Chapter One: The Breaking

My older sister placed the mug of hot mocha in front of me as I reviewed my notes for our History examination today. I was perched on my seat in the dining room; my older brother was reading the newspaper across me while my sister prepared breakfast. This was our everyday life, we have parents but they're overseas and busy. My brother glanced at me above the newspaper and asked something about my dreams or if there was anything troubling that I need to tell them. I wondered if I'd been screaming in my sleep. I simply replied and told them it was nothing. My sister shoved a slice of bread into the toaster and looked my way, her eyes filled with concern.

It's always like this; I'm the one with the problem. They think I'm too young and too weak to experience the depression over the deaths of the most important people in my life: my boyfriend and my best friend. I hardly feel anything. It was years ago. The invisible scars have long healed and forgotten. I always told them that I was fine and there was nothing to worry about. But my sister being so sharp, noticed something was wrong with me. Weird. I don't even know what was wrong with myself, much less her.

"I'm fine." I repeated in a strained voice. I feel upset when they ask me about the things that I do not want to talk about. Lynn. Carlos. Deaths. None of that made me feel better. But I already convinced myself, those wounds have healed, they would no longer hurt. And I also don't know what to say, no words can describe what I feel. Actually, I feel nothing at all.

My brother scrutinized me every time he thinks I'm lying and I did the same. His dark brown hair was neatly combed and gelled to keep them in place, he had shaved too. His eyes were brown and his skin slightly tan; he has long eyelashes and a perfectly chiseled face. He looks like a cover model you see in a magazine but wore long sleeved white collared shirt with a necktie. He's always formal; everything must be organized and arranged. He looks like a Greek god in modern clothes.

My sister was different. Her hair was long and dirty blonde and, heart-shaped face and fair skin, light brown eyes and red full lips. She's tall and skinny, perfect posture, looks very intelligent and always smiles with her perfectly straight white teeth. She was still wearing her pajamas and her hair was ruffled and messy that waved behind her. She looked good in any clothes or accessories, it's unfair.

"Why don't you go to Ms. Leah after class, Van? Tell her something…"

I coughed, "I don't think it's a good idea to talk her. She's making me say things that I'm not ready to face yet, it's stressing me." I said, trying to sound reasonable. Most of it was true. Guidance councilors are all meddling into troubled teenager's personal life and smoothing it out. But for me, meddling is still meddling. They were still studying me intently, stopping at whatever they were both doing. It's not a nice thing to do to help a person doesn't want to be helped. And I'm fine on my own. No one can make me speak.

Finally, my brother nodded. He was usually the father of this house, his was the last decision. My sister was wise and way too sharp for her own good.

"Are you sure, Mike?" she turned her head to my brother, her eyebrows furrowed.

I kept my mouth shut this time. I sipped my mocha and looked through my notes again and started memorizing everything in my mind. I just need distraction; I read a few lines again and again then started mumbling them like incantations. They kept talking but I was so absorbed in what I was doing. I glanced up; they were talking in hushed voices. I can see their lips moving, forming every word that leaves their mouth.

Sister: You know, she's not alright.

Brother: I'm aware of that. But maybe we're wrong. Maybe she moved on about Carolynn and Carlos. And we're just crumpling the things she had smoothed months ago.

Sister: *purses her lips* No.

They were talking like I'm not even here, like I can't hear them. Maybe my ears aren't too sensitive to sounds but I sure can lip read.

The toaster rung and my sister turned around to pick it up and put them on the plates. My brother went back to his newspaper like nothing happened. I gulped my mocha down and my sister placed the toast on the table. I snatched one and stalked off the kitchen.

I climbed the winding stairs and walked through the hallways to my room. Everything was still the same, my things were where I left them and my collection of stuffed toys and plushies are neatly arranged in a floor-to-ceiling cabinet. I am very tidy, I have preferred to have plain white walls, no posters or portraits were hung, no flashy chandeliers on the ceiling but I also have taste in nice things. My bedspread was striped black and white, my pillows white with black laces and ruffles, the poles on my bed connected to a canopy that had the same design as my pillows. It reminds me of the jail uniforms somewhere in the West. My room didn't look like a girl's room at all, more like a nuthouse combined with touches of jail designs.

The toast was pinned between my teeth and my hands are busy unbuttoning my pajamas. I slipped my clothes off and shoved the whole piece of bread into my mouth then got into the shower.

I buttoned up my collared blouse and tied my maroon and black striped necktie. I faced the full-body mirror and smiled at the familiar image. My hair's always regularly dyed these past years black, it's long and straight. I have alabaster white skin, almost so pale that sometimes I'm having second thoughts if I even have blood flowing inside me. My eyes, troubled and indecisive on what color they should have; blue, green or gray or combination of those. I have my sister's lips and body, besides that I doubt I'm part of this family. I was wearing our school uniform, blouse with a breast pocket that held the school's crest, a tie and maroon pleated skirt.

