Chapter: 1

How do you cope with a sadness that cannot be defined? The kind that consumes your body and you can't find an end. Losing yourself in your own thoughts.

I wonder if there will ever be a full solution to this question as I run on the worn down trail. I fix my eyes on the girl ahead of me, the trees flying past me as I gain speed. I'm on my fifth mile today, one more to go. It won't take long, as my miles range from six and a half to six minutes at top speed. As the girl's head turns, she sees I'm catching up to her, and begins to run faster, but I'm already a few feet away. My dad always says the person behind always has lead, when trying to out run an opponent. I thought this was because you can tell when that person is tired, but the real mission is to break them, to have their concentration give out. But this girl would not break. I begin to push myself harder, until our feet are in rhythm. The spot where we finish is one hundred yards away, and I flat out sprint. Ten, five, two yards away. I can feel my energy depleting slowly until I cross the end of the road to the finish.

"Nice job Dakota!" The girl tells me whose name is actually Emily. Emily was the person who I constantly tried to beat but never could. She had long blond hair and deep blue eyes, which was a trait I was jealous of.

"Thanks, you too." I say breathlessly trying to walk off the real pain I was in. My head pounded in my skull. It took me a long time to slow my breathing. When the team returned to the track, our coach said a few words about each member. It was our last practice of the season. I was disappointed, cross country was the only thing that I was really passionate about. After practice was over, I rode my bike back to my house. My family lives in a small town called Crowheart, which only has a few stores and some neighborhoods that surround the area. My father, who never seems to be around, works for the military. He's the one who builds the weapons used in battle such as tanks, guns, and planes. As for my mother on the other hand, she stays home and cares for the house and my younger brother, Ben. Ben wants to be in the army like my dad, but he's thirteen, and needs one more year until he's drafted. My family has dark brown hair, sea green eyes, and a light complexion. These traits are uncommon in Crowheart, so we stand out a bit. For example, earlier this Summer I met a boy out in the apple orchard. His name was Aaron Prechet. Aaron had Black wavy hair and tan skin. He lived in Hesley, the town across from Crowheart. It was there that he gave me some lovely blue flowers and told me that they were unique, like my eyes. I couldn't help but smile, I remember telling him that I would meet him the next day, but he never came.

But now it's fall, and everyone works for harvest season, including children. So my family and I endure long hours in the fields each day until we gather enough food for the community stores. Today is wheat. I got about five pounds worth this afternoon before cross country, so my shift is done. When I entered the house, my mom was baking some brownies.

"Hi Dakota! How was your practice?" my mother asks, glancing in my direction.

"It was okay, I ran six miles, but it didn't matter because Emily beat me-again." I say, reminded of my disappointment.

"Oh well, there is always next season!" she tells me, trying to be optimistic.

"What's the brownies for?"

"There's a new family that just moved in across the street, would you like to bring them over?"

I thought about saying no, but because it was my mom, there wasn't any real option.

"Fine," was the best I could come up with. I grabbed the brownies off the counter and walked outside onto the driveway. I looked for the house with the old windows and creaky steps. The one that's been for sale for years, until now. It was three blocks to my right. When I got to the front door of our new neighbors home, I pulled back the screen door and knocked on the wooden frame.

"I'll get it!" I heard a muffled voice from behind the door. A young girl answered, she seemed about five or six years old.

"He-are those brownies for me?" She asked. Her light brown eyes met mine with great curiosity.

"Well, yes for you and your family." I tell her in the sweetest voice I could.

"Monica! Who is at the door?" A male voice called from within the house.

"It's just a girl with some brownies for me." Monica obviously did not understand the concept of sharing. Suddenly a tall, thin boy came to the door. He looked very different compared to his sister, with grey eyes, pale facial features and sandy blonde hair.

"Sorry," the boy tells me as he pushes Monica aside towards the house.

"It's fine, I just thought your family would like some welcome brownies." He laughed and took the plate.

"So what's your name?"

"Dakota, what about you?"

"My names Jace." He says. I looked at him confused, I had never heard of the name Jace before.

"I know, I know it's a weird name. My mom likes to be unique." He said, seeming embarrassed by his name.

"I don't know, I kind of like that name. Besides, my names Dakota, and I'm a girl." All he did was laugh so I guess he felt better. Later, he invited me inside and I assumed my mom would be okay with it.

