A/N: I'll be posting a new part of this story every week. Hopefully you stick around for parts 2-5. Please review and I hope you enjoy! :)


A small gap separated the ends of the concrete barrier on the abandoned parking garage. Nothing stood for miles except the road that lead to nowhere, and, of course, the garage. And a gap. And a fall. And a girl.

A girl who knew she couldn't fly, but still hoped that maybe…

"You could fly to the stars if you really wanted to," he'd said. "Nothing's impossible. It all just takes time."

Time. The thing that moved faster than it should but never stopped when it had to. The thing that existed before even humans could invent it. Days, they called them. Hours, they called them. Minutes. Seconds. Ticking. And toking. Time. The one thing humans couldn't change. The thing they said healed and created, because they couldn't help that it distorted and changed and ruined everything that should be left alone.

She knew she couldn't fly.

"…if you really wanted to," he'd said. He'd said a lot of things, like "honest" and "real" and "I love you." He didn't waste his time counting stars, but rather naming them. To him, the world was only a place amongst many, like the ones that held dreams and ideas. The dead and forgotten. Everything that left had to go somewhere. Anywhere. Nowhere.

Nowhere was a place, too.

"I just want something real," he'd said, once.

"I'm real," she'd responded.

"But I want to feel real. I want to dance and feel happy instead of judged. Or learn because I want to, not because somebody says I have to."

"You can. You just have to stop doing the other things."

"I guess I just wish the world would stop treating me like a number."

"You first."

Just a number. 4.0. #1. First or last. Followers? Likes?

Comments.

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Birthday.

Death-day.

Ticking.

Toking.

Time.

Eternity goes on no matter how long anybody spends in it. And eternity was a shitty, lonely place to be. Well, almost lonely. There was still…

"Stars disappear years before we notice they're gone," he'd said.

"How?"

"It takes that long for their light to come here. And so when a star dies, their light shines to earth for whole decades even though absolutely nothing's there. And there's no way for us to tell that it's gone so we just keep thinking it's there, but it's not. Any of those stars could be completely gone and we wouldn't know."

Completely gone and we wouldn't know.

But she knew.

Just like she knew she couldn't fly. She knew she couldn't, and she didn't, but if she knew she could, she still wouldn't. And she knew that too.

So she jumped. Through the small gap that separated the ends of the concrete barrier on the abandoned parking garage. Nothing stood for miles. Nothing would. Nothing could.

Because nobody wanted it that way.

And people couldn't change time.

And nobody had patience to name the stars.

And the world was only a place amongst many.

"You could fly to the stars if you really wanted to," he'd said. But she'd forgotten what it'd felt like to want to.

Miranda

Enough of that. This story isn't about her, anyway. It's about me, and my, well… controversial existence.

The story of my life is a tragedy. That's not to say it sucked. It was actually pretty damn awesome, but I guess that's just a matter of opinion. Now, I don't know if you care about my opinion, but I don't care about yours so here's another one: the only tragic part of my life was the length of it. Spoiler alert… it was short. Too short.

Of course what's my opinion worth when I'm dead? Maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here…

I'll start over.

This story—my story—is the story of three girls. Identical, maybe, but different in the ways that counted. It's the story of a coward, a liar, and a secret. My secret. The secret that started and ended it all.

The one that forced us to lie.

Made us cruel.

Resorted us to murder…

But that part comes later. For now, let's start at the beginning, shall we?

Gail

I didn't do it.

Sydney

It was everybody's fault, really.

Miranda

It started 182 days before it ended.

Sydney

I didn't want to. I would never. Not purposefully, anyway.

Miranda

182 days… that's it, huh?

182 days left

Sydney

July 28th- Nowhere is somewhere.

-Sydney Jerkins

Dad moved us to the middle of nowhere. But it's worse than that. Dad moved us to the middle of nowhere before our senior year of high school. And I mean nowhere. A 30 minute drive stood between us and out new school so it could be equidistant between us and the closest town over, which our new neighbors referred to as "the city."

Dad got relocated to the tallest building in said "city," and that had five floors including the basement garage.

Gail was more upset than any of us. She had a lot of friends back home. I had just one, and he graduated at the end of last year right before he broke up with me. Simply put, I didn't suffer from attachment.

Until I got to our new house in the middle of nowhere.

I didn't know how much I'd miss not being able to see both horizons. Or how lonely they would make me feel.