I grabbed my bag from my study table and left my room and found my brother twirling the car keys around his finger and winked at me playfully.

I groaned.

My school lies at the end of a long uphill road, it's actually built on top of a hill. The road was sheltered with the tall leafy trees that cover most of the path with cool shade. We passed by students, who wore the same uniform with me, walking on the sidewalks, giggling and squealing with their friends. A few watched us pass by, then blushed when they see my brother driving. I was seated in the backseat, I usually get paranoid when I'm riding in the front. Paranoid. What a word. That's what happens when people who were very close to you dies one by one with short span of intervals.

My brother parked the car on the teacher's parking area, he got out and opened the car door for me. It's like this, he has a future on being a butler besides being an art teacher. I got out and straightened my skirt and tie, the wind blew, the trees rustled and some of its leaves floated by. My brother walked beside me and carried my bag. Typical Mike.

Livenson Academy wasn't a typical high school, it built ages ago. Its architectural designs were classy, almost church-like with its domes and arches, brick walls and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. It was used to be a school only for privileged girls but a few years ago it became co-ed. We passed through the courtyard then to the covered walk, most of the students greeted us while some just gave us long glances (stares). It's not often you see siblings with contrasting beauties. My brother with his dark skin while mine with almost white that I'd glow in direct sunlight. As much as I hate to admit it, we're quite popular. Like chocolate and milk.

"Go in, do you want me to fetch you home later?" he asked as he handed me my book bag in front of the high school building.

"I don't think it's necessary," I replied flatly. The students rushed into the building, some of them my classmates and some are people I personally know in the past. A few nodded at me in greeting while some of them actually said hi.

"If you need anything, I'll be at the staff room." He said as he stalked off.

I went inside.

Everything was normal, I went to all my classes and took notes, and answered all the questions of the History exam. We checked our own papers and I aced it.

I stared at my answer sheet, there was a perfect score scribbled in red pen on the top of the paper. Then suddenly, another one was slapped on my desk, it got the same score but the name written wasn't mine. Nathaniel Reed.

"See, I can do the same as you. But shame really, these exams aren't enough to tell which of us is better." He said as he took his paper again and studied it like the perfect score wasn't enough to satisfy him. He challenged me quite a lot, but I always preferred being left alone and he's imposing on my space as well as peace.

"Then what do you want to do art class tomorrow, maybe paint Mona Lisa?" I suggested as I rested my chin on my palms then looked at him. His hair was jet black and combed down neatly but it complemented his face, his eyes were ebony black, his nose straight and strong with his thin lips that mixed well together with his light skin color. He's someone you pass by a convenient store twenty-three times and still not notice. Too bad.

"Ugh…" He gaped at me for awhile, "…fine!" then he stomped off. Funny. I knew he was no good in art. I just need to shut him up. While I, basked in my brother's light got my fair share of artistic talent.

I stood up and went to the empty seat beside the windows. It was nearly the end of spring, and the leaves were starting to fall. It was lunch time, there were students eating outside since everybody hates the cafeteria and the mush they call food.

"Um, Vanessa." Someone poked me on the shoulder. I turned around, uninterested, "Ms. Leah told me on the way that she wants to see you. And I told her I'd convince you to… to…" she trailed off, knowing how ridiculous she was saying. Her, convince me? The face didn't register to my brain for a full minute.

Cara, the most shy of Carolynn's circle of friends. She fidgeted and fumbled with her necktie, like she was confused on what she should do.

"Please… go to Ms. Leah this afternoon… after class" her voice sounded very small and she started backing off a few steps.

"I'll think about it…" I said. Why am I being nice all of a sudden? She seemed to bright up then smiled shyly. Like I can scream at a very shy girl, I'd scare her shitless.

"It was nice talking to you again." With that, she left.

Maybe I should go to the Guidance, after all.

The air wasn't really warm inside the guidance office but I couldn't help but feel claustrophobic. There were no windows, the walls were plain gray and troubling. The office was square and big but was really stuffy. I leaned back and unbuttoned my collar button then loosened my tie. I was having hard time breathing normally.

Ms. Leah was writing something on her notebook. "So, how are you these past few days?" she asked and looked up. She was young, around late-twenties, her hair tied into a bun, her dark brown eyes focused but thoughtful. She was pretty and I really wondered if she was really single.

"I'm fine… Can I go now?" I tucked the stray locks of my hair behind my ear.

