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First pages

Prologue


Sophie

I felt frozen in time and space. Everything seemed surreal as I floated through a sea of umbrellas to the gravesite. Finally, my parents directed me to a chair set up near where Dylan lay in his coffin, about to be put to rest. In my heart, I hoped my brother had finally found a peace in death he’d never known in life. For days people had tried to comfort us even as I caught them gossiping about our situation.

“I can’t even imagine what Diane and John are going through. First the sexting scandal, and then the suicide. What was he…seventeen? Killed himself on his sister’s thirteenth birthday?”

“I don’t know how they’ll ever be the same again.”

In all honesty, I wondered that too, all while accepting we never would.

Had it really only been last week we were at the therapist’s office? My older brother, Dylan, had been depressed for as long as I could remember. When he was younger, he’d hide in his room as much as possible. Then he started wearing nothing but black. My parents thought it was a Goth phase, but he would merely laugh, this horrible empty sound, and tell them he wore black like his mood. They tried bringing him to therapy, then group therapy, family counseling, everything they could think of, and even more suggested by others. Still, nothing worked.

Then last week happened and I knew it was all my fault. To think the scandal had started as a joke made the repercussions all the more horrifying. I’d spent the night at Katie’s house. We’d been best friends since second grade. She knew I had a thing for CJ Everett, which worked out great because she liked his fraternal twin brother, PJ. We’d decided to date them through high school, go to the same colleges, and marry in a double ceremony right after graduation. Of course, we had yet to get their attention.

On Friday afternoon, CJ had come to me and asked for help in English. “I suck at these essays,” he’d complained. “Could you just work with me so I don’t lose my football eligibility?” Since CJ being a football star factored so heavily into our future plans, I naturally agreed and he gave me his phone number. I’d held it in my sweaty palm for hours, waiting for the perfect time to reach out, but I kept hesitating until finally Katie snatched my phone away and sent him a text. “hi.” That was it. She made it look so simple.

“Now what?” My hands were shaking and my stomach rolled as I considered the next step.

“Now we wait.” Her eyebrow rose in challenge. “Think you can handle that?”

I shook my head. “Nope. Let’s do something.” Without even considering our options, I walked over to her desk, pulled out the chair and positioned it in front of the pale pink wall. “You first. I need the distraction.” She sat without question and I pulled out the makeup from her vanity and the cosmetic bag she carried in her backpack. Once ready, I turned on the stereo, and cleared my throat. “Okay. Hit record.”

A few months back, we’d decided to start a YouTube channel, Sophia Kate. It was just for us, really. We made videos of ourselves doing each other’s makeup. We never thought of it as anything but fun, until we started getting a lot of views and money started rolling in. It wasn’t much, but it had been enough for us to buy more makeup, and pick up our first Victoria’s Secret bras. Our parents, had they known, never would’ve allowed it, but it paid better than babysitting and was so much fun. People at school started to look at us differently. Suddenly, we were cool and CJ had finally talked to me.

Half an hour into the video, just as we were going to trade places, a text come through.

CJ: Who’s this?

So, we squealed and danced around and generally made fools of ourselves, until I managed to pull it together. “Wait! What do I say?”

Katie rolled her eyes and snatched the phone again. “Let’s go with something crazy like…Sophie. How’s that?” Even as she spoke, she typed and hit send.

He responded quickly enough.

CJ: So, what’s up?

I frowned. “It’s like our conversation at school never happened. Ugh. Forget it. Let’s just do my makeup now.” Taking the phone from her, I set it on the bed, then turned and sat in her chair. “My turn.”

“Nope. We’re not done yet. Remember the plan,” Katie urged. “This is the beginning of the rest of our lives.” Without hesitation or consulting me, she typed a response.

“What’d you say?” I asked, my eyes wide with fear. After all, our very future was at stake.

“Just said I could help him whenever he was ready.” She shrugged as she passed me the phone. “Hold it.”

