CHAPTER TWO

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It never ceased to amaze me how the world went away when I painted. It was like everything clicked off the second my hand picked up that brush. And then I'd blink awake, maybe four hours later, and stare, befuddled, at a finished product.

This time wasn't anything different.

I caught my breath as I stared at my handiwork. The general background was a brown color, almost sand-like. There was a mass of clouds, a beautiful storm that looked like it had just started, and three angels that hung in the air, mesmerizing. They seemed to pierce through me as I stared at each of them. Their wings were folded in, white with long feathers, and their robes almost sparkled from some unseen light.

I didn't know what prompted this painting out of me. And to be honest, I never understood why I painted what I did, but this one took my breath away. It was like someone else had used me to paint it. I didn't feel like I could take credit, but it didn't matter.

I bent and pulled the masking cover over it. I made sure each of the prominent tacks were pointed out so that the cover wouldn't rest on the painting, just around it. And then I glanced at the clock.

9:05.

Great.

I'd been painting for longer than four hours. And I knew my family would be wondering where I was.

Cursing slightly underneath my breath, I grabbed my bag and quickly left through the door. It would automatically lock behind me, so I didn't give it a thought. As I hurried down the far east corridor and descended the back stairwell, I hoped like I always did that the alarm wouldn't sound when I pushed on the exit doors. They never had, but it only took one time. And as I pushed through, I breathed in relief when no alarm splintered the air.

I was safe....once again.

The air was chilled, like it should've been on an early summer night. It didn't help me when I hadn't gone to school with a sweater or jacket.

I briskly tried to warm up my arms, but it never worked. I was still slightly trembling when I got to my car. As I blasted the heat, I sat back and pulled out my cell phone. Two missed calls from Kellan and four text messages from Matt.

Lovely.

The first one said, 'ya beatch, ur gonna pay for ur bruda be back 2morrow dun worry.'

The second one wasn't much different and the last two promised payback.

I rolled my eyes and shifted the car into gear. As I drove through the back streets of Poehler and headed out of town to where my family lived, I saw Leah and a few others leaving one of the pizza places, like a normal teenager enjoying time with her friends.

I'd never been a part of that world. None of the Bradens had. And for some reason, it never bothered us. We were meant for different things. Still...a part of wished things could've been different. That I could've grown up as a normal girl with a normal family and even a normal boyfriend.

When I slowed and turned onto the gravel road that led to my family's home, I knew it was useless to wish that.

I wasn't normal. No one in my family was, but it would've been nice...to know what normal felt like.

My family lived in a three story bricked house. And as I parked to the left of the garage, I cursed when I saw that every single light was off. That didn't mean everyone was asleep, not in my family. It meant that they were outside, probably down by the river.

Still...it was a little reprieve for me.

I let myself in to the empty house, kept the lights off, toed off my sandals, and moved into the kitchen. The bare tile felt cool underneath my feet. As I opened the fridge, I pulled out a container of orange juice and then screamed.

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