she would never scold me for saying something unintentionally mean, or gush on about her favorite boy this week, she would never again call me to help her babysit, or listen to her practice her singing.

I sobbed harder now, remembering the way her long auburn hair would never hang straight, even when she'd hot iron it over and over again. I remembered the way her navy eyes would light up when she was happy, or excited, or was enjoying giving someone a piece of her mind. And how they would darken and swim when she was sad, or mesmerized in something, like how she was in Tyler.

Had he really driven her to suicide? I found that hard to believe. Brooke wasn't the kind of person who would condone taking her own life, she'd always been so … bright. Like a beacon; she made everyone around her feel better, just by sharing her air. But, then, who would want to kill her?

I wiped the last of my tears from my eyes. Those stupid policemen were never going to find her killer. From now on, they would always refer to her as "The victim" or "The body", and assume that they were doing what they could. It was pathetic, and … as I saw a flash of orange under the sink, I bent down to investigate it. It was a sticker, bright orange with a blue flame, and black writing scrawled across to bottom reading "firestarter". Something tugged at the edges of my memory; hadn't the police mentioned Brooke wearing a sticker like this? She had to have gotten it somewhere.

I knew I'd seen this sticker somewhere before. It was a brand of some sort, or something. With a fresh pang, I realized that it was an energy drink. I knew, because I had seen one in the hands of a senior today. A familiar senior, one that I'd known for a long time – one that Brooke had known. With a sudden surge of anger, I bolted toward the door.

Just as I knew I would, I found Tyler in the same room that I had been trapped in, muttering ominously to himself, watching the clock tick away each second. His eyes were red and raw, and I knew mine must look even worse, but I didn't care at the moment. This wasn't about me. I hated sinking to the level where I had to ask assistance from my friend's unfaithful ex-boyfriend, but there was nothing else to do. This was important.

"Tyler," I said gruffly, trying to get his attention, "Tyler … I'm going to need your help."