I started to pass it back. “I don’t know what to say!” I complained loudly.

Rolling her eyes, she reminded me. “You don’t have to. I’ll tell you what to type. Gah! Let’s just get your face done. Do you want natural tonight, or something more? I’ve been dying to try this smoky eye thing I just bought.” She held up an eye shadow palette.

“Knock yourself out. You know I’m pretty fearless.” I raised my chin to give her better access to my face.

“Right.” She laughed.

Seconds later, a text came through and my eyes flew open. “Hold still!” she demanded. “You’re gonna mess everything up.”

“Let me see what he said,” I whined. Then I opened the phone and saw it.

CJ: The only help I’m interested in right now is getting off. (devil face emoji)

We squealed at first, but I stopped abruptly. “What does this mean?” My brow furrowed.

“It means,” Katie began in her all-knowing voice, “that he thinks you’re hot and he’s horny.” She raised a brow. “So, what’re you gonna do about it?”

“Ew! Nothing.” I started to push the phone away.

“Give me that!” She yanked it up and started to send a text.

In a panic, I tried to get it back, but she had the advantage and wasn’t giving it up. I heard the chime, which meant she’d sent something. “Oh my God. What have you done?”

“You’re welcome.” She smirked. “I just asked what he had in mind.”

“What if…” Before I could complete the thought, my phone had announced a new message. Bile rose in my throat as I considered the possibilities.

“Wanna know?” she asked as she leaned over to show me.

Shaking my head, I swallowed hard before responding. “Just put it down and finish me. Please.”

“He wants a picture. He says he’ll send one too.” She giggled.

“We can’t. You know that. You know what he wants. My parents would kill me.” I held my hands up in fear, still spluttering excuses.

“They’ll never know.” She whispered. “And we’re not sending him what he wants, we’re only going to let him think it’s what he wants.” She snickered.

My head throbbed as a headache began behind my left eyeball. The stress was really taking a toll on me. “What’s your plan?” My voice came out a whisper.

After locking her bedroom door, Katie walked over to the bottom right dresser drawer. It was the location of all our secrets. As she reached deep inside, I could hear the crinkling of the paper bag and knew she was pulling out our bras.

“What’re you doing?” I gasped.

She held a finger to her lips. “It’s not what you think. Watch.” She walked over to me, holding up my bra. I’d been so proud of this purchase. It was scarlet red and had lace on the cups. In the middle was a bow and a VS monogrammed charm. “Roll up your skirt,” she ordered. She must’ve seen the terror in my eyes because she simply sighed and did it for me. Then she held my knees together and stuck the bra on them. “Look down.” She gestured as she peered over my shoulder. “From this angle, looks like boobs. From this angle…” She stood in front of me. “It’s obviously knees.” Then she snapped a couple of pictures. “Voila! And now we send.” Katie seemed pretty pleased with herself as she handled the texting.

Soon he had sent photos of himself, both just body shots. The first showed his erection hidden behind dark blue boxer briefs. The second showed him pulling them down, exposing a bunch of dark pubes and a hint of his penis. Then he asked for more. He wanted bare boobs and since I had yet to send him any, we made an excuse. “What are you saying?” I asked Katie as I bit nervously on my nail.

“Stop biting! That’s our next video. The nails must be perfect and you have prettier hands.” She showed me hers, all banged up, callused, and bruised from gymnastics.

“Okay.” I groaned.

“I told him my parents just came home and I can’t.” She shrugged. “Problem solved.”

Only the problem wasn’t solved. The problem had barely begun. Apparently, CJ was mad I didn’t send more pictures, or maybe he was just an asshole. By Monday morning, everyone in school had seen the picture. No one believed it was my knees. And I had been suddenly, and definitively, branded a whore.

Worse, because of all of Dylan’s issues, I couldn’t talk to my parents. He ate up every minute of their limited time. He was supposed to be the problem child and I was the good one, but I sure managed to screw that up. For days, I’d struggled to carry the burden of this all on my own, until I ended up in a tussle with some bitch in the bathroom. I’d snapped. As I walked to the sink to wash my hands, she muttered under her breath and I caught it. “Did you just call me a skank?”

