So…a story. I've been thinking over this one for a while, and I'm on my summer holidays with nothing on for now, so updates should be quick at the moment.

It might start off a little slow, but it'll get better as the story goes on. I've got big plans for this book

Happy reading, and if it's not too much trouble, I'd love it if you could drop me a review, even a short one. Constructive criticism is always welcome

Orlando, Florida, USA

Tally Nolan absently watched heat rays shimmering upwards from the gleaming black tarmac of the airport runway, still struggling to come to terms with the fact that, any moment now, as soon as that loud woman finally stopped arguing with the airhostess and blocking the stairs, she would be leaving Florida and everything she had ever known for a new life in Ireland with a grandmother she had never met. She was still rather numb, and none of the events of the past week- the car crash, the instant death of her mother, the moment of sheer terror when her father had flat-lined in the ambulance, the petrified screams of her younger brother Tristan- would sink into her head. She didn't much want them to, either, because that would mean accepting that her parents were dead, were never coming back, and that herself and Tristan, only twelve years old and traumatized by the horrific car crash, would never see their home again. Numb was good, because numb meant that she wouldn't break down and cry. Tristan needed her, anyway, since it wasn't like he had anyone else to lean on at the moment.

"Tal, how long will we be on the plane?," Tristan asked, his normally borderline squeaky tone of voice, due to the fact that his voice was breaking, had been transformed into one that made him sound like a whiny toddler by all of his tears. Although Tristan had never once let Tally nor anyone else, especially the social workers, see him cry, she could tell by his voice and his red-rimmed, heavy-lidded eyes. Tristan was strong, though, and he would pull himself together eventually. He was just a kid- he'd bounce back. At fifteen, Tally was beginning to think that she had long lost her 'bouncing back' ability.

"It'll be about nine hours, Tris, but it'll be another three hours by car to…her house." Tally's throat closed up halfway through, unable as she was to call someone she'd never met a grandmother or 'granny', but thankfully Tristan hadn't seemed to notice. "That's a really long flight," Tristan whinged, a habit Tally usually found beyond irritating but was willing to let him get away with for now, "Why are we going to Ireland anyway? Why can't we stay with Uncle Ryan?"

At the mention of her mother's older brother's name, Tally's jaw tightened and she went rigid for a moment. Ryan McGrath was a dangerous man, one that Tally should stay away from, as her parents had gently explained to her one night after he'd called around to the house in a drunken haze and her father had had to drag him out by the jacket, threatening to call the cops. Uncle Ryan, Tally had later learned, was quite the drug dealer and gun smuggler, and specialized in innovative escape attempts- a hobby he had plenty of time to practice, since he was always in prison. Since Tristan was still only twelve, their parents hadn't seen the need to fill him in on Uncle Ryan's misdeeds, instead telling him that their uncle simply 'wasn't a very nice man' and that he 'lived too far away to visit'. Even being exiled to the middle of the Irish countryside was better than moving in with Uncle Ryan.

"Uncle Ryan doesn't have enough room, Tris, his flat's too small." Fortunately, Tristan stopped asking.

Several minutes later, the loud woman blocking the stairs shoved past the grim-faced airhostess with a huff, and the line of passengers began to move again. Tally was certain that the plane was delayed by now, and hoped their grandmother would be willing to wait. Tally wasn't certain what the woman would be like- after all, she had raised Uncle Ryan.

"C'mon Tris," she sighed wearily, as they boarded the plane at long last. "Nine hours and we'll be in Ireland."

§ § § §

Ballypooka, County Cork, Ireland

"Pass me the cigarette, Nat," the dark-haired girl demanded, as she lay sprawled across the slightly overgrown grass of the school playing field, leaning back against the goal posts. A few feet away, one of the other three teenagers lounging about on the grass, a tall, long-limbed, British blond boy paused in his smoking with a frown. "Why don't you just get your own, Eimear?," he pouted immaturely in a smooth British accent, waving his cigarette around in the air dramatically, narrowly missing the curly brown hair of the surly boy sitting cross-legged beside him.

The boy reached out an arm and slapped Nat's hand away from his face. "Keep your fucking hands to yourself, Crowley," he hissed venomously. Nat pulled his hand back, raising his palms in a show of surrender. "Easy there, Munroe," the blond murmured warily, "God, but I think I prefer you when you're drunk."

