Chapter 1

I laughed and watched as some of my best friends passed the soccer ball back and forth, constant bickering sounding as they fought over who had the rights to have the ball and how everything the other did was 'illegal'.

Finally finishing braiding my seemingly endless hair-in reality, it only went to my hips-I jogged over to the three and they each looked at me to help them out with their impossible opponents.

Annie rolled her eyes at me. "Will you please tell Jamie that hip checks are not legal in soccer?" She asked and I bit my lip when Jamie scoffed.

"Will y'all just shut up?" My brother's girlfriend, Katy, shouted from his open bedroom window.

I sighed quietly and turned my gaze to that window. "I mean, you'd think some of you would have some appreciation for people's ears. Pathetic bickering is just makin' me want to smack y'all's heads together!"

"You know, Catty," Matthew called out and I knew this wasn't likely to end well. "Y'all having sex is not good enough reason for us to stay quiet!"

She turned bright red and slammed the window shut.

I turned to Matthew with a sigh and he shrugged. "I don't see why you let them walk all over you, Carolyn."

I knew he was entirely serious when he used my full name. "I do not let them 'walk all over me'." I mumbled, referring to my brother and his friends. Xander was my twin brother, older than me by several minutes. But he and his friends couldn't stand me. I hated it, yes. But I hated it because I adored Xander. I mean, I had always found him practically worship-worthy because he was my twin, he was my older brother, and he seemed to be good at everything he did.

There were some pretty major differences between us. The fact that I was the one who was struck with and survived leukemia when I was eight years old was not the least of the differences between the two of us.

He was tall, tanned, and popular. He was the school's football star and a perfect 'Golden Boy'. I was tiny-5'2" and small-boned- and was the quiet good girl. I was that girl that few people noticed, and if any of my brother's friends noticed me, it was usually to make an idiot out of me.

It was strange to comprehend just how different two twins could be when we were born simply eight minutes apart in age.

Matthew rolled his eyes at my denial, grabbing the soccer ball. "I should be going. Mom told me that I had to be home to watch Lina while she and Dad went out."

I sighed and watched him walk out of my backyard, around toward the front where he had his car parked. Jamie and Annie watched him go, their argument muted for the moment. The sighed at me and I held up my hands. "What?" I asked.

"Why does he get so frustrated with you sometimes?" Annie asked me in response, raising her brow.

"Because he thinks I let Alexander walk all over me," I responded, rolling my eyes at it.

Jamie very nearly snickered at that. "Oh, and I wonder where on earth he should have gotten an idea like that," She said, her voice laced with palpable sarcasm.

I sighed at that, barely keeping from rolling my eyes. Annie smirked slightly, sitting down on the grass and pulling off her soccer cleats.

"Do you not have gymnastics today?" Jamie asked after several beats of silence, looking at her cell phone clock. "It's already 4:30."

I shrugged slightly. "I am considering dropping it," I replied, my voice feigning nonchalance.

Both of my best friends' brows shot up, their eyes widening. "What?" they asked, their voices stunned.

I shrugged. "I think I might quit," I admitted.

"Why?" Jamie asked, both of them at a loss as to how they were supposed to react to my announcement. I had been taking gymnastics and dance since I was four years old.

"I'm just over it." I lied, looking over when I heard the wooden gate to the back of my back yard open. Russell walked in, his gaze never falling on me when he walked toward my house. Russell was Alexander's best friend. And mine, at one point. But that had long since passed.

He walked inside through the back door, never once even sparing me a glance. Jamie stuck her tongue out at his back, muttering more of her insults under her breath. I had some seriously mouthy friends.

"Jamie Marie," I said, reprovingly. She simply looked up at me, hardly affected by my tone.

"What?" she asked me in response. "It's not like you have the balls to stand up for yourself. And someone has to do it."

I looked to Annie for support on this, as she usually sided with me. She shook her head and held up her hands. "Don't look to me, Lyn," Annie spoke. "I have to agree with her on this."