She snickered and smirked. “If the scarlet bra fits.”

Without hesitation, I whirled around and cold-cocked her. I don’t know what got into me. I managed to break a knuckle while doing it. Soon enough, the principal called the ‘rents about the fight and the nurse called about taking me to the emergency room for x-rays, and by the time I returned home with mom and wearing a cast, Dylan was pacing and hating me.

“What? You don’t get enough attention?” He glared at me. “Sorry if I’m ruining your life, but showing your tits to the world kinda ruined mine!” Then he stormed out of the room.

We went to family therapy on Tuesday. It didn’t go well, in the same way the Titanic took on a little water. Soon the therapist had decided my sexting was a cry for help. My parents blamed themselves. My brother showed little sympathy for me. Oh, and no one cared that it was my knees, and not my actual boobs or that I hadn’t taken the picture or sent the text. My parents held onto my phone. I’d been suspended for three days, which sucked, but having to return to school and face everyone on my thirteenth birthday sucked more. What I remember most from the session, aside from the crying, angry voices, and my brother’s glares, was the last thing the therapist said to him.

“I know you’re hurting, Dylan.” She leaned forward toward him. “Now you need to see that Sylvie…”

“Sophie,” I corrected. Damn; I was so unimportant, even the therapist couldn’t remember my name.

“Sorry. Sophie is hurting too. What can you do to make her life better? And let’s start small. How about her birthday? What can you do to make it special for her?”

Though I’d stared at the floor for the bulk of the visit, I’d looked up for a moment to see his reaction. Somehow, I ended up caught in his cool, empty stare, which sent shivers down my spine. He really hates me. I remember thinking. My own brother hates me.

We mostly avoided each other the next two days. I spent my suspension in my room, reading, which wasn’t altogether unpleasant. In fact, I’d considered getting suspended more often, or at least until the bullshit with my naughty knee pictures blew over. On Thursday night, I joined my family at the dinner table.

“My word, it’s so quiet in here I could hear a mouse fart!” My father announced in a desperate effort to break the ice. He had such a way with words.

I glanced up at him. He was smiling at me from the end of the table. It didn’t mean I had something to say, but I knew he was at least trying to ease the tension, get us talking. It worked to some degree.

“Don’t say fart.” Mom shook her head like he was such a disappointment, but even I could see the twitch on the side of her lips. She wanted to smile, maybe even laugh.

Dad leaned towards her. “And what would you prefer I say instead, dear?” Then he began to rattle off a number of words, complete with actions. “Toot toot?” He pretended to pull a train horn. “Or maybe I should pass gas?” He spoke through his nose while looking down upon her. “Oh, I know, I could break wind! Cut the cheese! Let one rip!”

Soon the three of us were laughing hysterically, while Dylan leaned back in his chair, completely unaffected. We had finally stopped laughing when Mom spoke. “What do you want to do for your birthday tomorrow?” She smiled widely. “I know we didn’t have much time to plan anything, but maybe you could invite Katie over. We could order pizza, rent movies, and you two could stay up all night.”

“I’d like that. Could she ride the bus home with me?” I wore a pleading look. My parents had a rule about us not having anyone over unless they were home. I returned from school at least three hours before they arrived.

Mom and Dad exchanged looks. “I don’t see why not.” Dad shrugged. “Katie’s a nice girl. We can trust you.”

Dylan coughed “bullshit.” Then he crossed his arms over his chest and dared anyone to comment. “Am I the only one who remembers she’s suspended and was sexting?”

Frowning, Mom finally responded. “We remember. Sophie should’ve known better.”

Shaking my head, I muttered under my breath. “I knew it was all my fault. Everything always is.”

“Watch it, young lady,” my father warned.

