Chapter One

Katie

Everything felt tense. Too tense. Not the kind of tense where you say something you shouldn't have, but do, and things get quiet. It's more like the tense when things should have happened and should have been said, but weren't because everyone involved just didn't. Maybe I'm part of the problem.

I sat there on the bed, heart beating fast, face heated, palms sweating; wondering how on earth I was going to answer his question. I frown, chancing a glance to my left, hoping Roxy could help me. I could see pity in her eyes, but I also saw she had no answer that would be better than the truth. I blink a few times before going over his question one more time. What's the one thing you'd regret not going after down here when you go to college?

He must know what I want to tell him that he was the answer to this question. That leaving this whole mess would be one of my lifelong regrets, because surely this avenue would disappear. He's one of the greatest people I've ever known. I'd be upset if someone didn't pursue him. He's too good to be alone.

I'm sure he's known long enough about how I feel, but I wouldn't put it past him to still be in denial. I want to tell him how I was feeling, but I knew that wouldn't help anything. I knew that would just make things weird, and the odds were I wasn't going to see Chris for months, maybe even years. He must know that even after seven years of waiting and still liking him that nothing has changed. No, wait. Things have changed. I love him. Or at least I think so. He's the closest to perfect I'm sure there is. I've even tried to convince myself that these feelings weren't anything, because he never pursued me. But that lasted only until I saw him again.

Today.

When we almost kissed.

It is so complicated and so crazy, my head is still spinning. This is why you never play truth or dare with people you like, I'd told myself, angrily, because that was what we had been doing earlier. None of it was a problem until Chris' brother, Jackson, dared us to kiss. Long story short, Roxy saved me, being the best friend that she is, but Jackson got pissed and stalked off. It was weird for a while, but the rest of us decided to continue our game, but only of truths. Why? I don't think I'll ever know. Why on earth would I purposefully walk right back into that when I had already almost lost it? I guess that was just me…

Considering how today was quite the day, I was surprised I had the chance to even be alone with my best friend and my closest childhood friend. It was a party for me. A combination of graduation, birthday, and going away. I had graduated a month and a half ago, was turning eighteen in less than two weeks, and was leaving for college in less than three weeks. This was my final goodbye before I'd be gone for however long. I thought that would mean my obligation to stick around all of the older people, which included a lot of aunts, uncles, great-aunts, and great-uncles. I was thankfully mistaken.

I look into Chris' grey eyes; the ones that have always been a comfort to me. The ones I thought were so beautiful, and that none could trump. They were so much like him... And nothing had changed, which was partially why I loved him so much. But I also loved him because he never judged me. He never judged the girl who was so different, and not necessarily for any good reason.

Heaving a sigh, I reply, "I suppose I'll regret not tying off loose ends of things down here."

I watch as both Roxy and Chris look away from me, uncomfortable. Roxy understood all the details wrapped up in this, but Chris only knew the surface. Though it was true, it wasn't just Chris that was a loose end. There were other things, too... I couldn't bear to tell him about the things that he was too young to notice himself, but he knew some of the things to an extent. Even I could see how much it hurt him, even with only that much information. Whether he included the story of the two of us in this statement of mine, I don't know, but I'd be lying to myself if I didn't believe he was definitely one of those things that would be left unresolved.

Questions continue to circulate after my answer, but I was hardly listening. My mind was too far away to stay focused on this game of Truth. To my relief, though,it wasn't long before we had to leave.

I was in the car with my mom and Roxy after having said goodbye, driving back home. I hardly even registered Chris hugging me goodbye, practically pleading for me to keep in touch. I can't let this be the last time I see you, he'd said. I sigh audibly.

"What's wrong, little Bug?"

I frown at my nickname. Bug has always been my nickname, ever since a little girl, but I felt old and tired. It was impossible to feel like that girl I used to be. Sometimes, I can't help but believe I'm not. It's not like the nickname ever seemed to translate my childhood properly. But I decide to just shoulder this feeling instead of bringing it out in the open. No one needs that kind of peek into my mind, especially my mom. "I'm just thinking."

I chance a glance to Roxy, who could tell that I was thinking about Chris. And sure enough, seconds later, my phone buzzes, a text from Roxy awaiting me.

What's going on in that head of yours?

I sigh before replying, I can't help but feel like I'm in love with him again. It's so bittersweet. I want to love him, but it kills me that he doesn't love me enough back.

I could see Roxy's face contort in an uncomfortable, but minor feeling of agony. She quickly responds with Don't. Because if you have to give up your happiness, it's not right. I know you love who he is, but you'll find someone someday that loves you completely and won't be able to live without you. And then you both can be happy and in love. You and Chris aren't meant for more than just friends.

This time, I sigh audibly, completely frustrated. How could anyone love me? Not with my history. Or my looks. Chris is the only one who has feelings for me that knows that things aren't picture perfect. And he looks past what the mirror sees.

