Chapter 1

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Welcome reader! Thanks so much for choosing to start my book! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

I just want to note that this is a first draft so it's unedited and undoubtedly bursting with silly mistakes. I gladly welcome any comments and critiques so please don't hesitate to do so!

Thanks again and enjoy!

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Though the trees have no voices, I can hear their pain as the wind tears through their branches. They groan and shriek over the vicious howl of the storm, the noises clashing together to create what sounds like a ferocious battle of the elements. 

I hunker down further into my small bed, resisting the urge to cover my ears as I wait the storm out.

If she doesn't sleep, neither do I.

I glance over at my sister, who sits near the window, eyes glazed and jaw clenched tight. Though we broke her nervous habit of tugging at her hair years ago, after it started falling out, I can tell by the way her fingers twitch against the windowsill that the urge is still there.

Willow glances over, catching me watching her. Her long blonde hair looks dull in the candle light, her face half obscured by shadows that flicker across her pale skin. "Can you hear it?" she whispers. "They told me the storm was coming, that something evil was riding the wind down from the mountains."

"The trees always think evil is coming. Half of the time their warnings are wrong, you know that." I aim for a calm, matter of fact tone but Willow hears the unspoken words that linger in the room; half of the time the trees' warnings are true.

The loud crack of a branch breaking free splits the moment of tense silence, making me flinch and immediately feel like a fool for it. I lick my chapped lips. Willow always manages to get me worked up about these things; she has a hard time filtering truth from lies in that head of hers. But, as she leans her forehead against the pane of glass that separates her from the storm, I'm once again struck by the burden her gift places on her. I want to curse those trees and burn them down to piles of ashes for constantly putting worries in her head.

A quiet tap on our bedroom door announces our father's arrival.

"You girls still awake?" he asks quietly, cracking the door open. Seeing that the candle is lit, he opens it fully, a tired smile on his face as he takes us in. Though he is a tall man, he is all points and edges, thin where he had once been sturdy. These last few years have been tough on him and each new one seems to whittle him down further, turning him more into a shadow of the man and father he had been before we lost Mother.

"You should try to sleep, you both have early morning deliveries for Mr. Hamlyn. I'm going to do a quick sweep around the house, just to make sure none of these trees are going to be a problem if this wind gets any worse." He runs a hand through his thinning brown hair, worry creasing the corners of his eyes as the windows rattle in their frames from a particularly strong gust of wind.

"Are you sure it's safe to go outside, Father?" I shoot Willow a look, expecting her to jump in and agree, but she's still staring out into the darkness like we aren't even there.

"I'll be quick; I just want to go to bed knowing my girls are safe for the night." He cuts off any further protests and leans over to press a kiss to the top of my head. He does the same to Willow, who still doesn't move, but Father takes no notice. Closing the door gently behind him, I hear him clomp out into the main room, no doubt grabbing his coat to bundle up before he ventures outside.

"Willow?" I prompt, wondering why she didn't try to stop Father from going outside, when she's obviously so afraid. But she acts as if she doesn't hear me. Maybe she doesn't. Sometimes Willow gets so lost in her mind that it's nearly impossible to pull her out of it.

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