I sighed at her uncharacteristic loyalty to Jamie.

Jamie smirked slightly at having Annie on her side for once. The two were like oil and water as far as getting along went, but it was strange because they were as close as I was to each of them.

I sat down so the three of us made a small triangle and started to stretch my flexible legs, having nothing else to do. And I had little patience for sitting still when I wasn't being forced to do such.

Jamie laid back, sprawling out as far as she could and making herself comfortable. Her short black hair stood out at all angles.

Annie tucked her legs to the side, her facial expression showing a mask that meant she was thinking of things she likely didn't wish me to know. Her red curls glinted in the sunshine, fanning out around her cheeks like candle flames, accented by the freckles along her high cheekbones. Her wide blue eyes met mine when she caught my furrowed brow. "What?" She asked, her thoughts slipping away.

"Nothing," I replied with a shrug, lying. There was a time when I couldn't lie to save my life.

Yeah, that wasn't the case any longer.

*.*.*

I laughed early Friday morning, watching as Matthew tripped three times while heading up the stairs in the school's foyer and then stumbled over his laces as he walked over to me, Jamie, and Annie.

He stuck his tongue out at me when he got over, having heard my laugh, and reached out to tug one of my blonde strands of hair.

"Ow!" I protested, leaning away from him and reaching out to kick him lightly with my left foot.

Annie and Jamie both rolled their eyes at our antics, entirely used to the two of us. Matthew, however, smirked at me and hugged the girls, completely skipping over me. I stuck my tongue out at him and I noticed the significant glances people were giving the two of us once again.

People were under the impression that the two of us should date and were dating, even though we weren't. They were just obstinate enough with the ridiculous idea that they assumed we were just keeping it a secret. We weren't.

We didn't even like each other that way-trust me.

He lifted my over-sized, over-stuffed book bag for me though when the bell rang. The way we treated each other only served to reinforce in others' minds that we were dating, but I wasn't about to treat him differently simply because of what others thought.

I walked with him to our AP Calculus class, grimacing slightly as we neared Coach Holland's door. I hated that class with a passion. He walked in behind me, turning off his phone as he did so. We sat down at our usual desks in the center of the class room-far enough away from the teacher that it wasn't awkward and we weren't called on for everything, but close enough that we would inevitably pay attention.

Coach Holland was about 28 years old and one of those women who would likely be forever young. She had that peppy personality-which made her the ideal cheer coach-and the big brown eyes with the perma-smile that seemed infectious. Unless she was teaching. Then it was just obnoxious because no one is that excited about calculus.

Matthew started clicking his mechanical pencil as soon as Coach Holland started speaking, one of the few sounds that drove me absolutely nuts. It was up there with things like hospital monitors, ambulance sirens, nails on a chalkboard, and silverware against a plate.

I reached out and stole his pen from him, giggling almost silently when he reached as far as he could for it and I held it just out of his reach.

I felt it swiped from my fingers. "Great." Coach Holland said, her words cheerful, "A new pen."

I looked at Matthew sheepishly when he looked at me flatly. I grabbed a normal, no-click necessary pencil and set it on his desk.

He stuck his tongue out at me and I smirked at him as he lifted the wooden pencil grudgingly.

I smirked slightly to myself, continuing to take the notes and opting to ignore the whispered prattle going on around me-the topic of most was my brother and his girlfriend. Supposedly, he had finally asked her to prom in some over extensive, elaborate way. And, if I was correct, she probably told him what to do. Simply because-and I don't mean to sound mean-my brother does not do 'elaborate'. Ever.

But, I suppose I can't exactly be the best judge of character when it concerns someone who has spent the past decade completely ignoring me, or, if not that, making snide remarks when he knew I was listening.

I felt Matthew's gaze on me a lot throughout the next half hour, undoubtedly concerned as to why I was so quiet.