"Just leave Nick be, Nat," sighed a scrawny, lanky boy with bright ginger hair and matching freckles. Nicky Munroe stared down at the grass with a smug expression of satisfaction, twirling a glowing cigarette through lanky fingers. Nat scowled at the redhead. "It was an accident, Farrell," he protested in a whiny voice, making hi sound closer to five than fifteen.

Over his shoulder, Eimear made a grab for his lit cigarette. Sensing her move, Nat jerked the cigarette away and brought it to his mouth, smirking in amusement as she lost her balance and the momentum sent her facedown into the grass. "Fuck you, Crowley!," the girl hissed angrily, propping her upper body up on her elbows. Nat's smirk grew even wider. "When and where, princess?"

"YOU FUCKING PERV!," Eimear shrieked, launching herself at Nat's back and sending the two of them forwards until they landed, sprawled across Nick's lap, Nat's face uncomfortably close to Nick's crotch. Nick tensed instantly, Nat went rigid, and Eimear froze on top of him. A few feet away, Shay burst out laughing. "Gonna give him a blowjob, are ya Crowley?," he stuttered through his laughter.

Nat went red and shrugged Eimear off of him before sitting up himself and raising his hands in apology to Nick. "My sincere apologies for accidentally attacking your dick, man," he said in a sincere voice that made Eimear giggle from where she lay sprawled on the grass. Shay took a long look at the girl he considered a best friend, a baffled expression spreading across his face as he watched the once-murderous girl giggle like a chipmunk on crack. "Bipolar much, Eimear?," he asked incredulously.

A couple of feet away, Nat was still stuttering out apologies, growing more nervous by the second as Nick's stony expression didn't change. Nick had a strong aversion to any human touch that didn't involve sex, loathed people in general, and only hung around with the others because Eimear was the closest thing he had to a friend, one that wasn't related to him, anyway.

"I-I'm sorry, Munroe, I didn't mean to! You know I'd never try to, like, sexually assault anyone! Anyway, I'm straight as an arrow…Not that I mind that you're not, I mean, my brother's gay, too…"

Nick cut off Nat with an abrupt snort. "For the last fucking time, Crowley- I'm. Not. Gay! Do you even know the meaning of the word 'bisexual'? Also, you're definitely not my type, and if you gave me a blowjob I'd probably have to cut off my dick!"

Nat shrunk back with his head bowed, muttering resentfully under his breath. Eimear, now sprawled leisurely across Shay's chest on the ground, broke out into a fresh fit of giggles at the sight of Nick's lip twisting in an expression of disdainful disgust. Suddenly, she caught sight of Nat's half-empty box of cigarettes that had fallen from his pocket before his face had met Nick's crotch, and lunged.

Nat caught sight of Eimear's sudden movement, and let out an unmanly shriek as he threw himself at his cigarettes in a desperate attempt to reach them first. He and Eimear wrestled hysterically for the box of cigarettes, which was quickly getting squashed underneath their writhing bodies. Just as Eimear pinned Nat and reached for the cigarettes, eyes wild, a familiar voice rang out across the pitch.

"HEY! Hey guys, you all need to come, like, right now!" A pretty, pink-haired girl skidded to a halt in front of them, panting, a short black-haired boy right behind her. Nat tipped his head back with great difficulty, straining against Eimear's weight on his torso.

"What's wrong, Mia, Evan?," Shay asked calmly. Mia looked frantic- Evan just looked scared. Something had obviously happened- his dark hair was ruffled, the collar of his white school uniform shirt popped clumsily, a small smear of dried blood standing out like a beacon, and the corner of the boy's bottom lip was split and bloody. Something clicked instantly for Nat, and his expression changed from one of vacant curiosity to a look of pure protective rage. It was clear that the two were brothers, but they hadn't been for long- Evan had recently been adopted by the Crowleys. "Who hurt you, Evan? Was it Edwards- that scumbag's had it out for you since he found out you were gay- or Johnson- that asshole who probably has some sort of sick crush on you? Tell me!"

