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Author: Vera Hollins



“That’s a dumb movie for a dumb girl,” Hayden taunted.

As usual, I couldn’t respond to his mean remark. No matter how much I wanted to put him to his place, fear and hurt never let me.

“That’s enough, Hayds,” my best friend and his twin, Kayden, defended me, and I smiled at him in gratitude.

I was going to see a romance movie with my friend Christine, and Kayden wanted to escort me. I didn’t need an escort since it was just 7 p.m. on Sunday and we were in a crowded part of our town, but Kayden had insisted. I had no idea why Hayden tagged along.

Maybe he wanted to see Christine, with whom he was in a constant on-off relationship. I’d told myself not to care about his love life, but it was difficult to shut down my feelings that always managed to drown the voices of reason. Hayden was my long-time, unrequited crush, despite being my biggest bully. The irony of it all was a bitter pill to swallow.

I glanced over my shoulder at Hayden, who walked behind us with his hands in his pockets and eyes on the shops we passed.

“Why is he here?” I whispered to Kayden.

“We’re going to Blake’s house to watch the game, but he wanted us to go together.”

“That’s strange, since you two don’t get along at all.”

“Maybe he wants to turn over a new leaf and hang out with me?”

That wasn’t so likely. Hayden and Kay never had a good relationship. Also, Hayden had always been against my friendship with Kayden, which was all the more reason for him to torture me behind Kay’s back.

I pulled my phone out of my bag, and my eyes bulged when I noticed the time.

“Oh gosh, I’m late!” I bolted, rushing to the theater.

Kayden’s rich laugh followed me. “Hey, relax. We’re nearby anyway.”

“Yeah, but I was late the last few times. Christine is going to kill me!”

“I hope she will. There would be one less moron in the world.” Hayden’s voice was full of malice, and it made me even more impatient to get to the theater.

I moved my trembling fingers over my screen, writing a message for Christine to notify her I would be there in a couple of minutes. I glanced left and right and started crossing the street.

I was about to hit “send” when the sound of a horn blasted through the air.

I whipped my head to the side with my heart in my throat, squinting against two bright flashes of light as a car rushed toward me without slowing down. I grew paralyzed. The car swerved to the side, avoiding me, but it headed straight for Hayden on the sidewalk.

In a second that rolled in slow motion, Kay rushed between Hayden and the car as a living shield and wrapped his arms around him, right before they collided with the vehicle.

Screams erupted everywhere as they rolled from the hood to the ground, matching the maddening noise in my head that mixed with shock. The car didn’t even stop, driving away in a cloud of smoke.

My gaze landed on Hayden, who was sitting up. “Hayden!”

I darted to him, able to move at last, but then I looked at Kay, and the world stopped moving. I halted.


He was motionless on the pavement, his head and limbs positioned at strange angles.

No. No. No. No.

My wobbly legs took me to him, everything around me becoming a blur. I refused to believe what I saw. Kayden was okay. This was an illusion. He’s okay.

I dropped to my knees and shook him, a puddle of blood beneath him spreading horribly fast.

“Kay, don’t joke like this. Come on. You’re all right,” I said in a shaky voice. He’s okay. He’ll stand up any moment...

Hayden reached us on his knees and hands, the blood dripping from his left temple down his face. He didn’t look good himself.

“Kayden.” He grabbed his shoulder, his unfocused eyes becoming horror-struck. “Kayden!”

“Call an ambulance,” someone shouted.

“Son, are you all right?” an older man asked Hayden, but he ignored him.

“Not you, too,” Hayden said in a voice I could hardly recognize, and my heart splintered in pain. “Not again.”

My vision grew blurry with tears, my gaze darting over Kay’s unmoving body and the blood beneath him that looked surreal—like someone had splashed a can of red paint around him.

“Not again,” Hayden whispered to him and looked at the blood. “So much blood. No. So much blood.”

“The ambulance is coming,” a woman said, crouching next to me, but I barely even heard her because I was looking at Kay’s face, finally understanding what I was seeing.

His face was a mask of a sudden terror, and his eyes ...

His glassy eyes were open, but they were devoid of life. There was nothing, and I felt something inside of me rip into a million pieces. The world turned into darkness—forever splashed with his blood.

My best friend was dead .

More people crowded around us. I could see their lips moving, but I couldn’t hear them. All I heard was a static noise in my head. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore.

Kayden Black died—leaving a crushing emptiness inside of me—and I felt like I died with him, too.

Chapter 1


A slight breeze cooled my heated face under the setting sun as my feet hit the pavement. The warm August evening was perfect for running. I’d started running only this summer, but I was already addicted to it. It helped me clear my head, root out the negative feelings, and prepare for what was yet to come.

I lived in Enfield, Connecticut’s suburban area, which was a calm, beautiful neighborhood. The oak trees cast lovely shadows over the tree-lined streets during the day, and it was a breathtaking view worthy of a postcard.

The ubiquitous sounds of children playing in neighboring yards filled the streets, mixing with the sounds of Linkin Park’s “Breaking the Habit,” which blasted from my earbuds as I ran. I increased my speed, spurred on by satisfaction that I’d covered around six miles today. It was extraordinary compared to my first run, because back then, I could barely endure two whole minutes without a break.

These days, Enfield was more peaceful than usual since people were on their summer vacations. As a matter of fact, the whole summer had been perfect. I could do whatever I wanted, using my free time to work on my drawings and make some old ideas come true. I’d spent more time on my art accounts on Tumblr, YouTube, and Instagram, and I’d managed to gain more followers.

People actually liked my art, and they encouraged me to keep drawing. They were a huge support, which had felt rather strange in the beginning. At that time, I’d doubted their praise was honest, since I was called stupid, incompetent, and unworthy all the time. It took me a lot of time to get used to the fact that I really had some value and talent.

For the first time after many years, I could feel pure happiness and forget my misery. I’d started my first part-time job in the Raymond retirement home, there was no school—or Hellhole as I called it—and I didn’t have to see any horrible people I saw each day in East Willow High.

The best of all: it was my first summer without Hayden.

Two years had passed since the night Kayden died. I missed my best friend so much it hurt, unable to get away from the dull pain that pervaded my chest each time I thought about him. Half of me had died with him that night, while the other half had been left to bleed, suffering Hayden’s constant torment. He blamed me for Kayden’s death, and he’d made my life a living hell.

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