"Why do you want to go? Some assignments? Extra lessons?" Ms. Leah asked, while scribbling something on the notebook.

"Hmm…" I nodded, keeping my lips a straight line.

"Why don't you tell me about Carolynn? Carlos, perhaps?" she looked at me, dark eyes piercing me.

"What do you want to know? You have their background info, they have been in this school so you should know them personally." I said, equally gazing into her eyes, refusing to back down.

"Hmm… Can you tell me how you felt when Carlos died?"

"Horrible? I didn't know what to do?" A lie. I felt betrayed. He betrayed me, even with the last moments of his life.

"I see, about Carolynn then. I know it's been two years since, but I'm just smoothing out the rough edges so I can dismiss you… There's nothing wrong with you and I think you're brother's just paranoid, am I right?" More scribbling.

"Yes." I said in an indifferent tone. Carolynn. Carolynn. Lynn. Her smile, her contagious laugh, her bright eyes and my best friend. You left me alone.

"Okay then, go now. It seems like you're not comfortable talking today." Not in any day. "Come back tomorrow, I need some info on how you feel about something to end this case."

I nodded, grabbed my bag and left.

I closed my locker and grabbed my bag as I headed outside. I was greeted by a rush of cool chilling wind, I shivered a bit and tried to hold my hair from fluttering like crazy (skirt included, but good thing it didn't flash). There were a few students going home, heading for the gate. Some were doing their club activities, I can see the gardening club planting some seeds in a nearby flowerbed. The leaves floated by me, I continued to walk but was stopped when I saw something flash at the corner of my eye.

Every day I have convinced myself not to feel anything, because when you feel something it makes you sad. It makes you vulnerable and vulnerability makes you dependent, and being dependent makes you weak. Weak, is anything I want to be. Every single moment, I try to prove myself that I am strong, that I won't break, that I won't shed a single tear over the deaths in my life. But every death, a piece of me dies, too. Especially if the people who died have were the most important ones in my life. But it was years ago, it was in the past. It no longer matters. Or so I thought.

I have been putting up a wall from everyone because I refuse to feel the same sorrow of a loved one dying. The wall up till now was still standing tall. At least that was how I thought before this moment happened.

I saw her, and then something cracked. She was there, under that tree, standing and facing my direction. It fell and shattered into tiny little pieces. I have forgotten how to breathe. I snapped my fingers, reminding myself to calm down and inhale then exhale. Repeat, inhale exhale. The rest of the wall crumbled and broke, leaving me defenseless. My fortress destroyed.

She's there, almost invisible, but I can see an outline of the features. She's almost transparent, but she was glowing faintly like she was made of light from the sun that was filtered through the trees. I see the tree bark behind her clearly. She was beautiful in a pale sundress, her golden hair flowing behind her and fluttering by the wind. Her facial expression was neutral, like she couldn't decide which emotion she should feel: anger or happiness, smile or frown, cry or laugh. She's waiting for me to acknowledge her, to let her know that I can see her, sense her and feel her.

Something in my chest throbbed, my heart beating so fast that I was starting to hyperventilate. I snapped my fingers faster until they started to hurt. I close my eyes and took deep calming breaths. Inhale. She's not there. She's not there. I cannot see her. Exhale. No one is under that tree, just my eyes playing tricks on me. She's not there because she was gone. Long gone. She was dead. Dead.

When I opened my eyes she was no longer there, I sighed in relief. My snapping slowed and stopped. But I was still standing there like a statue. Not moving, waiting to see her materialize in front of me again. But no, she didn't appear. I didn't know why I couldn't breathe. It felt like there was peanut butter clogged in my throat, cutting my air passages. I forced to swallow.

Something fell on my shoe, I looked down and found there was a drop of water that shaped a star. Is it raining? I held out my palms into the air, looking at the sky. No rain, nothing. The clouds looked like a mosaic portrait drenched in tears. Tears? I touched my cheek and noticed it was wet. Oh no. I wiped my eyes but they kept flowing, passing through my lips then to my chin. Dripped down. I'm crying? I don't understand.

Small cracks. Cracked some more. A piece fell and shattered below. Another one fell. And another one until it crumbled to ruins. My protective wall that keeps me away from pain was destroyed. The wall I built around myself in order for me to stay strong and standing, destroyed. Ruined. Demolished. Defeated. Just by a single sight of her.

A/N: Kinda long for a first chapter. But I decided to make the descriptions short bcuz, it's gonna get boring and you're gonna leave without feedback. But it's still kinda long. but anyway, *victory dance* Yeah-hey! I finally made another story! Pity me, I dropped my other story, so I kinda felt sorry for myself. I'm not really the type to finish what I started. SO I hoped you liked this entry… Mind telling me what you think?