Words could not explain Rose's emotions as she bent down to examine Reece.

She was too confused to process what was happening.

"What did you do?" She asked again, as she reached out to try and clear the blood from his face.

"Don't." He commanded, holding her hand away from him. "You'll get blood all over you."

"Yeah, I know." Rose scowled, and reached up with her free hand to gently touch his face. He winced and she pulled back instantly.

His nose was broken, which was obviously where all the blood had come from. The significant amount of bruises on his face was also impossible to ignore.

Instantly, Rose's shock twisted into fury.

"You idiot! I knew you shouldn't have bought that motorcycle! It's like you have a death-wish…don't even get me started on how you were driving the other day." She clenched her fists and raised her voice. "Were you even wearing a helmet? You know you could have died! You're lucky it's only your nose that's broken."

She glanced down at his other limbs and reached out to touch them to make sure that she was correct in guessing that he hadn't broken anything else.

"Rose…"

"No, I'm not done!" She shoved him roughly in the shoulder. "What would your mother say if she saw you like this? She would probably be in tears. You should start thinking of someone other than yourself for once!"

"Rose…I…"

"We just got Abby out of the hospital, what do you think it would do to everyone if you ended up there as well? You would be troubling everyone just because you wanted to have some cool motorcycle…does that even make sense?"

She had a long lecture planned out in her head, but the amusement in his eyes made her anger evaporate. Her cheeks turned a bright red as she realized how insane she must appear.

Reece surprised her by laughing, and wincing at the same time.

"You're so beautiful when you're angry." He managed between laughs. "It's not fair."

"Should I break another bone?" She asked with a scowl. "Or, why don't I do you one better, and go break your motorcycle?"

"Motorcycle, huh?" Reece's eyes grew serious for a moment. "I guess I can't let you do that. I wouldn't have a ride to school on Monday."

"You are an idiot." Rose hissed, crossing her arms.

"Yeah, maybe I am." Reece smiled sweetly at her. "You've been dealing with so many problems lately, it's unfair of me to be another issue."

"What problems?"

Reece laughed again, and lifted a hand to count off his fingers. "Wren, your brothers, Abby, and all of the other responsibilities you have. You barely have time to worry about yourself."

"Exactly, so don't worry me." Rose brushed her hair out of her eyes as she leaned in to better inspect his injury. "You can do us all a favor and sell your motorcycle."

"That would make you happy?"

"Yes." She glanced around her, looking for some kind of material to help wipe off his face. When she came up with nothing, she pulled off her sweatshirt.

"Why?" He asked as he watched her begin to clean the blood from his chin.

"I wouldn't have to worry about you killing yourself." Rose didn't mind that she was ruining her sweatshirt, but she was irritated that the already dried blood wasn't coming off as easily as she hoped.

"You worry about me?"

"Of course." Rose frowned as she tried to figure out what to do now. She didn't want them to end up back at the hospital, but he needed to be attended to by a professional. When Eric had broken his nose, Greg had taken him to the doctor the following morning.

As she tried to figure out what her next options were, she paused as she noticed Reece staring at her strangely.

"What?" She asked, raising one eyebrow.

"Did you hear what you just said?"

Rose tilted her head, wondering what he was getting at. "Sure?"

"You just admitted that you worry about me." His lips curled into a smile. "So I guess you do like me after all."

Rose felt her cheeks burn as she realized her mistake. She'd been so focused on cleaning him up, she hadn't been thinking.

"I already told you, I like you as a friend."

He smirked, rolling his eyes. "You're lucky I'm covered in blood right now."

"How so?" She replied stubbornly.

"If I wasn't, I would be kissing you."

Her eyes widened and she slowly retracted her hand from his face. "Excuse me?"

"You're so frustratingly beautiful right now." His laughter made her nervous.

"Stop." She warned. "I already told you I'm not interested."

"I know, I know." He leaned back and sighed. "This is just my last chance."

"What are you talking about?" She didn't like how his voice had begun to grow darker. "I'm sure you'll have tons of opportunities to flirt with me in the future."

"That's the thing…" His gaze locked with hers. "I won't have those opportunities."

She stared at him silently, expecting him to explain.

"I know I shouldn't tell you. It's not your burden to bear, but I can't help it. I want you to know." His voice broke as he watched her.

"Know what?" She narrowed her eyes, bracing herself for what he had to say.

"My motorcycle didn't cause this." He whispered, motioning to his bloodied face. "It was something a little bit worse."


Reece was skilled in knocking her life out of balance, though this blow was the first that caused her pain.

As they sat side by side on the park bench, Rose began to realize for the first time how blind she'd been for the past few months.

All of the signs, and all of the puzzle pieces had always been right in front of her eyes. If she'd just taken the time to ask the right questions, the answer would have been glaringly obvious.

