Prologue

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Prologue

Sunlight was streaming in through open windows. The air was gloriously warm and had that telltale sign of the beginning of summer. Somewhere, a radio was softly playing 80's rock music.

A girl clad in a white shorts and a black tank top was with her arms crossed across her chest, her Corvette-red painted lips in a fantastic pout, walking in a stubborn manner, her flip flops smacking against the pale ocher linoleum.

'But Lilly, you have got to understand!' said her aunt from behind her.

"But I could stay here! I can take care of David and myself! I'm responsible!' the girl argued, turning around to face her aunt.

'Responsible?" scoffed the aunt. 'Responsible? Wasn't that what you said before you gave your self a moss green dye job? Wasn't that what you said before David went flying out of the second floor window? What you know about responsibility, Lilly, barely fills a teaspoon!'

The girl was silent knowing her was right. Her aunt went on with her tirade.

'Lilly, your mother left you and David in my care, and it is up to me until you're twenty-one to decide what you're going to do, and when I say you're going to grandma's place, you're going!' the aunt exclaimed nearing anger. She took a deep breath, sighed and rubbed her eyes in a weary way. It wasn't like her to lose her temper so badly with anyone.

'But why did you have to send me away this summer? Why?' the girl asked with irritation. The aunt bit her lip. 'Give me a reason!' she shouted when her aunt didn't reply.

'You want a reason? Fine, I'll give you a reason!' shouted the aunt. Suddenly she fell silent and sighed, sitting down on a nearby chair, running a hand through her perfectly wavy black hair in sad weariness.

'Tell me' said Lilly, her arms tightly crossed across her chest, tapping a slipper-ed foot on the floor. She very well knew she was driving her aunt into a point of deep misery.

'How can I say this?' the aunt paused. Words that had not been spoken for a near decade came spilling out. 'Your Mom and Dad didn't die just as the accident happened and the chemicals spilled out....They were both taken to the ICU after the accident in the lab, and well...your Dad, well, he was in pretty bad shape... your Mom however, was quite conscious. Her lung damage extended to a large degree though...perforated by the toxic chemicals... and they were slowly failing her when she talked to me.. It was useless to connect her to a lung machine and even of they could have, she would have said no. She was talking in barely a whisper, but yet she looked so graceful and poised even while she was dying'

Lilly looked horrified. Her eyes were huge. This was the first time she heard her aunt actually talk about the grisly details of her parents' untimely death. Her parents being doctors of forensic medicine were investigating a death when a leak of a highly toxic gas took away their lives by causing blood poisoning and organ damage.

'But she could have lived!' Lilly's aunt shook her head.

'No, she wouldn't have... her lungs and her heart was already affected badly... They were slowly closing down as the chemicals set in to her blood and she knew she was dying. Your Mom's best friend April and I, we were in that room during her last few moments...' Aunt Linda's voice cracked with painful strain and she wiped away a tear.

'Anyway, I remember she wrote a letter and gave it to April to be kept with her and she told me that the summer you turn sixteen, you're supposed to go to Iowa, to your grandma's and I suppose you'll get your mother's letter when you get there...April is keeping it for you... I don't know why and for what, but that is what your Mom wanted... '

'But I can go next summer! It won't make a difference' argued Lilly

'Lilly, I will NOT break my sister's promise!' her aunt's voice suddenly dropped in volume 'And since you're going this summer, I'm going on my honeymoon with Ed to Australia. Why do you think I waited until this spring to get married? I could have married him last year. I waited because it's easier for both of us. I can't leave you alone at home, and even if I weren't going, you still have to go to Iowa'

Lilly screamed in annoyance 'I don't want to go!'

'I made a promise to your mother! I will not break it!'

'I hate you and Uncle Ed! Do you know how much it hurts, thinking about Mom? Do you? Do you know what it will do to me if I go to some place that was once where Mom walked and talked and breathed?' tears sprang into Lilly's eyes. 'It will KILL me! I was not a baby when Mom and Dad died! I remember it so well! I remember the funeral! Do you know how much it hurts to think about her and do you have ANY idea what I feel when I look at her pictures?'

Broken, vivid images flashed through Lilly's mind, a vision of grown ups in somber, black clothes, with grave expressions and echoes of "deepest sympathies" "toxic gas poisoning" and the memory of her Grandma and Aunt crying, watching baby David tug at Lilly's skirt asking "Mommy Lilly! Where Mommy?"

'Lilly, you're going' said her aunt, a tone of finality in her voice, forcing Lilly to come back to the present.

Fury boiled up inside her along with a stab of hurt and the grief of loss at a tender age came rushing back to her.

'What part of "I'm not going" don't you get?! I hate you! I hate you and Uncle Ed!' screeched Lilly, stomping her foot.

'If you can hate me with such passion Lilly, then you love me just as much' said her aunt calmly.

'I don't belong there! I belong here! Here! Why is it so hard to get?' shouted Lilly, marching out of the room.

The aunt shouted after her 'Your mom and dad's whole life was there! They were born, raised and they married there! You your self was born there young lady!'

'I hate you!' Lilly screeched

'You belong there, Lilly!' said her aunt, but her words were only heard by the walls. The aunt ran a hand through her hair toffee brown hair, an expression of sadness on her young face, finally feeling her composure slip.

'Why Lilly? Why are you so difficult?' she asked from the thin air in front of her, sitting down at the dining table and resting her cheeks in her hands. It makes her more like Laura now that I think about it she thought. Laura was the same, stubborn and unyielding if she set her mind to something. Like mother like daughter I suppose. But Laura was never difficult...

As Linda Wetherfield-Grant sat there in the airy apartment, she looked at the French windows of the balcony through which the lovely golden afternoon sun drifted in. She remembered the past, growing up in the small town of Alta in Iowa. The golden of the sun matched the golds of the corn fields of her home and she remembered running through these fields, laughing and smiling with her elder sister, underneath a blue sky.

Vibrant images of her childhood came back to her along with a sense of bitter sweetness at losing her sister. Slowly, she had an inkling of the truth as to why Laura Augartenne took every measure in her power that her daughter would somehow go home, to her true home, for her sixteenth birthday.

Laura... Oh Laura it took me so long to realize this... she thought. I always thought this was just your way of making sure Lilly stays true to her roots, but you were smarter than us all weren't you? You knew what you were doing... as always.

Linda remembered Lilly as a child. She was active, playful and she was very talkative. The loss of her parents slowly shut her down until it came to a painful halt in a few years where Lilly stopped talking to most people unless she wanted something from them. No, Lilly Augartenne wasn't one for conversation and Linda, after nine years of trying to change this, was beginning to realize that she couldn't change it and as an image of the naughty, mud-splattered toddler Lilly passed in her mind, Linda felt her eyes sting and burn with wanton tears.

The sound of a door slamming brought Linda out of her nostalgic reverie of realization. There was only one person in the house who ever slammed the door and it wasn't her nephew.

Oh if you only knew Lilly... If you only knew how much you belong there thought Linda, wiping away the tears welling up in her eyes at painful memories of her much loved, long gone sister. Laura... Help her understand she said to the heavens.

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