"Sorry, I'm what now?"

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      Hey. I'm Gracie. I'm not much special, your partially average twenty one year old. I'm a barista at Starbucks by day and a novelist by night. I'm completely independent from my family, and I have a tiny apartment in Boston, I pay my bills, keep my head down, normal right? It was peaceful living until I died.

I was almost done with my shift, when a regular walked in. I wasn't surprised to see her, but today, she wasn't alone. "Hey Sammy. The usual I assume?" "Not today, Grace. I'm going to need four large espressos and a seat in the back room." I sighed. Samirah Al-Abbas had been coming here for years now, and whenever something serious was going on, she'd go to the back room to think for a bit. I tossed her the keys. "I'll bring them back in a minute. My shift ends in five anyways, and Joshua won't mind if I leave a bit early." She nodded, leading her three companions to the back room. As soon as the drinks were ready, I clocked out and carried them back, leaving the next girl on shift to handle the waiting line of customers. "Here Sammy. Four espressos, and a biscuit on the house for you." She smiled and nodded in thanks. Before I left, I took a moment to scan over her company. A short man of about twenty with a black well trimmed beard, a boy of about 16 who appeared to be a shorter Kurt Cobain look alike. And the last- my breath caught on my throat. He was thin, with pale gray eyes and spiky platinum blonde hair. A forked staff sat next to him, along with a drawstring bag. He looked at me, seeming to be trying to read me just as I was him. He turned to the others and signed in ASL 'why is she staring at me?' 'I am sorry. I will go now,' I signed, but Sammy stopped me. "Grace, wait. Be careful tonight. Go right home and lock your doors." "Sam, what do you mean what's going on?" She gave me a sad look. "You'll find out later. Just be very careful. If anything happens, call me and I'll come help you. You have my cell." I nodded and left. I knew I shouldn't ask questions. Sam had done this once before, the night of that explosion almost a year ago, when that kid Magnus Chase had died. I knew to trust her. I left with a last glance over my shoulder, to see the four exchanging nervous glances, whispering and signing to each other nervously. I did what Sam asked, or at least, I tried to.

I was walking home as I had been lately, despite the frigid winter cold, because my car was totaled and I didn't have the money to fix it or the courage to ask my parents for money. As I walked down the street, I kept my hood pulled low and eyes cast down, but still he noticed be. "Gracie, how've you been? I haven't heard from you in a while." "Go away Zethes. I still hate you." "Whoa harsh words. What ever happened to us being best friends?" "You sided with the enemy. Remember that?" I continued walking. "Yes, but there's someone here you want to see! I picked up Lizzy from school for you, come here Lizzy!" I froze and started shaking as the seven year old rounded the corner. "Hi!" I snatched her up. "Don't ever even think about touching my daughter again." I started to walk away again. "She's dead by the way, Gracielle, don't act like she's still around." I took a deep breath and left. "Elizabeth, sweetheart, if he ever says to come with him again or even talks to you scream stranger danger and run, okay?" She nodded and I set her down, continuing my walk holding her hand.
       Perhaps I should explain Elizabeth. She isn't my daughter, not technically. When I was fourteen, she was born and I fell in love with her immediately. We were inseparable, and I was made her godmother and it was decided that she was mine should anything happen to her parents. Her father and mother were killed by an intruder when I was seventeen and just got my own place, and I got custody of her somehow despite my age. I've taken care of her ever since then, and she's started calling me her mother. I took on the role and started calling her my daughter. So that's that story, don't pity us, don't say I shouldn't be taking care of her because I'm too young, or you deal with me.
      When we were a block away from our apartment, the two of us stopped. She was tired and cold, so we decided to stop inside a cafe to get something to drink. She got a hot chocolate and I got a coffee, and as we finished and went to leave I noticed something. The man walking in had a gun in the pocket of his coat. My blood went cold and I got a terrible feeling. I turned to Elizabeth. "Elizabeth listen to me if anything bad happens today I want you to run. I want you to run all the way home, go inside, lock all the doors, and call the police. I want you to take the safe in my room, and unlock it with the little key, do you understand?" She nodded, looking confused as I pressed the apartment keys into her hand. "Good." As usual, my motherly instinct was correct. The man with the gun opened fire and I grabbed a knife, "Run Elizabeth! Go now!" But she was paralyzed in fear. I ran up, I did what I had to. I lunged at the man, but he sidestepped. I couldn't see his face, but I could feel him smirking in victory, despite the deep cut that I left on his upper arm. Then I saw the direction of his gun. His finger was on the trigger and it was pointed at Elizabeth. "No!" I jumped in front of my daughter, my favorite person, just before he shot his weapon, the bullet piercing my chest. The last thing I saw was her crying over me. "I... love.... you..." I coughed up some blood. "Stay.... safe..." and then I was gone. None other than Sam picked me up and carried me away into the night. Away from my daughter crying over my corpse and the paramedics rushing in just a second too late.

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