Gail

I didn't hate my dad. I couldn't. He was still the sarcastic, heart-broken mess I managed to grow attached to over the past 18 years. He still joked about death and ranted about politics and laughed at my sly comments even if I didn't mean for them to be funny. His hair still refused to turn from brown to grey as he entered his 50's, and he still failed to admit he used a special, expensive shampoo to keep it that way. He still missed my mother very much and reminded his girls daily about how lucky we were to look like her instead of him despite how attractive he actually was. Or at least that's what all my friends had told me. Not in a creepy way… just as a fact. Or rather, a fact of somebody's opinion, assuming attractiveness was as relative as loneliness or love.

I truly didn't hate my dad.

That didn't mean we were on speaking terms.

Dad had kept calling it our "fresh start." I hated that he thought we needed one. I hated most things since he announced the move. That's why my fresh start was caring less. I figured it would make everything easier, though the numbness wasn't better than the pain. It was just… numb.

And I hated it.

I covered my walls in pictures of various friends, none of which more important than the last, all of which insignificant. Even so, they were all I had to miss, and so I did. Not enough to call, though.

I displayed the rest of my remaining trinkets—two dying plants, a few books I liked to reread to avoid starting new ones I wouldn't like, useless ring dishes and candles I collected more of with each birthday, and hairbands I never used but always ran out of—on the small shelf hanging over the bed to make the uncomfortably neat room more tolerable. Despite my best effort, I couldn't make it feel like home. That's not to say my best effort was whole-hearted. Or really an effort at all.

Through my window I watched a boy my age ascend our walkway. The doorbell surprised me despite having seen him press it. Probably because it sounded different. And wrong.

"Gail!" Dad yelled.

I didn't respond, simply stumbled down the stairs to answer it.

The boy behind it wore a crooked, shy smile. His shaggy brown hair fell just over his thick eyebrows. He was strangely attractive simply because I hadn't gotten used to his oddly angular face yet, and the unconventionality kept me from concluding that he was, indeed, ugly. Or maybe handsome? I couldn't decide. He sheepishly handed me a bunt cake but pulled it back before I could take it. "Bad time?"

"Not really."

"Cool." The settled into an awkward pause. "I'm Adam Terrell. We're neighbors." He pointed with his elbow to the house adjacent to ours, less next-door and more just in the vicinity. A small house could fit between the two. Adam held out the cake again. "Here's a house-warming gift."

I let him set it into my waiting arms. "Thanks." Then after another pause, "I'm Gail."

"Hi, Gail."

"I'm Sydney," my sister said, suddenly over my shoulder.

He paused to look back and forth between us before speaking again. We both waited for the inevitable. "You guys identical twins or something?"

Sydney smiled mischievously and turned to me for approval before saying, "Triplets, actually."

And so it began.

Adam's eyes widened, mouth newly agape. "Identical?"

Sydney nodded knowingly. I pointed upstairs. "Miranda's in her room."

"Can I meet her?"

"You don't want to," Sydney said before we could all struggle through the impossible task of summoning Miranda. "She's more of a brat than this one." She nudged me into a weak sway before grinning and disappearing with the bunt cake. "See you later, Adam!"

"Yeah!" He rubbed his arm. "Sydney, right?"

"Mhm," she called back.

"And you're Gail," he clarified.

I nodded.

"And the third one's Miranda?"

"Right again." His voice didn't fill the silence as I expected it to, so I filled it with my own. "She doesn't have glasses like we do in case that helps."

"I don't think that does."

"Her hair is also longer." And beautifully so.

"Thanks. I guess."

"I guess you're welcome."

Adam looked around as if ideas for something else to say would float through the air. None did. "Well, good luck moving in."

"Thanks."

"Just come knocking if you need anything," he added, as if scripted. It probably was.

"Okay."

He paused again. "Bye."

"Bye, Adam."

I slowly closed the door between us before he could say more.

"Strange kid," Dad muttered as he passed me to bring some more boxes upstairs.

"Still not talking to you."

"Ya just did."

164 days left

Sydney

August 14th- The first day of school sucks no matter how old you are.

-Sydney Jerkins

The shock of walking into a large high school faded as I realized the small school only seemed large due to the disillusioning effects of my new small town. In English I let a kid talk my ear off about his chicken farm. In the same minute it took him to think he'd made a new friend, I realized why he failed to get any in the past three years.

The early stages of his banter—of which I engaged in because, as the new girl, I knew no better—consisted of his 4:00 a.m. wakeup to get to school on time. Apparently every kid in a 60 mile radius attended the same high school due to public-school scarcity in the area.

I zoned out after that. He talked some more about how his family raised other livestock, but mainly just the chickens.