Pasting my sweetest expression on my face, I turned to ask one final question. “Can I get my phone back to invite Katie?”

Like a charm, it worked every time. Soon my father had handed over my cell. Since he didn’t ask for it back later, I can only assume he meant for me to keep it. It’s just as well he did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a way to call 911 the next day.

To borrow one of Dylan’s favorite expressions: Friday sucked balls. With three days to practice and save up insults, my classmates were particularly brutal. It took everything in me not to punch anyone, or run off crying. Every time I thought I couldn’t take it, I’d pass Katie in the halls and she’d give me the countdown to home or say something to make me laugh. CJ, who’d avoided me all week, continued to ignore my existence, although I did catch him giving me a bewildered look in English class from across the room. His fingers knotted in his sandy brown hair as he thought. I caught him staring at me once, when I had to stand in front of the class to read my creative writing piece aloud. My face had flushed, imagining his eyes on my boobs. I hated him for spreading the picture, for not being the sweet guy I’d imagined him to be, for hurting me, ignoring me, not standing up for me. I kept a list in the back of my English notebook. It was ten things I hated him for, only way longer.

Katie met me at my locker after the final bell. We walked to the school bus together, her arm looped protectively through mine. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered as kids stared and sneered our direction. “This is all my fault.”

I shook my head. “I never should’ve let you use my phone.”

She rolled her eyes. “Please, like you could’ve stopped me.”

“I could’ve stopped you if I wanted,” I insisted. Soon we were poking each other and laughing as we stepped on the school bus. The driver raised an eyebrow in warning. We took the hint and slid quietly into seats at the back.

“This year, we were supposed to rule the school,” she commented lazily as she laid her head on my shoulder.

“Yeah. Next year…high school. Thank god Dylan won’t be there.” I sighed. My brother would’ve made it his job to make us miserable. He always seemed to delight in my pain.

“Will he be there when we get home?” There was a sparkle in Katie’s eyes when she asked.

“Yeah.” I stared out the window. “He always gets home a good forty-five minutes before me. And today, especially, I’m not looking forward to it. He has been challenged by the therapist make my birthday special.”

“And I’m sure he will.” She snickered as she whipped out her makeup bag and started primping. First, she cleaned up the smeared eyeliner around her lids, then she added fresh lip gloss. Finally, she ran a brush through her hair.

“What are you doing?” It felt like my eyes were bugging out of my head.

“He might have cute friends.” She winked. “Plus, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out between us and the brothers Everett.”

“Right? What’s up with them? CJ won’t even look at me.” I crossed my arms over my chest angrily.

“Maybe he feels badly. We don’t know how it all went down.” She rubbed my shoulder. “You should give him the benefit of the doubt. Now PJ, he’s a straight up dick. I almost ended up suspended with you for the things he was saying about the picture.”

I scowled. PJ was nothing like his fraternal twin brother. While CJ had sandy brown hair and green eyes, PJ had jet-black hair and dark brown eyes. Worse, he acted all sinister and snarky. “Why did you like him to begin with?” I questioned her, my eyes narrowed.

“I love me some bad boy,” Katie teased as she tucked her long blond hair behind her ear.

Finally, it was my bus stop. We stepped off and walked up the driveway to the front door. I remember dropping our bags in my room, then wandering into the kitchen for an after-school snack. I went straight for the fridge, but Katie had stopped at the counter.

“Hey, a note from Dylan.” She picked it up.

“What’s it say?” I reached for the soda, shut the door, and opened the cabinet to grab us two glasses.

Katie cleared her throat for dramatic effect before reading in the voice she always used to mimic my brother. “I’m supposed to make your birthday special. Your present is in the garage. Hope it’s special enough for you.” Folding the paper in half she tucked it in her backpack, then she reached for the cup I passed her. “So, shall we go see?” She sounded as wary as I felt.

“So weird.” I took a few sips from my drink. “I suppose. God forbid I start to look ungrateful.” We set our drinks on the counter. “Popcorn? I can stick it in the microwave, we’ll eat it after we check out the garage?”

