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"Mona, let's go."

"Mona..."

I stared unblinkingly at the wilting flowers I clutched in my hands, their heavy perfume making me want to barf. They smelled like bittersweet memories and broken dreams. I cocked back my arm, ready to throw them as far as I could, but when I tried to, I couldn't. I found my hands still folded in my lap stoically, unable to move. I tried to cast my gaze somewhere other than the miserable petals, but I couldn't do that either. So the unlucky flowers and I just glared at each other, wallowing each other in disgusting pity and grief.

"Mona."

I glanced up my father through unfeeling eyes, detesting his look of empathy. He couldn't possibly know how I felt. He doesn't love Mom and Leia the way I do.

The way I did.

My father had been an outsider of our family, and I was determined to keep him that way. I could function just fine without him.

Could I?

Back when our father had just started seeping out our lives, I remembered one night when I couldn't hold it in any longer and started sobbing into my pillow heartbrokenly, unable to stop. Leia had heard my cries and crept over to my room, slipping under the covers with me and patting my back gently until my hysteria subdued.

"What... What if Mom dies from cancer?" I'd asked hesitantly, truly voicing my fears out loud for the first time. "We'd be practically orphans."

My sister had smoothed my hair calmingly and stayed silent for a long time. I was only eleven back then, she only thirteen. I'm fourteen now, but I still don't think I could do for someone what she did for me.

Her voice had been strong and steady when she replied. "I will be both Mom and Dad to you."

"But you can't cook," I'd whispered.

"We can live on cookie butter sandwiches," she'd whispered back.

I couldn't stop giggling after that, and my laughs seemed to clear the air and subdue some of its sobriety.

"But seriously," Leia had murmured, sounding like she was on the brink of sleep, "I will always be here. You're not getting rid of me all that easily."

That had comforted me, and I'd drifted off to dreamland myself, assured by her promise.

My mom later asked me what was wrong, because she found Leia the following morning with bags under her red eyes and tearstained cheeks. Apparently Leia hadn't slept a wink that night. Maybe she hadn't trusted her own vows as much as she let on.

Leia always kept her promises, same as my mother. I always tried to avoid promises because they seemed much too confining, but Mom and Leia could pull it off because they knew that when they swore upon something, they would deliver. They'd never broken a single promise until that night.

That was the promise that mattered the most.

My father didn't like promises, either. That was the one and only thing we had in common.

"Mona."

"What?"

"You've sat there for two hours. The reception's over." He gently pried the dried flowers from my hands and I felt a stinging sensation in my fingers. I'd been clutching them so hard the dull leaves had managed to cut through skin.

He reached out to me, perhaps giving me support to get off the chair, but I didn't want it. I tried standing up on my own and fell back down.

"Mona, let me help you."

I didn't resist this time because I was too weak, but it was also because my father was as determined as a pit bull. I let him lead me to the car and I slid in the front seat bonelessly.

"Where are we going?" I asked tiredly.

"Home," he replied.

I whirled around and stared him in the eyes for the first time in forever. "Don't ever call it home again. It's not home without Mom and Leia." I pressed my cheek against the glass and let the tears flow.

He surprised me with his answer.

"Nothing will ever feel like home again."

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