Gail

The hallways were easy to navigate, but that didn't make them any less terrifying. Reunions everywhere reminded me that I wouldn't have one, and the more I stressed about finding my next classroom, the more I let the people around me distract me from doing just that.

I tore my eyes away from a freshman hugging frenzy just in time to see a couple headed straight for me.

"I don't want to talk right now," said the girl, who dressed like she walked right out of the 70's. Anger turned her face red, and she altered each of her steps so her back could keep facing the boy as they walked.

"I don't really care," he pressed. He yanked her against him, and they slammed to a stop feet in front of me.

Her nostrils flared. "Did you ever think that, just maybe, there's a reason we didn't talk all summer." She didn't wait for an answer before pivoting to strut in the other direction.

Her shoulder slammed into mine during her attempt to escape his grip. Before we could collapse, she caught my arm. Curiosity overtook the fire swimming in her irises. "I'm so sorry."

The boy nudged her forward, and her frustrated glare encouraged me to hold her hand against my arm. Years of theatre took control of my features, and my face lit up with what I hoped look like recognition. "Oh. My. God! I haven't seen you in forever!"

Her eyebrow creased. "What?"

I forced myself to continue the act, sure that of all the things I'd hated about the move, myself wouldn't be one of them. "How long has it been?"

She smiled and I relaxed slightly as her face morphed to reflect my mischief. "A long time?"

I grabbed her shoulder to pull her in the other direction. "Such a long time!" I agreed.

She tried not to laugh, unafraid to hang on my arm like she'd done it before. We left the boy awkwardly stammering for something to yell after us.

She pulled me into a different hallway to lose him completely. "Thanks." We let go of each other and kept walking like close friends. She didn't seem to mind. "I guess I owe you one, now."

I shrugged, able to relax for the first time since waking up. "I guess so."

Her eyes narrowed as she studied me. "You're new, aren't you?"

"That obvious?"

She shrugged. "Small school."

"Who was that?"

"We flirted once at a party I think." She laughed to reassure me for chuckling. "I'm Kat." Before I could respond, she nodded towards the nearest classroom. "Well, this is me. I'll see you later, new girl."

The door swung, and she disappeared behind it.

Sydney

Adam waved in the hallway after first period. I smiled back.

It was the best part of my day.

Word of the new identical triplets spread like wildfire. I got my phone confiscated for pulling up pictures for proof of the three of us together. By the time I got to lunch I was a celebrity, but that didn't entail being talked to. More just talked about.

I ate alone.

Miranda

I just need you to understand something before I let my sisters continue: I didn't make friends because I didn't want to.

Gail

Word got around the entire school by lunch time. Small phrases escaped the massive noise of chatter to reach my ears; only a few of which weren't about the new identical trio. Most of the students fled to the lawn with their gossip and friends to share it with. Others wandered around the cafeteria. I joined the latter and quickly caught Sydney's gaze in mine from her friendless table. She offered a shy smile which I returned. Strangely, though, that only made me feel lonelier.

"Hey, new girl," a familiar voice called behind me.

Sydney nodded, and I took her invitation to turn around. Three friends sat at a round table, complimentary for their differences. The girl from the hallway, Kat, patted the spot next to her. "Is it true?"

"Don't make her answer that," one of the boys complained as I pulled my legs over the bench. "She's probably sick of it by now." From his downcast head, his eyes had to climb up to find me.

I had to look away to avoid falling into his intense stare. "Thanks," I mustered and meant it.

"Which one are you?" the other, blonde boy asked.

"Gail."

"So you have a boy's name." He smiled when I couldn't respond to the absurd comment. Nobody had accused me of that before. Except maybe myself.

The other boy—the downcast one with a dark, curly mop of hair on his head—spoke for him. "He's only saying that because his name's Kendal."

Kendal's perfect smile widened. "You wanna switch?"

I finally laughed, and Kendal seemed relieved.

"I'm Revie," said the unnamed boy.

"Revie?"

"My last name," he clarified.

"Well, what's your first?" I asked.

"Liam."

"I like that better."

"Good thing I didn't ask you." I finally gave into his dark eyes, and his cheeks barely pulled at the ends of his mouth.

"Way to win her over," Kat grumbled, as if I wouldn't hear.

Revie shrugged. He didn't try to mask his stare, though his messy dark curls tried.

"You guys are a lot," I admitted, lost for any other words.

Kendal just laughed. "Thanks."