“Sure! I’ll get the white cheddar.” She rushed to the spice cabinet since she knew my house as well as she knew her own. “You only set it for two minutes, right?”

“God. Yes. Two minutes.” I threw my hands up in the air. “I burn the popcorn one time and you never let me live it down.”

One time? Try every time.” She laughed as we walked to the garage door.

I opened it and let her step through first. In less than a second, she screamed, then shrieked, and finally wailed. The entire scene seemed so surreal to me. There was Dylan, hanging blue and lifeless from the center beam in the garage. Tears sprang to my eyes. “We have to get him down!” I rushed to pick him up by his legs, convinced if we could just lower him, we could do CPR and he’d be fine.

Somehow, Katie had managed to calm down. “It’s too late! Look at him. Feel him.”

Slowly, I reached out and touched his skin. She was right. He had already begun to cool significantly. The dam broke and I began to sob. “I have to call 911. I have to call Mom and Dad.” I started wringing my hands and pacing nervously. “Oh my god. How can I tell them? I can’t tell them. This is my fault!”

Katie stopped me, grabbing my upper arms. “How can this be your fault?”

I stared at her, feeling empty and completely lost. “Everything’s always my fault.”

“Come on.” She rushed me from the garage to the kitchen where we’d left our cell phones. “Write down your parents’ numbers. I’ll call them while you’re on the phone with 911.”

Somewhere along the way, I went completely numb. The police arrived long before my parents. I sat on the couch with an oversized throw wrapped around me, staring blankly at the carpet, feeling completely numb.

“I’m so sorry for your loss. And I hate to bother you at a time like this, but did he leave a note?” The officer asked as he reached for his notebook.

I started to respond, but Katie intervened. “No.” Her voice was firm.

Slowly, I tried to look at her and question her response, but she shook her head. Seconds later, the officer was called away. Once we were alone, I merely murmured, “Why?”

“He had a history of depression. It was suicide.” She came over and dropped onto the couch beside me. “I took it. I took the bow too.”

“There was a bow?” My eyebrows knit together as I tried to process it.

Katie nodded and avoided my eyes as she picked at one of her calluses. “Yeah. He was the present to ruin your birthday. And…” She took a deep breath. “I couldn’t let your parents find out. I couldn’t let them blame you anymore. This isn’t your fault.”

My mother came rushing into the house. Apparently, she’d heard the last part. “Of course it isn’t!” Tears were streaming down her face. Obviously, she’d been crying for some time, since her nose was flaming red and dripping snot. Reaching into her purse, she grabbed a tissue. “I’m so sorry you found him.” She fell to her knees in front of us. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here. I’m sorry I couldn’t get him the help he needed.”

Then my father blew in through the front door. Seeing my mother on the floor, sobbing, he emitted a strangled cry and picked her up. For a moment, they were wrapped up in their grief, only aware of each other. Katie tugged on my hand and dragged me into my bedroom.

“I checked the house.” She spoke in hushed tones. “As far as I can tell, I found all the notes.”

“There were more?” An ache grew in my chest. Fear began to gnaw at me.

She nodded. “Yeah. He was a piece of work.” She plopped down on the bed beside me. “Do you want me to go? Is this something you want to be alone for? It’s whatever you want.”

“Please stay.” My throat hurt from my struggle to hold it all together.

So, she did. Katie stayed. She stayed all weekend. Then she stayed all week. She missed school, just like me. She remained with me when my parents left to make funeral arrangements. She never left my side during the viewing hours, and even now, she was parked in the seat next to mine during the funeral.

“I have to go home tonight,” she whispered as we sat together in the back seat on the way home from the funeral. “My parents are insisting.” She scowled. “See you in school tomorrow?” She looped her arm through mine.

“Sure.” I nodded. Even though I implied I was going, I didn’t plan on it. There was no one I wanted to see there. Then I thought about having to stay home alone while my parents went to work, in the house where my brother killed himself. Both options haunted me.