I see Roxy look at me, giving me the typical best friend look equivalent to saying 'I'm-going-to-kill-you'. With a shrug, I indicate that I wasn't taking it back, which causes her to start typing furiously. Katie, don't you talk about yourself like you're something worthless. You're my best friend and I love you. And Chris does too, in his own way. But you see, you aren't anything that keeps you from love. You're perfect and beautiful. And I know someone will see your beautiful soul and be hooked. And nothing else will matter.

I look at Roxy and frown. Then how come no one has so much as noticed me that way as of yet?

Roxy gives me that look again. Because you haven't found the one yet! Be patient. You know I don't have that much faith, but I know that God is strong in your life because he made you very special, and he made someone else special out there just for you. All of the pain will be worth it. And when you do find this guy, you'll know. And it will be special.

I look at Roxy and couldn't help but give in. She was more than just my best friend. She and I were more like sisters, but by soul instead of blood. We always called each other twins, because we are only a couple of months apart in age and we are so alike. Same issues, same backgrounds, similar stories, and that sister bond usually can't be built by anything but blood. Both of us vastly different, but closer than some blood sisters ever are. I'd give my life up for that girl, and there were a few times where I almost did just that. And vice versa for her.

We knew everything about each other, and if we ever tried to hide things, the other would be likely to know it. We often worried constantly for the other, and we knew the fact that I was moving three hours away for college was going to be a hard reality for both of us. Neither of us would be able to protect the other like we do now. And if something happened, there was a chance that the other wouldn't be there to help.

I hope you're right. Not that I don't want you to be right, Rox, but I just can't see anyone loving a ... A girl like me. I didn't need to throw in the words in my head. It was assumed that we knew how the other felt about themselves, and Roxy had heard it all. She just had to fill in the blanks.

There's someone for everyone, is all she says in response.

About an hour later, my mom and I were home. We had dropped Roxy off at her grandmother's house, and then we continued on to my grandparent's house, where we lived. My dog greeted us enthusiastically and I hugged him. He wouldn't care about what I was thinking, but he'd be there to let me process it. Dogs are great like that. I know it sounds childish and somewhat twisted, but I wished to find someone that loved me unconditionally the way a dog does. Dogs love you practically always, no matter who you are, what you do, and where you've been. It doesn't matter how you look or what you wear or what you think. They love you for you, no matter what.

Uneager to have a conversation, but knowing I have to be polite, I go into the living room where my grandma, Rose, and my grandpa, Fredrick, sat. They had left the party before us and were already settled watching the evening news. I thanked them for the amazing time I had before heading to my room.

I lock myself in before sitting on my bed. my heart giving me a twinge of pain as I sit there. Every room I've had in my life bottled emotions, memories, and secrets that never left me. Secrets most don't even know. This one wasn't the worst, but I still desired to leave it. Lately, it has been the room where all the other rooms' stories come to visit, which means that I haven't been sleeping. I spend most of the night crying, covering my ears and squeezing my eyes shut to try and drown it all out. But nothing ever works.

This is the room where I came to realize just how sick I was. Sometimes, when you don't even know there's something wrong, you can be happy. You can at least go from day to day and hold up alright. But once you know? You can never escape the misery; the agony. It was in this room that I saw how far gone I thought I was.

It was also in this room where I started healing and trying to overcome everything. Says a little if I can at least start healing, but I am still so far down that I can't see the light. Healing slow, but steadily. Still, the boxes in my room are comforting, knowing I'm gonna leave this place for a long time. I wanted to start completely anew. And I would in three weeks.

I change into pajamas and hop on my laptop and waste some time on Facebook, just to keep my mind busy. Anything to keep me from the darkness. But by one in the morning, my mother requests entrance. Now I've made her mad.

When I let her in, she groggily scolds me for being up, insisting I go to bed. Reluctantly, I agree because I knew it wasn't worth the fight. I knew, despite the wonderful day I'd had, that this night would be as bad as the others. Nothing I did could change that, but that didn't make anything any easier.

After my mom goes back to bed, I turn out the lights. To my horror, it starts off almost immediately. Screaming. Voices. Crying. I shut my eyes. Cover my ears. Start humming the last song I heard. Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift. Try and drown out the horror with the music. Anything… Anything to make it go away.

But they only get louder. Louder. Louder. I sing the words in my head, but they aren't loud enough. I start shaking and my heart starts speeding. I wish I could just turn on the light, but then I would be in trouble. That was the last thing I wanted...

But it's too late. It's the girl's voice, crying. "I don't want to play this game anymore."

I remember tears streaming down your face when I said ""I'll never let you go"

The teen girl's voice replies, like always, "Too bad. Once we start, you know we can't stop."

When all those shadows almost killed your light

I start crying, hearing the little girl crying louder before screaming. But then the cries change. It's a different girl. An older girl. "Please don't," she pleads.

I remember you said "Don't leave me here alone." But all that's dead and gone and past tonight.

A man's voice answers. "Shut up!"

I sit up and turn on the light, not being able to stand the voices, knowing what I will hear and see next. I stumble out of bed and search through a box of college things and find a bottle labeled Melatonin. I quickly take one and wait until I feel it requesting sleep. I accept. And once I turn out the lights, I am able to fall asleep before I can hear what the girls are crying about next...

You and I will be safe and sound.