I waited for them to pester me more, but they didn't, and I didn't feel comfortable enough to prompt them to. As seconds ticked by, leaving them became less of an option, so I stayed to eat my lunch. They continued their conversation as if I were a part of it in the first place. Of course, that didn't exactly land me a voice in it, but I enjoyed observing.

First was Liam Revie. He called Kat "Kit," which I figured out after a while was short for "Kitty." Though seemingly demeaning, out of his mouth it resembled a joke. His kindness shone through the gloom cast in his every movement and word, and his tainted demeanor couldn't hide the ordinary, boyish kid beneath it.

Revie could've been tall, dark and handsome if he weren't so short, but I supposed his looks compensated. That was, from the neck up. Below that, his broad shoulders couldn't distract from his scrawniness. But he wore it well. And he spoke well, too. He didn't waste his words despite having an unlimited supply. And nobody interrupted him when he used them. We all just listened. And he pretended not to notice that his peculiar thoughts would never penetrate our simple minds.

Kendal Fenn had beautiful blue eyes and a perfectly straight smile, and all of which on a fairly underwhelming face of otherwise limited structure. He compensated with his perfectly groomed blonde hair that collected in a large swoosh over his forehead. Kat dared to mess it up as a tease and that lead to five minutes of finger combing to perfect it once more. Nobody acknowledged the egotistical obsession, and I assumed the other two were used to it.

Besides the hair, Kendal showed almost no signs of self-absorption at all. He was the kind of guy that could make somebody else's awkward joke hysterical by elaborating with his own punch line. His wildly contagious smile infected me and the others (even Revie) several times a minute. Nobody could be sad in the company of his joy, which frightened me for a day without it.

Then there was Katherine Low: The enigma. She was inconsistent like a rainstorm, one second playful and joking with Kendal and the next a fierce embodiment of estrogen at its finest. Kendal joked wrongly about her ovulation which ended in her flee to the bathroom before returning minutes later, completely calm.

That day she wore bell-bottom jeans and a tie-dye crop top which exaggerated the dangerously small circumference of her waist. Her outrageously long, pin-straight sandy hair had several thin braids throughout. Revie told me—while Kat seethed in the bathroom— she wore a different outfit every day inspired by different decades. That time it was the 70's. The time before that it'd been the 90's. The next day Kendal and Revie would wait eagerly to see what she would throw together. It was never modern, though. She hated modern fashion. Or, rather, the lack thereof.

I couldn't help but love her unpredictability. And Revie's dark wit. And Kendal's kindness. They embodied a perfect trio that I simply longed to be a part of, more so when they didn't push me away. I hadn't said much, but apparently I'd said enough to gain favor. At least they didn't show signs that suggested otherwise.

If only they knew. Part of me thought they might not be repulsed by the secret, but my rational side knew differently. Of course they would. Good people tended to distance themselves from tainted things.

More importantly, tainted people.

When the bell rang, Revie made sure to get my number before we all left for class. I smiled for the rest of the day and couldn't stop no matter how hard I tried, even when obnoxious classmates begged for proof that I really was an identical triplet.

For the first time since the move, I didn't dread living in the middle of nowhere.

161 days left

Sydney

Of the many things I learned to dread with each new day, my physics class evolved into an hour to look forward to. I sat behind Evan Johnson, who's back I stared at constantly because of the gorgeous face I knew occupied the other side.

My physics credits didn't transfer from my old school, so I had to take the class again but didn't have to pay attention. Instead I worked on my English homework. And stared at the back of Evan Johnson's head. And occasionally the front, but only when he turned around.

Never to talk to me, though.

Carter Milburn sat behind me. He talked to me once, but only so I could hand Evan's pencil back. That was also the only time Evan ever noticed me. "Thanks" never sounded so beautiful.

Evan and Carter seemed to be friends. The uglier of the two (Carter) rarely talked during a lesson, often caught up in the learning part of it all. His slightly oversized nose rested between his over-parted brown eyes, though his humor and charming kindness made him irresistible to the two girls who sat behind him.

Evan liked to bother him, but nobody minded his loud distractions. Not even the teacher. He was just that kid. It could've been because he looked like the modern reincarnation of James Dean. Or because he was the star of the football team. Or maybe because his smile was the brightest, cutest thing I've ever laid my innocent eyes on.

By small-town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-high-school standards, he was perfect. And perfect people could get away with anything.

Evan Johnson could do no wrong.

Such flawlessness didn't apply to me.

The class started like all physics classes did. Evan sat in front of me. Carter sat behind. I admired Evan's back and occasionally his front while the rest of the class chatted over the teacher.