I was pulled from my thoughts though, not by Matthew, by Coach Holland explaining that we had a partner activity that we would be working on in class for the next few weeks. Apparently a major project grade- as if AP Calc wasn't enough.

And, sadly, she would be choosing the partners based on who we didn't speak with in class. Honestly, I think she's just trying to find more ways for Matthew and myself to dislike her even more.

Coach Holland began to list the class's names in pairs, and the frown on my face grew more and more pronounced as the good names were wheedled out-Matthew's included. I looked at the teacher incredulously as she read my name aloud after Russell Heart's.

Matthew, of course, spoke for me. "You're shittin' me, right?" He asked Coach Holland, glaring over at Russell before looking back at her.

Coach Holland's brow rose. But, of course, because she's her, she responded with, "No, Matthew, I am not 'shitting you'. But my partner decisions are final. You'll begin work in class tomorrow. I will already have the desks put together in pairs."

There was a collective groan throughout the entire class and we all stood up heavily and gathered our things.

Matthew grabbed my book bag for me without thought, slipping it up and over his shoulder. He scowled in Coach Holland's direction before we exited the classroom. I decided that speaking would not help anything at this particular moment, and so remained silent.

The both of us ignored Alexander and his friends as we passed them, almost in spite of their rude remarks and jeering taunts. I had more than become used to them in the past three and a half years of high school.

Katy was the worst of the lot, though. She hated me simply because her boyfriend hated me. And she wasn't exactly one to make up her own opinion-where I went wherever my thoughts did; she went wherever the crowds of 'popular' people went.

It was difficult to see how different Xander and I had ended up, when we grew up practically attached at the hip. Well, we were until I turned eight. But before then, he and I did everything together-with Russell and Annie. So the fact that he hates me now is difficult for me to fully understand. I didn't know his reasons, or how he can't get over them.

Matthew and I met up with Annie and Jamie once more, almost trading partners this time. Annie and I walked to our science class, and he and Jamie continued on their way to phys. Ed. Annie was quiet as we walked, her thoughts likely lost somewhere.

"What's up?" I asked her finally as we walked into the class room, waving at Mr. Tungsten.

She looked at me, her green eyes brought back to reality. She shrugged after a moment. "I don't really know," She admitted to me, smiling sheepishly. I smiled back at her and we sat at our lab table. I was entirely used to her flights of fantasy.

We pushed the beakers around as we spoke to each other about what happened in our previous classes. She was floored by the fact that Russell and I had been paired together, but not angry. More sad. Especially when I informed her of the fact that Coach Holland had paired us with those we never talked to.

"It's strange to think that you and Russell don't ever acknowledge or speak to each other," Annie mused quietly, her voice soft. "It's hard to believe we were all once so close."

I nodded, fully agreeing with her. "At lea-" I started, but was interrupted by the teacher.

She nodded to me, as if she understood what I was beginning to say despite not having heard my entire statement.

Mr. Tungsten explained the Molality lab and we set to work, our conversation set to just the lab. We would talk about everything later.

Annie and I walked into the cafeteria after Chemistry, taking a seat at our usual table outside.

I slipped my sweatshirt off and opened my lunchbox. Jamie and Matthew joined us soon after, sliding into their seats.

Matthew started to tell us how ridiculous Jamie had looked while playing volley ball, her long legs flailing as she tried to get everywhere. Jamie was one of the tallest-and prettiest-girls in our grade. But she can't account for any athletic ability other than soccer, which was surprising simply because it's a sport that really does require quite a bit of dexterity and footwork.

I remained relatively quiet, something that was odd for someone as talkative as myself. But I was tired for reasons I was not willing to discuss with my friends.

Annie noticed my off state but chose not to say anything about it. I yawned quietly and Matthew looked over at me, his brow furrowing slightly.

His conversation with Jamie died down when Jamie noticed that he was no longer paying any attention.

I sighed almost silently when I realized he was looking at the wide bruise on my arm.

"What happened?" He asked, hid face covering with concern, a slight fear touching his eyes.