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A juicy raindrop thwacked against my icy cold skin. I tilted my head back and looked up at the dismal grey sky, which was blotted with storm clouds just waiting to dump rain on me. Just then, another drop plummeted down from the sky and splashed into my eye.


Howling winds whistled as they whipped through the branches of brittle trees lining the street. My hair danced in the wind and stuck to my cheeks as I watched as someone’s silver Audi cruised past me, its blindingly white headlights reflecting off my skin. I could hear my teeth chattering, and the temperature was only going to continue to descend.

A gigantic crow soared overhead, cawing wildly as it went. If I hadn’t been frozen solid, I would have picked up one of the pop cans scattered in the ditch and chucked it at the pesky bird. I hated birds almost as much as I hated rain. But instead, I popped another orange Tic Tac in my mouth and wondered how, exactly, I had ended up here.

Of course I knew how I’d ended up here, stranded on Belle Street: My dad had finally agreed to drop me off at the mall and promised to pick me up at three. For the record, it was now four-thirty. But what I couldn’t seem to understand was how on earth I’d managed to hit rock bottom without even realizing it. I used to be on top of the world, and now I was standing alone on a curb in the middle of a storm.

Thunder crashed overhead, giving each and every one of those shady clouds a pulse. In return, a bolt of lightning illuminated the now black sky, lighting up the whole world for just a moment before it faded back to dimness.

I wrapped my arms around myself and hopped up and down to stay warm as the wind numbed my fingertips. My chest was tight and it hurt to breathe; the cold stung my lungs. Rain blurred my vision, making everything look like a grey merry-go-round whirling so speedily it was impossible to decipher any specific objects. I wiped my eyes with the back of my sopping wet sleeve, which, as I had suspected, was no use.

The ironic thing was that I had woken up that morning thinking today was going to be a wonderful day. The sun hung high and proud in the clearest blue sky I had ever seen, and the house was quiet enough for me to sleep in until ten in the morning. When I finally rolled out of bed, I noticed my dad and brothers were all gone, which meant I had the house to myself, and that was just the way I liked it.

I slid my feet into the fuzzy slippers my grandma had given to me last Christmas and padded into the kitchen. There, I whipped up a delicious batch of fluffy pancakes and scarfed them all down in less than three minutes. Things kept looking more and more optimistic after that, especially when the clock struck noon and my dad and brothers still weren’t home. I put my iPod on the docking station, shuffled through my playlist of cheesy ballads and sang my heart out knowing no one could hear me. But in the middle of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, the phone rang.

“Hello,” I answered, plopping down in my dad’s thrown—a beat-up leather chair that he practically lived in—and running a hand over the small bump the pan-cakes had left on my stomach.

“Aurora,” my mother gasped, startling me. It felt like it had been years since I’d heard her rich, songlike voice saying my name. “Is that you?”

A surge of happiness ran through me like an electric bolt, and I felt myself smiling like an idiot even though I knew she couldn’t see me. “Hi, Mom,” I said.

Now all I could hear were my mom’s choppy, uneven breathing as she broke down in tears. To say I was used to my mother crying was an understatement, and while normally I didn’t even budge when I saw the tears flooding her eyes and rolling down her cheeks, this time I felt my throat tightening and tears pricking my eyes.  This may sound awful, but I missed her sobbing. Back at home, I was so used to the sound—a car insur-ance commercial could set her off—that I had grown accustom to it. You could even say I found it comforting in a way.

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