Then Evan dropped his pencil. We watched it roll and stop in the awkward gray area beneath both of our desks, and neither of us clarified who would reach for it.

We both just dove, and since the teacher had started writing the notes we were to copy for the day, we committed.

Our foreheads knocked, and but that small bang was nothing compared to the following collision between my desk and the back of Evan's head. He cursed loud enough to silence the teacher and classmates that weren't already shut up by the massive bang that had flooded the room.

I slowly grabbed the untouched pencil and handed it over. Evan took it from me with the hand that didn't hold the back of his head and turned around without a word. A scowl replaced his perfect smile.

I straightened my disheveled glasses. Despite my attempt to demote my stare to my own lap, I could feel the 30 pairs of eyes on me. All except Carter's, because he laughed too hard at his friend to even acknowledge the girl at fault.

I'd never envied Miranda's flawlessness more.

Gail

Kat fought the hallway traffic to run to me on our way to lunch. "Hey, Gail, you know how you owe me one?"

"I'm pretty sure you owe me."

"A minor detail, really."

I laughed, which put a skip in her peppy step.

"Any way you could lie to Revie about why Kendal and I aren't at lunch today?" Her ankle-length skirt brushed against the side of my leg as we walked, and the long ponytail tied high on her head by a white head scarf bounced with each step.

"What're you doing?"

"Doesn't matter. Just tell him Kendal drove me to get tampons or something."

"That's the best you've got?"

She shrugged. "It's your lie, not mine."

Before I could ask more, she disappeared. Steps later I entered the cafeteria. I would've been completely alone had it not been for Revie's keen gaze. He sat at the usual spot, abandoned but not pitifully so.

I'd barely sat down before I told him Kendal drove Kat to get tampons. He hadn't even asked, and my panicked explanation prompted him to roll his eyes. "Sure."

"It's true," I tried.

He just nodded and grinned for my sake. "Okay." He hunched back over to eat.

After a few minutes of absolute silence, I couldn't take it anymore. "So how long have the three of you been friends?" I'd beed wondering since I met them three days prior but never found a good time to ask.

Revie straightened to abandon his comfortable thoughts for the new conversation. His intense stare settled last. "Kendal and I have been friends for too long to remember. I don't think we would get along if we met now."

"But now you're attached." I realized that's why I had friends at all back home. We didn't share interests or personalities much. More just a joined history that none of us were willing to let go of. Considering we'd barely talked since the move, they seemed to miss me even less than I did them.

I'd made a vow to stop caring after the move, but that couldn't keep the truth from stinging.

"Pretty much," Revie concluded. "He's like a brother to me."

I wondered if Revie and Kendal would stay in touch if one of them moved away. A jealous part of me wished they wouldn't, but the other knew the truth. Despite being a near-stranger, I still saw how much they cared for each other.

"And Kat?"

"We met freshman year."

"And it's just been the three of you?"

He slowly nodded. "Just the three of us," he said quietly.

"Hey curly," a childish voice piped next to us. It belonged to a short girl with golden skin and platinum hair that fell in perfect ringlets down to her waist. She didn't wait for Revie's reply. The clicking of her 4-inch heals simply continued their steady rhythm as she passed. A taller brunette followed her like a dog, and I half-expected to find a leash pulling her along.

Revie stared at me unresponsively until she was out of ear-shot. His mouth twisted into an annoyed smile in his failed attempt to ignore her.

"What just happened?"

"That's Hazel Thorpe." He looked back with me to watch the two girls walk toward their own small table. "The other one's Marci Horne. You can either worship them or hate their guts but either way you end up knowing their names for one of those reasons."

"What makes them so terrible?"

"They're fake and barely human."

"So they're popular?"

"To some."

"And to others?"

"They're pitied."

"And to you?"

"They're both."

We continued to watch them talk and giggle just loud enough for others to hear, because they knew others were watching. Then Hazel pulled out her phone and Marci just watched her until she finished staring at the screen. But she didn't. Not until two boys joined them. I couldn't help but get caught up in their fantastical, popular world. "Who's that?"

Revie stared with me, as uninterested in them as he was eager to share what he knew. "Evan and Carter." Revie nodded toward the uglier one. His nose seemed to barely outgrow the rest of his face. "Carter's five times smarter than the rest of them combined. Rumor has it they keep him around just to copy off his homework. I honestly don't know how he tolerates any of it."

"I mean everybody wants attention, right?"

"That and he grew up with Marci. Their moms are childhood besties or something."