Ever since his arrival, Reece had spent all of his time with her family. He'd first met Eric, then easily slipped into their group. All of the weeknights and weekends he'd spent with them were just starting to make sense.

Reece was always around, whether it was at school, or at their house. Her parent's had been strangely welcoming to his presence, and the whole family was willing to let him in. Even Eric, who was usually difficult to get close to, had pushed for Reece to be incorporated into their family.

Rose clearly remembered Eric's expression when he'd asked her to be nice to Reece. It had been an unusual request, given in an even more unusually strict way. Eric had never been so secretive, and back then it should've caused a red flag to go up in her mind.

The complete absence of his backstory should've also signaled that something was wrong. Despite the basics, Rose knew absolutely nothing about his home life. That is, until the issues he'd been hiding had crashed into her reality.

"Your dad did this to you?" She whispered, not knowing how to handle the situation.

He nodded, watching her face carefully. Reece was just as lost as she was on how to discuss his injuries. He read all of her questions, and attempted to smile.

"It's not really that big of a deal. I'm used to it."

She held his gaze for a long moment without saying anything. Reece obviously understood that this situation was a big deal, and that no one could ever be used to something like that. He was trying to make her feel better, though she didn't wanted to be treated like a child.

"How long has this been going on?"

"Just since I've moved here." Reece shrugged, and glanced at the ground. "I told you that I used to visit him occasionally, but that was a lie. I'd only seen him twice before coming to live here." His voice was calm, and it broke her heart to see how he'd already accepted this situation. "I left home without telling my mother, and ended up on his doorstep. Plane ticket, transportation, and money… I thought I had everything figured out."

"He let you stay?"

"I didn't really give him a choice." Reece's smile faded. "He wasn't bad a first. We got along okay. My mother was furious with me, but there wasn't much she could do with me being this far away." His hands shook, though his face was pensive. "It's really my fault that this happened. I should've known any man who would leave my mother was trash."

For the first time, Rose detected a trace of his anger.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Rose asked quietly. "Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"Eric knew from the beginning." He explained. "I met him when it first started getting bad." Reece smiled for a short moment. "He was kind of like you are now. He understood without asking for a lot of details." He paused and glanced up at her. "I think your parents guessed what was going on. I never said anything to them, but there's some stuff you just pick up on."

Rose felt her heart sink.

She should have been one of the people who picked up on this. Where had her head been that she was so oblivious to everything going on around her?

First, with Abby, and now with Reece, her friends had been enduring bad situations without her knowledge. She'd even been blindsided by Wren when he'd cheated on her.

Had she been so wrapped up in her own universe that nothing else got through? These were the people she was supposed to care about, and she'd had her head stuck so far down in the sand that she couldn't see anything clearly.

"I should've known." She whispered.

"I didn't advertise it." Reece answered calmly. "There are just some things you have to deal with alone."

"Reece, this is big." Rose's voice rose as she stared at him. "This is awful…and completely unacceptable!"

"I know that." Reece reached out to hold her hand. "I've known that for a long time."

"Why haven't you done anything?"

"I wanted to…but the only thing I know how to do is leave. I didn't want to run away unless I didn't have another choice."

Rose fell silent, realizing what he was trying to tell her.

"What about now?"

Reece paused for a moment, letting out a long sigh. "Now, I don't have another choice."

Rose felt like she'd just been hit with a wrecking ball. She'd never considered that Reece would leave, even though it was the most obvious answer.

"I'm sorry." She squeezed his hand tightly, though she couldn't look at his face. "I'm sorry I couldn't do anything to help."

"That's so like you." Reece laughed, and his voice sounded lighter than it had all night.

"I should be able to do something." She whispered.

"No, you shouldn't. You're only a kid, Rose." He reached out to lift up her chin. "There's nothing you could've done to protect me from my father."

"I know." Rose felt her throat begin to burn. "I know that, but I wish I had done something."

"You have done something." Reece smiled and winced at the same time. "You've made living here worth every moment." He sighed again. "You know, if you asked me to stay, I would do it."

"What?" She stiffened next to him.

"I'd endure all of it, if it was what you wanted."

"Are you insane?" She narrowed her eyes. "This isn't the time to be dramatic."

"I'm just being honest." He said with another laugh.

Rose's expression softened, but her answer would not change.

"I'm not going to ask you to stay here."

"You don't believe me?" He raised one eyebrow questioningly.

"No, I do believe you. Anyone crazy enough to drive a motorcycle into the oncoming lane of traffic is crazy enough to stay."

He smiled, and she smiled back at him.

Rose hadn't realized that they'd become so close that it actually hurt to think of him leaving. Watching him now, Rose felt her heart clench tightly in her chest. She felt her eyes begin to burn as she fought back tears.

When had Graham Reece become so important to her?

Without thinking she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him close.

Reece stiffened instantly, holding out his arms awkwardly as he tried to figure out what she was doing.

