"I won... again." My little brother didn't seem very excited about his victory. "Thalia, are you even trying?"

I looked down at the chess board and struggled to bring my mind back to the game. "I'm sorry, Jakey. I'm just a little tired." I said as I massaged my temples. I won school chess competitions effortlessly but now I was losing to my thirteen year old brother.

"We can stop playing if you're not in the mood." Jakey said, shrugging his shoulders as he wiped the game board clean of the pieces.

I couldn't believe I was eighteen now. Birthdays used to be so fun, so lively. Jakey and I looked forward to them. We never had much but we always made the best out of the situation. We baked our own cake, decorated our meager apartment room with ripped newspapers that we dipped in paint and played board games till midnight. My mother would give us a present too - that was the most exciting part. It was usually something small but I appreciated anything I was given.

Today it was different. Everything seemed bleak and dreary. I couldn't be fully expressive when I spoke to my mother and she had nothing much to say to me. I couldn't help but wonder why she was acting so distant. It was disheartening watching her intently stare out the window, not uttering a single word, as if she was deeply bothered by something.

"Mum." I called for her.

She turned to look at me with a blank expression before returning a small smile. "Are you hungry?" She asked.

"No." I replied. "Just wanted to let you know that I love the hat." She and Jakey had gotten me a green fedora hat from a second-hand shop down the street. I actually didn't want presents from anybody, especially not from my mother. Everyone had been extra nice to me since I got released but I didn't feel like I deserve it.

"I'm glad you like it." She said in a voice a little louder than a whisper.

Then our conversation ended.

"This birthday stinks." My brother complained, tucking the board game box under his arm as he stood up.

"We'll play another game." I tried to enliven things a little.

"I know you don't want to, Lia." He was right, and I remained silent, unable to think of an appropriate reply. He took off to the room he shared with my mother, for a nap I supposed. I was left in the cramped living room with my mother who was now fixated on a novel as she gently rocked her wooden chair.

I felt suffocated.

I made my way to my room and locked myself in it. It was a lot smaller than the living room and there was barely any space to walk around but atleast the tension wasn't there anymore. I knelt down and reached under my bed. I pulled out an antique box and set it on my lap. I took a careful look around the room before clicking it open to reveal the necklace Harry had given to me. I smiled at the sight before gently taking the glimmering object in my hand. I stood up and faced the mirror with the necklace in hand.

I winced at my reflection. My hair was untamed, the ends springing out into a frizz eventhough I'd brushed it numerous times and light bags hung under my eyes. Just when I was about to dwell on my unsightly appearance today, I remembered how Harry took pleasure in gazing at me every chance he got and the multiple times he told me I was beautiful. It made me feel better. I didn't want to be dependent on him for my happiness, but it couldn't be helped. Only the thought of us together could bring a little life back into me.

I clasped the necklace around my neck, it gleamed with the motion. It was so beautiful, contrasting with the rest of my appearance. If only I could wear this whenever I wanted.  I inhaled deeply and felt tears gather at the back of my throat. I'd just spent the night with Harry  but I was already missing him. Terribly. A sense of anxiety added to the distress I felt. I didn't know what he was doing right now. He could be in the company of Kaylee. Or someone like her. I trusted him but I didn't know how things worked out there, and I was afraid. I was afraid I wouldn't see him again. The last time we parted ways, I didn't see him for weeks. It had been the most excrutiating experience not knowing when or whether I would see him again. I didn't want to go through that again. It scared me how things between us were so uncertain. How long would we have to go on like this?

A voice in my head urged me to stop thinking so much. This was unhealthy. I loved him but I needed to occupy my mind with something else. There was nothing I could do about the current situation Harry and I were in so there was really no point in stressing myself out like this. Staying in the apartment did not help. It was depressing even. I decided that I'd return to work. I was tired yes, but I couldn't sleep either. I moved my hair off my shoulder, straightening it out before tying it up into a ponytail. I needed to make myself appear more presentable. Right then something caught my attention.

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