I nodded as if I suddenly understood, but I didn't. Not really, anyway.

"And Evan's our quarterback. He dated Hazel for a while but they broke up last year."

"Why?" I hated loving the gossip. Revie didn't mind sharing it, but I could tell his willingness ate away at him as mine did. Still, we kept staring and gossiping and smirking about it all.

"Hazel cheated with one of the other football guys. People say they still hook up, though. It's a friends with benefits sort of relationship now."

"Ew."

He nodded and hunched forward again. I peeled my eyes away as well.

"But you don't actually think that's true, right?"

"I think it's noteworthy how true high school rumors actually are."

"You guys definitely have a lot of them."

"If you haven't noticed, there's not much else to do out here."

Kendal and Kat returned within the last 10 minutes of the 40 minute lunch break. Revie stuffed his face into his hand when he saw what they were holding. His palm muffled his voice. "I hate them."

Kat set her three weighted balloons on the table while Kendal slid a small cake with lit candles in front of Revie. They both plopped on either side of him and started singing "Happy Birthday" while Kat wrestled him to strap a party hat around his chin.

Half the cafeteria joined in via request of Kendal's conducting hands, and I had to yell over the chorus. "It's your birthday?"

He scowled up at me. "I don't like to celebrate it."

Kat ended the song with a toot from the two party horns resting on either corner of her mouth. To exaggerate just how miserable Revie looked amongst it all, Kendal popped confetti which showered his grumpy friend. Kat squeezed. "Make a wish or I will."

Revie glared at her, his pointy hat already off and on the table. She rolled her eyes and blew out the flames on the numbered candles spelling "18."

"Why don't you like your birthday?" I asked when the chaos settled down and the students around us lost interest.

"I think it's silly."

"What part?"

"All days are the same exact length so I don't understand why we wait for a certain few when they'll just be over as fast as all the rest before them."

Kendal cut into the cake with plastic silverware.

"So what, you just treat every day like your birthday?"

"I treat my birthday like every day."

"That sounds a lot less fun."

"That's a matter of opinion."

Kendal plopped a large piece of chocolate cake in front of his friend. "Well it's a stupid opinion."

"I hate chocolate."

"No you don't," Kendal grunted. He handed Revie a fork. "Now stop pitying yourself and eat the damn thing."

Kat slid a thin, fairly long box in front of him. "And open my present."

Kendal glared at her. "It's not your present."

"Whatever just open it."

Revie ignored his cake to slowly unwrap his gift. Icing on the cake disappeared in the form of finger-shaped streaks as we watched.

In the thin box rested a collection of paper, unclipped and torn down the left side. Revie stared at them for a long while, mouth hung open in shock. "Are these—"

"They're all for you," Kendal concluded. "Just some stuff you deserve to know."

The hand covering his mouth messily contorted his face. He could only control his tears for a few seconds before they tore through the flood gates. Hot streams glided over his hands and dripped from the side of his palm to miss the papers by mere inches.

Revie opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out before he closed it again.

Kat, who's arms were already around him, squeezed him tighter. Tears welled up in her eyes, though none fell. Kendal slowly licked more frosting off his finger.

"Thank you," Revie whispered.

Kendal clapped his shoulder and they shared a shy smile.

They all stayed like that for a while, frozen over the pile of torn paper that none of them read. Others in the cafeteria saw them and watched with alarmingly keen awareness, once again establishing my reputation as the new girl.

I didn't ask any questions, though. I didn't know what to ask or if there was a time to ask it. So I just watched and enjoyed the purity of their friendship. And longed to share it with them one day. And we all left for class when the bell rang. All except Revie, who stayed back to read the letters alone amongst the balloons and confetti and chocolate cake.

Miranda

I had observed enough by our third day to know I wanted Evan Johnson. He was attractive and popular and above all things a mighty challenge.

By Miranda standards, he was perfect.

He sat behind me in Spanish. Good thing, too, because that way I didn't have to wait for him to look back at me. The situation sat in my control. A dangerous place to be, really.

I asked for a pencil. Instead of replying, though, he just stared at me. "Are you the girl I hit heads with earlier."

My gut dropped. In no world could I separate myself from those two. Not even here. "Was I wearing glasses?"

"Yeah."

"Then no."

"Wait, are you one of those triplets?"

"Unfortunately."

"Nobody can stop talking about you guys."

"I'm sorry, but do you have a pencil or am I just wasting my time here?"

He smiled. Perfectly. And I knew I was playing this game right. "One sec." He reached into his bag to pull out a black pen. "This alright?"

