'Cause your pain is my pain
We'll go out of this just the same
We're better when our paths combine

-Rogue Wave, I'll Never Leave You


i'll never leave you.

The first memory Addy had was of when her father had died.

She was nearly two months shy of her sixth birthday when her mother got a call saying her father's plane to Germany had crashed and that there had been no survivors found. Her mother was devastated; she didn't come out of her room for three days straight. She began drinking heavily, taking large doses of narcotics.

Addy was too young to know what depression was. All she knew was that her daddy wasn't going to come back home and that her mum had been locked up in her bedroom, crying, for what seemed like ages.

The housekeepers grew worried about Addy being neglected when Anthea refused to answer the pleas sent through the door. They could only take care of her for so long, so Veronika, one of the more elderly maids, called the Grants, telling them of what had happened. The Grants, worried about their friend, rushed right over.

When they arrived at the Hardwick estate, neither Anthea nor Addy were to be found. One of the maids explained that Anthea had been locked up in her bedroom since the phone call. No one had seen or spoken to her since. Julia, concerned, rushed up the stairs to Anthea's bedroom, in hopes of getting her up and out of bed or, at the very least, getting her away from the drugs and alcohol.

Nicholas then asked, "Where's Addy?"

The maid looked at him sheepishly. "Don't know," she mumbled. "We've been looking for her everywhere. She's been missing nearly two hours."

At hearing this bit of news, Alec began searching the house for his missing best friend while his father went outside, calling her name.

After scouring all the usual hiding places on the first floor, Alec headed upstairs to Addy's room. He opened the door and looked around the usually tidy lavender-colored room, taking in the mess around him, before heading straight towards the bed. Kneeling down next to the bed, Alec raised the bed skirt off the ground and bent down to look under it. Looking straight back at him where a pair of familiar blue eyes.

"What're you doing down here?" Alec asked her, amusement evident in his sapphire eyes.

"Hiding," came the quiet reply.

"From?"

There was a pregnant pause. "Dunno," Addy finally admitted.

Alec continued to stare at his best friend. There were tear tracks down her face and her eyes were red and puffy from all the crying she'd done. There were purple circles under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept for a while. She seemed so fragile.

He didn't know how to react. She was normally so strong; nearly indestructible. When Trevor Sheehan had pushed her down into the dirt and she'd scraped her knee, she hadn't even batted an eye; instead, she'd pushed him right back. When she'd fallen out of a tree and fractured her wrist, she hadn't let a single tear be shed. When her mother had gotten angry at her blatant defiance and slapped her across the face, Addy had only stared at her mother blankly as Anthea broke down crying, trying to apologize.

Alec didn't know what to make of her current state. It hurt to see Addy this way – looking so tired and broken. He wished he knew how to make everything better; make it hurt a little less for her.

Alec lay down on his stomach and slid under the bed next to Addy. As he got closer, he could see her trying to hold back tears.

"It's alright to cry, you know." Addy brought her watery eyes up to meet his. "He was your dad, after all."

"Everyone's going away." Her voice sounded raw, evidence of the tears she'd been crying.

"Who's everyone?" Alec inquired gently.

"Daddy. Mum."

"Your mum's not gone anywhere. She's just sleeping. Really. My mum went to go wake her up."

"Still," Addy said, sniffling. "Everyone's going to leave."

Alec thought about this for a moment.

"Well, maybe someday they will," Alec replied truthfully.

At seeing her pain-filled expression, he took her hand and looked deep into her icy-blue eyes. "But I'll never leave you, Addy."