01: Train Wreck

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"She acts like summer and walks like rain

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"She acts like summer and walks like rain."

-Train, "Drops of Jupiter"


THERE IS A DEAD BODY on the tracks.

August Omeria can tell that much. She even knows how it got there.

Police cars and ambulances are arriving now, but August pushes them out of her mind until they're nothing but red and blue blurs of light. She could paint an entire canvas out of it if she wanted — the bright colors, the harsh glares, the sheer realness of the situation. She'd capture it all if she cared enough.

The reason they're here is another story altogether, though. The best August can do is form a mental picture and think in fragments: the barriers coming down, them stopping at the crossing, the pause in the air. And then bikers, seven in a row, flying out of nowhere with helmets glinting under the sun. The train coming at full speed and how they wouldn't slow down. August's dad — Thomas — mumbling, They're not gonna make it, they can't, over and over and how August wanted nothing more than to snap his neck so that it wouldn't be true.

It happened without a sound. Or maybe it had one, but August wouldn't know. Everything was practically white noise at that point.

Three quick knocks on the front car window snap her out of it, and Thomas rolls it down to reveal a police officer. The officer bends over so that his head's level with Thomas's and places his elbow on the door like he owns the damn thing.

He says his name's Jack, which August doesn't believe because he doesn't really look like a Jack. What, with the corny-ass mustache and dry skin this guy's got, he looks more like a Bert. Or a Randy. He talks to Thomas a whole lot, though, which isn't all that surprising since he probably already knows who Thomas is. Thomas, on the other hand, probably doesn't have a clue about who he is.

Anyway, they go at it for a while. Jack keeps on yapping, and Thomas nods until he starts nodding off. And that's when the officer turns to August.

"You alright, kid?"

Something about the way he says it really gets to her. The way his eyes get squinty at the end and the corners of his lips curl upwards. Worry lines crease his forehead, but you could tell they're fake as hell from a mile away.

Her mind races. There's a lot of things she wants to say, but the look Grace gives from the front seat stops her.

Grace is a part-time librarian and full-time pretender. A real fraud is what August translates that to, but the day she tells Grace that is the day she'll see stars even after closing her eyes. Grace wants August to be just like her one day, which would be physically impossible if August wasn't so submissive. With Grace's abundance of stale stares and white lies — and August's lack thereof — it should be impossible.

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