After Katie’s mom picked her up, I went to my room and curled up in a ball on the bed. The creak of the floorboards in the hall warned I wouldn’t be alone much longer. Sure enough, both Mom and Dad had come to talk to me. “Wow, this must be serious,” I commented as I slowly sat up and leaned against the headboard.

“We’ve come to a decision.” Mom spoke first. “You’ve been having a rough year at school. And this house will never feel the same again…” She sniffled and her voice trailed off.

Dad reached out and squeezed her hand, a look of pure adoration in his eyes. “Your mother and I have been talking and we’ve made a decision.” He paused, either for effect or to bolster his courage. “We’re going to sell the house and move.” He nodded as he waited for some response.

“Where are we going?” I’m not sure how they expected me to react, but I felt relieved in some ways. At my question, they both seemed taken aback.

“Well, we’re looking at land out in Mint Hill.” Dad rubbed the back of his neck.

“Okay. Just say when.” I shrugged.

They totally called my bluff. They quit their jobs. We spent the next week decluttering and preparing to downsize. Our house sold in a matter of days because of the boom in the Charlotte housing market. They bought and closed on a place within two weeks, paying cash for the homestead. Mom decided to homeschool me. Suddenly, after years of chasing the almighty dollar in their executive positions and being the forgotten child, they were all about a simpler life and completely up my butt. We stopped family counseling because it was a crock. Everything changed until only Katie and my weekends at her house remained.

Chapter One

Sophie

 

Ten years later…

Standing in front of the mirror, I slowly began applying my makeup. My hand shook, making it nearly impossible to finish my eyeliner. I set the pencil down on the counter before gripping my fist to my chest. The more I thought about leaving, the more certain I became I wouldn’t go. If given a moment, I’d be able to come up with a million excuses. I could go with the classic ‘I’m not feeling well.’ It wasn’t a lie. It just wasn’t the whole truth either.

Maybe I should suck it up and go. Katie had always been there for me. Now she was starting a new job after completing her degree in journalism from NYU. She loved the camera and it loved her right back. The success of Sophia Kate had proven it. I thought we were going to make it our career. Then she finished high school without me and decided to go to college, leaving our empire in my hands. Because of her departure, I renamed it Simply Sophie. It was rebranded. There would be no more makeup, since, after the incident with CJ, I never put my face, knees, or any other questionable body part in front of a camera again. Instead, I stuck to my hands. I made a fortune with nail art. With all my free alone time, I could sit around and try new methods for at-home manicures. People marveled over the YouTube tutorials and each video racked up millions of views. Eventually, a company approached me for a partnership. I made the designs and promoted these new vinyl nail coverings, they sold them, we split the profits and everyone was happy. It became a huge hit. We have our own sales force of mompreneurs pushing them through various distribution channels.

At first, I told myself I stayed inside all the time because I was so driven. Then I realized I didn’t want to be around people anymore. In my uptown condo, I’d managed to create the home I’d always wanted and the lifestyle I’d always dreamed of…mostly. At the moment, I was flooded with guilt. I needed to support her. None of this would’ve ever happened without Katie pushing us to start. How could I not be there to celebrate her successes? As I stood staring out the window, I knew she’d understand, which only made it worse.

Reaching for my cellphone, I called. She answered in less than two full rings. “I was expecting this,” Katie announced. “You can’t do it, can you?”

I exhaled, realizing I’d been holding my breath. “There are going to be so many people. Your parents never do anything small, and this is to celebrate your new job.” I struggled to explain.

“I know,” she murmured. “I swear your parents did you a huge disservice by moving you to the country.”

“It was alright. I spent every weekend with you, remember?” The visits had all stopped when she went off to college, of course.

“Yeah.” She laughed. “Good times. We managed to keep our little company afloat. Now look at you. You make hundreds of thousands a year, and I’m hundreds of thousands in debt.”

