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JEREMEY AND I didn't speak about it.

No one spoke about it at the time, really. Although we all knew what it was, somewhere deep down in our guts. It was the subtleness—it crept up on you like the change of the seasons. You don't wake up one morning and realize summer's turned to winter. It happens so gradually that you never pick up on it, leaving you wondering where the time's gone each Christmas.

"Windy today, isn't it?" Jeremey removed the cigarette from his mouth and exhaled, the plume of smoke hanging in front of him like a pale ghost before finally dispersing. We'd switched to sitting on his porch when we smoked, protected on one side by the white-shingled house and enclosed on the other three by a fine wire mesh. That was another thing we'd never really spoken about—the fact that neither one of us wanted to sit outside anymore.

I can't put my finger on one specific day when it all started—the wind, I mean. It just kind of blew in and never stopped. Day in and day out. Wind has a way of wearing on you. It's oppressive. You can't really see it, only the effects of it, so you don't realize that's what's doing it, but it tires you out. It makes you feel weak and thin. Cold.

I've heard that suicide rates are higher than average in those old towns in Spain where the wind never stops, and I believe it now. You can never get comfortable. It leaves you constantly on edge, like any second your entire life might get swept right out from under you.

"Heather's moved to the city. You hear about that, Harper?" Jeremey's eyes met mine as he rocked back and forth on his grandma's old wicker rocking chair.

"No, I hadn't." I coughed, a wisp of smoke caught in my throat.

It was no surprise. The first few months of the year had done a real number on the population of Millstone. People moving away for one reason or another—the younger kids like us taking shiny new jobs in the city, the older folks deciding it was finally time to retire to a resort in Florida called Sunset Ridge, Greener Meadows or some equally depressing name. And that left Jeremey and me, getting lonelier and lonelier in a dying town.

"Have you heard from Lydia?" Jeremey asked.

"Not since last night. I think she's serious about moving away. She keeps talking about getting an apartment in the city and doing acting or something like that." I put my cigarette out in the ash tray in front of me, a line of smoke slowly rising from the smoldering ember.

The truth was, I didn't know what to think about Lydia. I'd been her boyfriend since high school. She'd been a constant in my life for so long, and the idea that she might leave was something I couldn't accept as a possibility.

I stood up and stretched. "I've got to get to work." The sun had set an hour ago, casting the entire street in a faint, blue twilight.

Jeremey nodded as I slipped out the porch door, heading to my car. The wind tugged at my clothes as I made my way across the front yard, and a chill ran down my spine. Pine trees moaned and murmured in the distance. Wind crashed through them like waves. With a shudder, I yanked the door to my car open and swiftly swung it shut behind myself, deafening the wind to a dull howl.

The ten minute drive to the gas station was silent, and the gas station itself was even quieter. I sat behind the register, my mind drifting as I lazily turned through the pages of a magazine. Thin tendrils of wind slithered through the cracks in the door frame, hissing like snakes. Minutes turned to hours, and the dark night grew even darker.

Suddenly, a horn blared in the parking lot, and I jumped in my seat. Before I could move, the horn blasted again. With a groan, I pulled my windbreaker off of the back of the chair, slipped it on over my sweatshirt and stepped out from behind the register. I stumbled as quickly as I could to the door, nearly knocking over a display of overpriced sunglasses in the process.

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