"I do like you Reece. I like you so much I'm going to let you go back to be with your mother."

He chuckled before comfortably resting his arms around her back. "Good try." He whispered. "Trying to confuse me, when you like me as one of your brothers."

"Don't say that as if it's a bad thing." She closed her eyes as she hugged him. "I'd do anything for those boys."

"I'm really going to leave." He whispered into her ear. "I think I have to go."

"Okay." Rose smiled into his chest, knowing she had to be satisfied with his decision. "Thanks for the ride, Reece. It's been fun having you around."

He pulled away, and grinned down at her. "Glad I finally learned how to make you smile." He examined her face carefully. "I guess, in the end, I can't make you shed a tear for my dramatic departure."

"I'm crying on the inside, I promise." She rolled her eyes, and he laughed.

"At least I know I'll be missed." He joked, leaning back against the bench. "Hey, Rose?"

"Yeah?" She answered, leaning back against the bench as well.

"What are you doing tonight?"

"Well, I was supposed to be on a date with this guy." She answered, glancing at him.

"How'd that turn out?"

"Not that great. Pretty depressing, actually."

"He sounds like a tool." Reece smirked, his eyes regaining their usual mischievous sparkle. "Could I steal a few more hours of your night?"

"What's in it for me?"

"A last, life-alerting date with yours truly."

"Oh, that's all?" She frowned, tapping her chin in thought. "I guess that wouldn't be too bad."

"Good." He reached for her hand, and pulled her off of the bench. "Let's go."


"I have a question for you." Reece turned his gaze towards her, and though he wasn't smiling, Rose could tell he was already planning something.

"What?" She knew enough of his personality to be wary.

All traces of his somber mood had vanished in the wake of his excitement. He'd led her to a secluded field adjacent to the park, and was watching her with amused eyes. She'd half expected something to jump out at her from the way he was so eager for them to hurry.

"If I asked you to do something completely reckless right now, would you do it?"

"No." She answered flatly, crossing her arms.

"Of course not." Reece threw up his arms and flashed her a smile. "That's what I do not understand about you."

She rolled her eyes, not understanding what he was trying to get at.

"Seriously," he continued, "you're this beautiful, intelligent girl, who could have the entire world if you wanted."

"But?"

"You're so controlled!"

"If by controlled you mean responsible, then yes."

Reece shook his head and laughed. "Okay, let me ask you this." He leaned in close. "Haven't you ever wanted to do something crazy? Just for the hell of it?"

"For example?"

Reece paused for a moment, then motioned out towards the field around them. "Take your shoes off and run through this field with me?"

"What would be the point?" She asked with narrowed eyes.

"That's the thing, there would be not point. That's why it would be fun."

"It doesn't make sense. It's cold, you are broken and bruised, and I don't want to take my shoes off. I've never had the urge to run barefoot through a field. It would be childish."

"You mean fun."

"You mean weird." She corrected. "We're not five years old."

"Who would think it's weird?" Reece made a show of looking around to see if there were other people looking. "I certainly wouldn't judge you."

"You are so strange." She replied, sighing. It felt like every time she spoke to him she was getting more and more confused. He was so unpredictable and she couldn't stand it. One minute she felt like she was breaking through the surface, and the next he was coming from an entirely different angle.

He offered out his hand to her. "The way I see it, you have three different outcomes. The first is that you run through the field, possibly tripping and getting hurt. That's probably what you expect. The next, is that you run through the field, and nothing happens to you. I assume you probably expect that to happen as well."

"And the last?"

"The last…" Reece smiled softly back at her. "The last is when you run through the field and you actually feel something."

"Feel what?"

"The feeling of when you stop just breathing and breathe for the first time."

"That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever." She answered with a scowl.

"You'll understand if you ever have the chance to experience the feeling."

"Oh, and you're experienced this magical feeling?"

"Multiple times." He winked back at her. "Though none of them happened while I was just standing and complaining."

"So you're saying that if I run through this field with you, I will have a life changing experience?"

"Maybe, maybe not. Isn't it worth the risk?"

"What risk?" Rose was nearly exasperated with his argument. The only she imagined she would get out of running through the field was a sweeping sense of embarrassment.

"Fine. Isn't it worth the effort?" Reece rolled his eyes, and reached out to tug on her hand. "Just run with me."

"You haven't given me a good reason why I should." Rose crossed her arms again.

"You are impossible to argue with." Reece grumbled. "Has anyone told you that you should be a lawyer?"

"How do you think I survive living with three boys? Knowing how to argue is my best skill."

"I can tell, but it's not going to help you out of this one."

Rose raised an eyebrow. "I think you underestimate how stubborn I can be."

He reached out to grab her hand again. "Rose, I'm leaving…either tomorrow or the next day I will be on the earliest flight out of the country. This is the last night you'll have to put up with me."