"Sure."

I turned around and set the pen on my desk before pulling out a pencil from my own bag. Evan chuckled lightly behind me. I let him stare at the back of my head for the rest of class just hoping that he was hoping for me to turn around. I never did.

Or at least not until I had to give the pen back at the end of class. "Thanks."

"Miranda, right?"

"That's my name."

I got up and left. He watched me walk away until he couldn't anymore.

Gail

Sydney left me at school with a text saying "Miranda didn't want to be seen waiting for you." I didn't know what that meant, but I didn't question it. Especially as I watched Kendal walk out next to me.

I doubted anybody could be that happy to drive me home. I don't even think Kendal was, but he come off that way regardless.

He knew exactly where to drive when I mentioned living next to Adam Terrell.

We talked for a few minutes about my old home. I told him about the theater program and how I would do it here if I weren't so scared of trying something different and hating it. He asked about my friends, though the more I talked the less I had to say. There truly wasn't much. I didn't mention how my mom died. Or how lonely my dad was because of it. I would have trusted him with it all. I just didn't want him to feel like he had to carry it, because I knew he would.

I asked for some music and he handed me his phone.

He had six total playlists, not one of them exempt of the Beatles, three of them exclusively so. All six were titled with a different mood. None were, nor did they have anything remanent of "sad." When I asked him why, he said, "I don't listen to good music when I'm upset. It'd ruin it." He did, however, listen when he was "Happy," "Excited," "Nervous," "Calm," "Neutral," and "Bitchy."

"Bitchy?"

Kendal laughed. "I normally play that one when Kat's around."

"What's on it?"

His grin widened. "Play it."

Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" hummed through the speakers. Kendal drummed—unexpectedly well—on his steering wheel.

"So what about you?" I yelled over Elvis.

"What about me?"

"Anything."

I couldn't learn everything about Kendal Fenn during that car ride, but I tried. He came from a religious family, but he didn't mind it much. He actually enjoyed church, because people there all had at least Jesus in common, and sometimes that was enough.

His older sister, Julia, got all the attention she never wanted. More than being a violin prodigy, she had straight A's, perfect test scores, and a full ride scholarship to a private college in California.

Before she left, she smashed her violin in the garage in spite of her parents. The whole family watched, unable to stop it, and then she stormed off with her friend who drove her a day early to the airport hours away.

They saw her two years ago at Christmas, but she hasn't visited since.

He didn't say so, but I knew Kendal envied his sister. Despite the violin-smashing fit, she still retained her parents' raw admiration. And not the mandatory, parental kind either. She got the favorite child, over-exclaimed, "that's our girl!" love.

And Kendal wanted it bad.

He'd worked his ass off as the second-string quarterback until the end of his junior year season when he'd realized he'd never take Evan's spot. So he'd started up track in the spring. He'd won second place for hurdling at state, but so had Julia. And Julia had also been a first place pole vaulter.

I wanted to hit him for comparing himself to her, but I didn't know him well enough to feel comfortable doing that. I would have hugged him but he was driving.

So I just turned up the music, and on we drove. He periodically combed his hair with gentle fingers. I messed with his phone—he had to awkwardly reach over me to type in the passcode before I could lock myself out trying—until his "Neutral" playlist vibrated through the whole truck, and The Beatles sang "Strawberry Fields Forever" the rest of the way home.

Kendal retained enough of his high spirit to wave goodbye before speeding away. I ran inside and helped Dad finish unpacking.

130 days left

Sydney

September 17th- Some people find other people to share their loneliness with. Others aren't as lucky.

-Sydney Jerkins

34 days after the start of school, I found myself 34 days lonelier. Miranda was lonely too, but she didn't mind so much.

Evan asked me a question in physics, but he lost interest when I didn't know the answer. Carter then took time to explain it to me, which only made me feel worse.

After that I ate lunch alone and suffered my afternoon classes, which were always intolerably longer than the morning ones.

The bell rang and the weekend started despite how much the week felt like a long, unending Tuesday. There was nothing special about Tuesday, except that it was closer to Friday than Monday, but what good is that when Friday ends up feeling like a Tuesday anyway?

I hated overthinking, but had been doing little else since the loneliness started. It was a hazardous thing: overthinking. The loneliness made it lethal.

Kendal and Liam followed us to the house.

I'd yet to call it home.

