You could tell it was the end of November-even if you didn't keep track. The trees were bare and wet leaves covered the ground, covered oh so slightly by snow. Cemeteries stood out and collapsing jaque-o-lanterns still sat out on their designated porches as if their owner's weren't ready to admit that Halloween was over yet though Thanksgiving had already passed.. That was the nice thing about South Dakota-every month looked the same as it had the year before. Most of the time, at least.

Ashton Harlow brushed her waist length blonde hair out of her face as she stared down at her newly developed photographs. It was December 1st, which meant that her twin sister, Harriet (though she preferred to be called Harry) was down at the mall, telling stories to little kids. Harry had been worrying Ashton for some time, now, she seemed distant and unresponsive to most of the family. Though, she guessed that was to be expected, seeing as how she'd lost two of her friends back in July, and another one was on the brink of death.

She rolled over, careful not to rumple her pictures, and put a hand over her forehead, covering most of her eyes. It was actually really sad that Harry had pulled herself back so much, right as the two of them seemed to be finally starting to get along. For as long as Ashton could remember, the they'd been on opposite sides of the popularity scale. Harry was the cheerleader, the one everybody loved, at the top of the pyramid, and Ashton had been the nerd. The invisible one, the one nobody would've even known existed if it weren't for the fact that she looked almost exactly like her sister.

"Ash?" Ashton peaked an eye open to see her little sister, Smurf peeking in through the door.

No, Smurf wasn't her real name-it was Jackson (though that wasn't much better for a girl). They just called her Smurf due to the fact that she'd been obsessed with The Smufs when she was little. They would also call her by whatever mood she happened to be in, like Grouchy Smurf when she was upset or Brainy Smurf when she got an A.

"What is it, Smurfette?" Ashton asked, absentmindedly deciding to go all female on her little sister.

Smurf rolled her eyes, clearly upset by her nickname. She believed that at fourteen, she should've long grown out of her cutesy nickname, but that didn't stop anyone from calling her that.

"I was just wondering if you've seen Harry anywhere, around. She said she'd help me with my homework, yesterday."

Ashton shook her head, "Sorry. I think she went out to read to the kids at the mall."

Smurf sighed, "Alright. She better be back soon. It's due, tomorrow."

"Do you want me to help?" Ashton sat up.

Smurf shook her head, causing her blonde ponytail to whip back and forth, "No. Thank. You. I've seen your grades, Ash. Sorry, but I kind of want a chance at becoming a Sophomore next year."

Ashton sighed, before plopping back down on her bed, and crossing her arms. It wasn't her fault she wasn't smart like Harry was. Okay, so maybe smart wasn't the correct term, maybe beautiful, gifted, and all around perfect was the right thing to say.

"Whatever." she fake pouted, "I didn't even really feel like helping you, anyway."

Smurf shot her a half apologetic smile, before adding, "Cora called. She wanted to see if you wanted to hang out."

Cora was Ashton's best friend-had been since the fourth grade, "Is she still on the line?" Smurf nodded, "Tell her I wish I could, but Harry's out so I don't have a ride, and that Sara's coming to get me in twenty minutes, anyway." Sara wasn't Ashton's best friend-but she was her oldest friend. The two of them had known each other since Kindergarten. She was also the only one of them who had a license.

"You know," Smurf said, "If you keep choosing to hang out with Sara, Cora is going to start thinking that she's becoming your best friend."

Ashton rolled her eyes, "That's not going to happen."