"You've got to be kidding." Rose scowled, hating how he'd just used that card against her.

She glanced at him, then at the surrounding field.

Pausing for one last moment, she sighed. "Fine. Just to the end of the field. Do me a favor and don't break any other bones, okay?"

Reece grinned instantly. Without wasting a moment, he tugged her behind him until they were running. He dropped his hand from hers as they sprinted through the tall grass, and raced ahead, sparking Rose's competitive spirit.

The moonlight was initially the only light guiding her through the field, but gradually another source began to rise around her feet. Rose had been so distracted by chasing Reece she had almost missed what was happening around her. Her eyes caught on the small balls of light that were floating around her legs, and she jumped away from them the moment they caught her attention.

She momentarily panicked before recognizing the little bugs that were lighting up the night.

"Fireflies." She whispered, her eyes widening as she stood staring back down the path she'd just made. Where she'd been only moments before was now glittering with hundreds of small balls of light dancing in the air. The trail of light ended where she was standing, and she glanced at her feet in wonder. "Impossible."

She took another step into the grass ahead of her, waking up the silent bugs that had been hidden on the ground. They flickered to life just as they flew into the air around her. She was so amused by the sight she didn't noticed Reece standing just a few feet ahead of her.

"This is impossible." She called out to him. "Fireflies don't come out in the winter."

Reece had a smug smile on his lips, and his eyes were laughing. Instead of speaking to her, he raced off down the other side of the field, bringing even more balls of light into the air.

She smiled at his retreating figure, and on impulse began chasing after him again. As she ran she lost all sense of insecurity, and momentarily returned to being a child. The cool night air, and the beautiful light show surrounding her made her forget everything.

Rose just ran as fast as she could, for as long as she could until her body was begging her to stop. Reece collapsed to the ground a moment before she reached her limit, and she was finally able to catch up. By now the whole field was alive with dancing fireflies. Rose fell down in the grass beside of him, laying down on her back and letting herself take deep breaths.

She turned to look at Reece, taking in his messy hair, ruffled clothes, and bruised face. There was something about his exhausted expression that made her want to laugh, and the moment their eyes met she began to giggle uncontrollably.

"What?" Reece asked, over and over, which only made her laugh even more.

She never laughed this much, or this violently, and she was on the verge of tears.

"It hurts." She complained holding her sides as she laughed. She closed her eyes, trying to calm herself, but the moment she looked at him again the fit repeated itself.

In the end, it was Reece who silenced her. He reached over her, bracing his hands on either side of her body as he leaned in close. "If you keep laughing at me, I'm going to kiss you." He said, though he looked genuinely amused. His close proximity brought her back to reality, though her smile remained as she glanced up at him.

"You win." Rose whispered, and he laughed as he fell back to the grass beside of her. "That was fun." She glanced sideways at him. "Did you know they were going to do that? The fireflies?"

"Not at all. I didn't even know this was possible" He propped up his head on his elbow and grinned down at her. "Do you know you're sort of amazing when you laugh?"

"What?" Rose rolled her eyes, considering this one of his jokes.

"You're always beautiful, even when you're frowning, but when you laugh…. It's…" He paused for a long moment. "It's different."

"You're certainly packing in all of your compliments tonight." She mused, not taking him seriously.

"Well, I may never see you again. Now or never, right?"

Rose's smile faded as she watched him. Her heart clenched in her chest.

"Yeah, I guess that's right." She sighed, her eyes connecting with his. "Now or never."

Reece reached out to cup her face in his hands. They stared at each other in silence as Rose's heart raced in her chest.

She hadn't ever known this feeling, even with Wren.

"Thanks for giving me a chance." Reece whispered as he watched her. "I didn't leave the best first impression, but I'm glad you still let me in."

"You were right." She replied. "I judged you too quickly, based on nothing at all."

"Are you going to miss me?"

"Probably." She answered in a soft voice. "Probably a lot more than I even know right now."

Reece smiled, and retracted his hands from her face.

"It doesn't feel real." Rose motioned to the field around her. "It all seems like a dream."

"At least it's not a nightmare." Reece laughed.

"Everything you've told me…everything that's happened…it's too sudden."

"It'll sink in tomorrow, and the next day. That's how things like this go. It's always hard to initially accept bad things."

"Hey, Reece?"

"Yeah?"

"I really wish I could ask you to stay. I… I do want you here."

"I know." He smiled back at her. "Even without you saying anything, I know."

"Goodbye, Reece."

"Goodbye, Rose."

They stared each other for a long time, neither realizing that this moment would be their last together for years following this night.


As I finished the last page of the journal, I felt tears running down my cheeks.

I couldn't help but stare blankly out into space, wondering where I would go from here.


**Author's Note: I hope you are enjoying my story so far. Reviews are always welcome. As always, thanks for reading.