Dad didn't try to hide his surprise when he discovered Kendal was a boy. He spent a few minutes joking with him after the fact to make up for it. Liam introduced himself as so, which was strange because I'd never actually heard anybody call him by his first name, let alone himself. Gail tried with each new second to pull the boys downstairs but they slowly grew as taken by our dad as he was with them. I retreated to the family room to watch TV until Gail and her posse left him alone.

I got through half an episode before Dad joined me on the couch and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. I wished we could have stayed there forever. For a while it seemed like we would, just the two of us.

It still felt like a Tuesday.

Gail

Kendal studied Mom and Dad's wedding photo hanging on the mantel. "Where is she?"

"Mom died almost two years ago," I allowed myself to admit.

Revie and Kendal just looked at me. They didn't try to offer any bullshit apologies or consolations, which relieved some of my tangled nerves. "What killed her?" Revie asked, and I didn't mind the question as much as I always had.

"Cancer."

"She's beautiful," Kendal said quietly, blue eyes still trained on the mantle.

"Thanks." My stare joined his and we studied her together. I wish I could remember so much more than her gentle kindness and warm smile. I remember the way she made me feel while sad or angry, but that wasn't enough. I wanted to remember things like her voice or what her laugh sounded like and how those made me feel. But the will to remember didn't keep it from slipping away, no matter how strong.

Sometimes knowing she liked Billy Joel wasn't enough. I didn't know her favorite song. Or remember what it sounded like when she sang along, which she always did. I feared getting older, unprepared for my limited memory of Mom to fade.

Most days felt like losing her all over again. But not with Kendal's soft hand rubbing my shoulder or Revie's tainted grin. Because they made me feel the way my mom made me feel while happy. Or tired. Or both.

And I knew that somebody loved me no matter what, because that's just how the world worked regardless of who got taken away. There would always be somebody else.

Or at least that's what I told myself, because the alternative reality terrified me.

Kendal's hand left me so he could answer a new text. He sighed. "It's Kat."

"What'd she say?" Revie asked.

"Buttercup."

I looked over his shoulder to be sure he hadn't lied. "Buttercup?"

"It's the code word," Kendal explained. "Her date's going poorly so one of us has to call and get her out of it."

"Already?" It was only 4:00 in the afternoon.

Kendal turned to Revie with hopeful eyes.

Revie glared back. "It's your turn."

"Does this happen that often?"

Neither of them responded, which I interpreted as a silent "yes." I didn't know Kat's love life to be so busy, but I didn't know a lot of things about her, just like she'd yet to know so much about me. The fact that my new fiends stayed at all proved that none of them knew who I was. Not really. If they did, they'd see me for the freak that Miranda's secret had turned me into.

Kendal sighed and called her. She answered after the first ring, and he complained loudly about how his fictional little sister just got her first period and he didn't know how to help her. Revie nodded approvingly and relaxed back on the couch to watch. Kat asked for a break, but Kendal persisted. Eventually, she agreed to help him and hung up. Kendal threw the phone down. "Gail's doing it next time."

I didn't argue, simply glad to be included. I still longed for signs of acceptance from them.

Dad let Kat in, and she stumbled down the stairs dressed in a high-waisted, longish pink dress. She told us that morning that she was wearing the 30's, and I didn't know enough about 30's fashion to correct her.

"Thanks for saving me," she said to Kendal, who shrugged off what he had deemed a major inconvenience only minutes ago.

We watched the Breakfast Club, because I felt obligated to share my favorite movie when I'd learned Revie and Kendal hadn't seen it yet. Kat fell asleep in Revie's lap. Apparently she'd stayed up until 2:00 studying for her AP Psychology test. Revie constantly blocked her pin-straight hair from falling in her eyes despite them being closed. Kendal watched the movie intently, because I told him he'd love it and he therefore already did.

The movie ended before the sun could hide behind the horizon. Its rays peaked through the raised window to paint our faces gold. I turned off the TV and Kendal told me how much he really did enjoy it. Revie grudgingly admitted he liked the the characters, which he claimed were overdeveloped in a realistic way.

I didn't know what that meant.

For a while we just talked. Kat remained asleep but we kept her in the conversation anyway. I don't know how, but we did, and she too talked about nothing and laughing about even less.

We spent forever in a night and just existed. Blissfully content. Beautifully perfect. Alone together… I didn't understand that phrase, but I wanted to. And I thought I finally did.

Maybe I was wrong, but even so, I hoped that what we shared that night could be our own kind of "alone together."

Together alone.

Alone together.

Maybe I wasn't using it right. Or maybe I wasn't feeling it right. Either way, something was right, and that's all that mattered.