“You could come back, if you want. I’d hire you in a heartbeat.” I bit my lip and hoped. Katie had always been my link with the world.

“Nah. It’s all yours. I’m looking at starting with WBTV tomorrow. Maybe tonight if anything big happens. They always break in the new kid at godawful hours.” She laughed, and I could tell she was really excited about it.

“Well, I’ll look forward to seeing you on TV, unless you want to move in with me until we find some brothers to marry in a joint ceremony.” I tried to sound all breezy and light about it, but damn I missed her. Living alone in a big city and working online can get very lonely.

“Actually, I found an apartment.” Katie spoke quietly, hesitantly. “And I may have even found a man.”

“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say. The disappointment I felt was acute. “I mean, I’m happy for you.” This was the point when I should be asking to meet him, but I rarely let strangers into the condo. And I didn’t often go out socially, so the question felt senseless.

“Thank you. Wanna do lunch soon?” In the background, I could hear her mother calling for her. “Ugh. I gotta go. Guests are beginning to arrive for the big party. You know…” Her voice trailed off. I’d barely managed to grunt a goodbye before she’d ended the call.

We both realized I didn’t know what it was like. After the funeral we stopped having company, I stopped having birthday parties, and my parents rarely ventured out for anything other than the monthly shopping trip. They seemed to love life on the homestead, living off the grid, and shunning technology, since it had been the catalyst for our downfall. Me, I’d never given up many parts of my old life. I had a phone paid for by Sophia Kate. I had all the other trappings of a normal teen. I just couldn’t keep them at my house. Like the rebellious child I’d become, once my mother proclaimed my studies completed shortly after the winter I turned eighteen, I passed the test for my GED, then moved out, into my first place. During what would’ve been my high school years, I’d saved enough money to buy a modest condo outright. It felt great, starting my real estate portfolio. There were a few other purchases, too, but my favorite was this place. By the time I was twenty-two, I’d earned enough money to buy this fancy uptown condo with loads of amenities I never used.

Walking back to my closet, I slowly pulled the dress over my head, dropped it into the hamper because I was too lazy to hang it up, and grabbed the nearest pair of pajama pants and baggy t-shirt. It was my standard work-from-home wardrobe for night and morning. During the day, I like to mix it up with yoga pants or my LuLaRoe leggings. I walk on the wild side. I sighed. Apparently, I also have taken to adding commentary to my life.

Settling down in front of the computer, I started to respond to emails. The work was never done. I rather liked it that way. I hated having too much time to think. When I did, I started replaying my life, which only caused more heartache. I imagined where I’d be if I’d never texted with CJ, or if I’d tried harder to befriend my brother. Maybe he’d still be alive. Maybe my parents would’ve kept their jobs. I’d still be here, but maybe I wouldn’t be scared of…everything, which was only a slight exaggeration.

Soon, I’d caught up on all my emails. After making myself a hot cocoa for the chilly fall evening, I turned the lights down, leaving just one on over the kitchen sink. Then I curled up in my lounge chair to watch some television. Tonight, my dark mood had me watching ID’s Killer Confessions.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Emma is single and loving it. Like her first character, Alysin, Sin for short, she doesn't believe in settling or in settling down. She loves to indulge in her passions whenever the mood strikes and enjoys keeping all of life's cliché moments spicy.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
Be sure to visit my Amazon Author Page to see other books I've written. I love interacting with readers. Feel free to join my Facebook readers group: Emma's Elite, where I host lots of giveaways in addition to sharing snippets and teasers of upcoming releases.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
This work is darker than most of my other books. I tackle some tough subjects like bullying, suicide, mental illness, and PTSD. Writing in first person dual point of view was often painful, but necessary. And I'm incredibly proud of the final product.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
I was joking around with a book blogger who lives in Australia, a country I fear since almost everything there can kill a person. This had me imagining a young woman who had an abundance of fears, what might cause them, and how she love, though terrifying, could heal her.

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