Evan's face was blank for a moment, until all of a sudden he burst out into a fit of giggles, before stopping to wince at the pain that surged through his split lip at the movement. Mia rolled her eyes, muttering something under her breath to Evan, who quickly went back to being serious. Nat looked incredibly confused, Nick indifferent, and Shay simply bemused. Eimear was the only one who understood immediately, pushing herself up off of Nat's chest and to her feet with a weary sigh.

"Who'd Kit punch now, sister dear?," she asked Mia in a bored tone. Mia rolled her eyes again at her younger (and shorter) sister. "Gregory King punched Toby in the face after second period in the boys' bathrooms, and Christopher just found out. He's out for blood, and so far he's got quite a bit of it- a pint, maybe? Anyway, Ms Lynch saw Evan and me and told us to get the four of you. He's not responding to Toby, and I think Greg's about to pass out."

Mia said all of this in a very matter-of-fact manner, as though she was used to relaying news such as this, and indeed she was. In her opinion, this sort of thing happened to her group of friends far too often.

On the grass, Nick snorted, speaking around the cigarette pressed between his lips. "The fuck is still stupid enough to punch Kit's kid brother?" No one responded, although it did not appear that the dark-haired boy had been looking for one.

Shay and Nat sprung to their feet, putting out lit cigarettes on the soles of their scuffed patent leather school shoes and flicking them into the grass of the playing field. Mia curled her lip at the sight of the cigarettes, and turned to her sister. "Don't tell me you've been smoking with theses idiots, Eimear. You know very well that they're lethal- Uncle Marty's tumor didn't just appear on his liver one morning. Dad'll kill you!"

Eimear snorted at that, an expression of disgust sweeping over her slim, freckled face. She pushed a piece of chestnut hair behind her ear angrily, and stormed off past Mia and Evan towards the school. "Dad wouldn't give a shit, My," she threw over her shoulder.

Mia sighed sadly, then turned around and smacked, first Nat and then Shay, over the back of the head. "I told the both of you not to give her that shit. She's pissy enough without the nicotine withdrawals," she hissed furiously. Nat shrugged awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck as he stared at the grass, muttering half-hearted apologies. He was off in a shot, jogging after Eimear. Mia turned her glare to Shay, who offered a cheeky grin. "I'm innocent, Mia, you know me. It was all Crowley and Munroe."

Mia raised an eyebrow but turned to look at Nick, still lounging cross-legged on the grass, cradling a lit cigarette between his palms as he held it to his lips, nonetheless. She cleared her throat expectantly, and Nick looked up, took stock of her expression, and shrugged his thin shoulders. "I don't share my cigarettes, Mia darling- you know me," he said in a detached voice, mimicking Shay's words.

Mia scowled, scoffing at the cigarette Nick was smoking. "Is that even tobacco?," she sneered. Shay snorted. Nick just grinned brightly, temporarily disarming Mia's irritation, before it was back again in full force. "Don't tell anyone, darling, but it's cannabis," he whispered in a low, faux-serious voice. "Ssshhh!," he hissed, finger to his lips. Mia scowled and set off towards the school building after Nat and Eimear.

Shay sighed. "You shouldn't make fun of her so much, Munroe," he said after a brief moment of silence. Nick shrugged again, all of his attention focused on his cigarette. "Nothing much else to do in this shithole. She's too protective of Eimear, anyway. Eimear's fifteen- old enough to smoke if she damn well wants to. She feels trapped, you know- and there's a certain freedom in fucking your own life up."

Shay shrugged his shoulders, shooting Evan an exasperated look. The dark-haired boy wasn't look though, his dark, closed-off eyes focused on the oblivious boy sitting on the grass, pink lips pursing as he blew out a puff of smoke. Shay cleared his throat with a knowing smirk, and Evan snapped back to reality, cheeks reddening. Shay waved an arm towards the school building. "Shall we?"

Evan nodded jerkily, and the two set off at a fast pace, leaving Nick lounging on the grass, flicking the excess ash from his cigarette onto the grass as he stared off poetically into middle distance.

