1. Talking

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September 3 (one and a half months earlier)

Normally, a seventeen year old girl blowing kisses at the pictures of two brothers aged twelve and thirteen, pictures that were covered with heart stickers and dried roses, would be beyond weird-it would be downright squicky. It's the kind of thing that if the boys' parents or any other adult found out about it, there would be frantic calls to the high school principal, alerting him to the situation. There would be hushed conversations with the girl's teachers and concerned words with her parents.

Basically, the girl would be called immediately into the counselor's office, set in a chair, allowed to sit in uncomfortable silence while looking at his messy desk and a mug that had 'Living my craziness!' on the side, until she was finally asked, "Do you know why you've been called in here to chat with me today?"

Everyone pretty much knew about my mirror and the pictures in my bedroom, though. If I was going to be totally honest, no adults actually knew I was blowing kisses at the pictures, but they did know about the heart stickers and roses, and I supposed that was close enough.

I thought of them every day: Sean with his corn-silk hair and blue eyes that had made my 12 year old heart skip and leap, Levi with his brown curls and hidden smile who knew my every secret but one.

"Brooklyn, are you coming?" my mom yelled from the kitchen down the hall.

"Yeah, just getting my clothes on!" I had to stop thinking about them and get dressed.

It was still too hot outside for my tights and Doc Martins, so Mary Janes and a loose skirt would have to do. I opened my closet to find a top, flipping through the shoulders and sleeves of shirts and sweaters, looking for something that didn't look old or worn out. A sailor-cut tee caught my eye and I pushed the hanger next to it aside. Marks on the back wall caught my attention. There were a bunch of long scratches that I had never noticed before.

I jerked on the string to turn on the overhead lightbulb.

What the-

"Brooklyn, sometime this morning!" Mom yelled again.

"Yeah, I'm still getting dressed," I mumbled at my clothes.

The scratches were letters, but I couldn't quite make them out. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil from my bag to make a quick rubbing. Words appeared in the graphite and cold spread through me.


I stared first at my paper and then at the phrase scratched into the back of my closet not sure if what I saw was real or not. I touched the marks. The grooves were rough but not deep, as though they'd been made with a coin or...fingernails.

This was going to ruin my day, just when I thought things couldn't get worse. I flicked a glance at my mirror and the pictures of smiling kids, dried up roses and stickers. I was already running late for school.

The only logical explanation was that the words had always been there. The previous renters were messed up freaks who had done this for kicks before moving out.

From the kitchen, my mom yelled for me to hurry up and come to breakfast or starve the whole morning. I slid the hangers back in place and pulled the string to turn off the light. Trying to pretend that nothing was wrong, I shut the closet door.

The drive to school with my mom passed in a blur while I convinced myself that although we'd been living in that apartment since I was nine when my dad left us, somehow I had just never noticed the words before.


No punctuation, no words or letters before or after. It didn't really mean anything, but it felt like a punch in my stomach. I nearly chewed off my bottom lip thinking about it. I felt sick, but there was no way I could tell anyone about this. I could only reassure myself that no one and nothing was coming for me.

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