"Well hello there!" A woman greeted me and told me to call her Mrs. Commer. Although they had just moved in, the Commer's worked fast. The kitchen had beautiful granite, and the dining room held an elegant chandelier. All the other rooms were piled high with boxes.

"Come on." Jace motions toward the stairs leading up to his room in the attic. When I walk in I immediately notice the walls that are filled with pages and pages of written letters, essays, and stories.

"Like to write huh?" I say sarcastically, examining one of the papers above his nightstand. From reading the first paragraph the story seemed like it would be good, if it got finished. I look all around the room and find that all of the stories are incomplete.

"Why didn't you finish any of these?" I ask.

"I couldn't figure out how, writers block I guess."

"Oh. Well they seem like they would be great." I tell him, which was true. But Jace said nothing and took me to the guest room on the other side of the hall.

"So Dakota, you play any sports?"

"Yeah, I run in cross country, but my last practice was today." I was about to ask him what sports he did, until:

"I don't consider running much of a sport, I mean what's the whole point? You're just going to get tired." A fatal mistake, that poor Jace has made. I immediately felt defensive.

"What's the point? The point is to get better, it can help you do well in other sports and maintain good health!" I gave him a glare that I instantly regretted. This was because his face looked as though the roof was about to fall on top of us and crush us to smithereens.

"I'm sorry Jace, I just really care about running and when people disrespect that I get carried away. I should be more considerate, especially because you just moved here."

"It's okay. I can see you love the sport." Afterwards we talked about school and I told him how things work around Crowheart. He appeared like he understood what I was saying, but I think he was totally lost. He also told me about his past and how he wound up here. It turns out he's actually from Willow Creek. I've never heard of the area but he said it wasn't far from our town. He had to move because his dad got a new job as a bank accountant. Jace then told me that he had been put up for adoption and eventually got taken in by the Commers. Other than that, the whole thing wasn't all that interesting, but I pretended to pay attention. At about four I told Mrs. Commer I should get going.

"Thanks for the brownies Sweetie!" She called through the living room.

"No problem, I'll see you later Jace!" I yell over my shoulder as I shut the screen door behind me. I ran back to my house as fast as I could.

"Mom! I dropped off the brownies! I hope you don't mind I kind of got to know the family a little."

"Oh that's great Dakota! How was it?"

"It was pretty fun. I met a boy named Jace and his little sister Monica." That was all the information I would provide for my mother. We didn't share that special bond that most mothers and daughters have. Later, Ben and I talked about the next season of cross country. Ben was just as avid towards the sport as I was. He explained his running technique to me for the hundredth time. He starts out slow and steadily increases his speed and goes for it all at the end of a race. When dinner was held, we said grace, and ate our bread and soup in silence.

I didn't get much sleep during the night. My head was killing me and I woke up several times. But that happens often so I didn't think much of it. When I got up I threw my hair into a ponytail, dressed into my favorite working clothes and pulled on my best working boots. Once I headed out the door, I made my way out to the fields to harvest the corn. In the rows of crop, many of the workers were already driving out to the far end of the acres. I began to rip the stalk out of the soil when I saw him. Aaron. He was here. I didn't understand why he would even be near this territory considering that Hesley had their own food supply to worry about.

"Aaron!" I call, jogging through the maze of corn towards the spot where he stood. He looked up from hearing his name, but he could not see me through the leaves. I ran past the outer edge of the land and cut in to the aisle Aaron was at.

"Aaron! Hey!" I shout while coming into his line of vision. His face displayed confusion at first, then registered who I was when I walked up to him.

"What are you doing here?" I ask.

"Why do you care?" he countered. This question took me by surprise. I really didn't know why I cared weather or not he was here. So that's what I told him.

"Well now that you mention it I have no idea." I say

"Guess you better get back to work then." He tells me, obviously annoyed that we were talking. Something has changed about Aaron. I wonder if anything bad happened since we last saw each other.

"Is everything okay Aaron?"

"Yes! I'm fine alright! Just go back and collect the corn."

"No." I knew I was being stubborn but I wanted to know what was going on. He just sighed and brought me away from the fields and took me to the woods behind our neighborhood. From there he showed me a place that was familiar to me. It was a big Maple tree in the middle of the forest, and it had two smooth rocks beside it. I used to come here when I was little to collect the sap for the syrup on our pancakes. When we sat down on the rocks I looked at Aaron and realized tears were streaming down his face.