§ § § §

The small, dented Skoda Tally and Tristan's grandmother drove was quite possibly older than the two siblings combined, and it sounded like it too- the car huffed and puffed like an arthritic geriatric climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. Their grandmother, although thankfully a very kind woman, certainly didn't look any younger than her car. She was short, thin, wrinkly and grey, but had a cheerful smile and a happy twinkle to her emerald eyes- the same eyes Tally had last seen on her own mother. The old woman looked ill, frankly, but was clearly still bursting with a powerful zest for life. Those bright emerald eyes of hers were slightly reddened, as though from crying, but she was obviously putting on a brave face for the recently orphaned children of her daughter.

As the old Skoda rattled over the bumpy mountain road, a couple of scraggy-looking sheep bleated and stopped gnawing on the shrubs and grass to watch the car pass with detached interest. Aine McGrath, or 'Granny' as she had asked Tally and a now-sleeping Tristan to call her, swerved carefully to avoid a lamb standing dumbly in the middle of the road, staring down the Skoda's headlamps.

"Thalia dear- do you like to be called Thalia- will yourself and Tristan be alright to start school Monday? I've already registered the both of you- you in the community school out by Ballypooka, few miles from here, and your brother in the village primary school. There's no pressure yet though, dearie, none at all. You can both start when you feel ready, after what the two of you've been through, the last thing I want to do is rush you."

Tally briefly considered the prospect of starting at the new school. She'd just completed the first few weeks of her first semester of tenth grade back in Florida, but she'd be in fourth year here in Ireland- fifth year in some schools, according to social worker back home that had talked Tally and Tristan through a few basic elements of Irish life to try and distract them a bit. Apparently, fourth year was supposed to be a bit of a doss year, an easy one to start with.

"Yeah, I think it would be best if Tris and I started school as soon as possible, get his mind off things. I'd like to get settled in as soon as possible, to have something to do. And Tally's fine, thanks."

Their grandmother nodded, smiling at Tally in the rearview mirror. "That's grand so, dear. I've already bought your uniforms- the social workers sent on the sizes. I couldn't find the Dubarry's shoes your new school is so fond of, though, so your runners will have to do for a few weeks until the shop orders them in, I'm afraid."

Tally nodded in understanding, struggling to suppress a shudder at the thought of wearing a school uniform. Back home, the local Catholic schoolgirls' uniform was a pressed white blouse, grey knit cardigan, and an ankle-length kilt- the stuff of nightmares. Hopefully a community school uniform wouldn't be quite so drastic, although Tally didn't have very high hopes.

§ § § §

When they arrived at the small, yellow-painted cottage in the mountains, it was dark outside. "Wake up, Tris," she whispered, shaking her sleeping brother awake. He woke with a start, calming quickly once he caught sight of their grandmother and Tally. "C'mon, Tris. We're here."

The two exhausted siblings staggered tiredly after their grandmother through the hall of the little cottage, blinking owlishly as she flicked on the lights. Their grandmother turned back to them with a smile. "I'd give ye the tour, but I'd bet ye're exhausted. Come on, I'll show ye where ye'll be sleeping."

Tally and Tristan followed the old woman through a small living room, containing a TV that was likely older than the wheezy car, an average-sized kitchen with an old-fashioned cooking range, and then through a door that opened up into another short hall. There were three doors, all ajar, revealing what was clearly their grandmother's room, a bathroom with a shower, and the room that would be theirs.

"Well I'll leave ye here, so. Do ye know where everything is?," their grandmother asked kindly. Tally took a cursory glance around the small but cozy bedroom- light yellow wallpaper, a small window with the heavy navy curtains drawn, an old oak desk, a Chronicles of Narnia-esque oak wardrobe, two nightstands with old-fashioned pull-cord lamps, and two single beds with identical heavy-looking navy duvets and stacks of white pillows. There was a door set into the wall on Tally's left that she guessed led to the bathroom.

She turned to smile gratefully at their grandmother. "Yeah, we'll be fine, thanks. Lovely room, by the way." Their grandmother smiled, eyes twinkling. "It's good that ye like the room. 'Twas ye're mother's and Ryan's when they were little. Hasn't changed much, just some new bed sheets, obviously." A shadow seemed to pass over the old woman's eyes at the mention of her two children, but then she blinked and it was gone.

"Goodnight, then. Sleep tight," she said in a low voice, leaving and shutting the door softly behind her. Tally yawned, eyes drooping. "C'mon, Tris, time for bed. We start school in two more days, and you'll want to be well-rested for that."