"What's going on? Why are you crying?" I question. I wanted to make him feel better, even though we don't know each other well, his pain made me feel sad.

"The train station blew up." He said between gasps.

"What does that matt-" I began to say until he cut me off.

"My whole family works there!" he screamed, sobbing now.

"My brothers, my mom, my dad all gone!" He stared at my face, waiting for my reaction.

"How did this happen?" I say, trying to calm him down.

"Everyone was at the station, waiting for the next train to arrive, when an alarm went off in the head building. My parents are in charge when those sort of things happen. On the radio, they were trying to get ahold of the conductor who was found passed out in the front of the train. No one knew why, we suspected a heart attack. Anyway the train sped out of control into the station, and came in contact with the fuel tanks on the side of the track. The explosion killed everyone within the area. My brothers were feeding the coal into the train, unaware of the entire situation. As for my parents-."

Aaron just stopped. I guess he couldn't find any more words to say. I felt so sorry for him, having nowhere to go. I was about to ask him why he was here again, but he read my mind.

"I'm here because of you." He says. I didn't see that one coming.

"What? Why?"

"Maybe you can help me, you know." It was then that I knew what he was implying. He wanted to stay with my family.

"Oh, Aaron I don't think-"

"Please! I promise it will only be until I can find a new family." His voice got shaky again so I told him I would have to ask my mom. After that I lead him to my house and introduced him to Ben and my mom.

"Hello my name is Aaron, its nice to meet you Mrs. Evens." He got up and shook my mothers hand. He really knew how to get on her good side.

"Nice to meet you too, Aaron. Is there anything I can help you with?" My mom glanced at me, and I began to tell her exactly what Aaron told me. By the time I was finished Aaron had tears in his eyes again. It's a good thing my moms a sucker for crying because Aaron is staying with us. It took awhile but my brother has gotten used to sharing a room. I think he likes it here, but all Aaron does is stay in his bed except for when he has to work. But even then he's silent. A few weeks later, he had to get a physical from Dr. Kane, the only Doctor in Crowheart. I decided to tag along because I wanted to ask him about the headaches I've been having.

"Why hello Mrs. Evens!" Dr. Knight called as we entered the office. I nodded and the doctor just did a polite smile in return. I don't think he likes me very much.

"Who's this?" the Doctor asked, inspecting Aaron.

"This is Aaron Prechet, he'll be staying with us for a while." My mother answered. She was not a fan of Dr. Kane either, but she didn't have much of a choice.

"So Mr. Prechet, you're here for a physical eh?" Aaron shook his head. Throughout the physical, Aaron did dozens of tests for balance, agility, and some other minor examinations. When the time came, I asked Dr. Kane about my headaches.

"Headaches?" He questioned. "How long and how often have these been occurring?"

"They've been going on for about a year, and nearly every day." I reply. My mom gives me a stern look when I say this because its news for her.

"I see, do you mind if we do a MRI?" He looks at my mother.

"Of course not, when is your earliest opening?" She eyes the clock.

"Right now." He chuckles as he takes me to a small room with a container that looks like a tanning bed.. When I climb inside and the lid is closed, it's a long wait with bright lights in my face and clanging in the back ground. When I am finally let out I return to our original room and waited for the outcome. Dr. Kane came in with a grave look on his face.

"We will not have the results yet." He tells my mother. "They will be in by Saturday."

"Thank you very much Dr. Kane." My mother replies and she walks out of the room, Aaron and I follow. After the physical, Aaron seemed to come out more often. Secretly I was glad, I liked to watch him draw. He was very good. Every picture he made was so detailed and beautiful. As he sketched his face looked so calm and focused. One day he noticed me staring at him. I was so embarrassed I got up from the bench we were sitting on and ran to the abandoned church and sat alone for a long time. Every night up until Saturday I had excruciating headaches, each one was the same, yet it got worse each night. When Saturday finally came, my mother drove me and Aaron back to Dr. Kane's office. As we waited, silence filled the room. When Dr. Kane entered, he studied his clipboard and sat on the cot across from the chairs we were sitting in. Taking a glance at my mom, he tells us the results of the MRI.

"I'm just going to be blunt." He says. My mom is alert now; I can see concern in her expression. Aaron is looking at the floor oblivious to his surroundings. I was just as intent as my mom.

"Your daughter has a brain tumor."