PART ONE: 1.

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Let me explain how this all happened.

Do you have the time for that? It's okay if you don't. Honestly, I get it. People are busy, and no one should exist just to listen to other people's stories, although some people do anyway. You have your own story, and your own life, and you shouldn't even need me to say that you're allowed to live it. But for some people, that is how it works. And I know. Because I'm kinda one of them.

Anyway, if you want to listen, this is the story, in a nutshell:

I used to have a parent. When I was little. I mean, duh.

Mom. She used to be so good at coming up with stories off the top of her head, like they were fish she could catch from the ocean of her mind. Like it wasn't difficult. She'd grab my stuffed animals and made them talk to each other; they all had different voices. She said that someday, when I was older, we could write out all the stories she'd ever told me and make them into a book, and then when I had my own kids, I could give it to them. Anyway, on The Last Night, the story was about a mermaid who went on adventures all on her own in the ocean. I don't think she had a name. Mom moved my stuffed mermaid around my bedroom, so it looked like she was swimming.

Eventually, the mermaid found a magic kingdom. I think she saved it from some underwater plague or something. The usual.

Mama gave me a hug. "Big dreams," she whispered. That was our little inside joke; she thought telling anyone sweet dreams was demeaning. Although, honestly, at that age, I didn't understand half of the lessons she was trying to teach me. I think most parents forget that. When you're nine, you don't analyze things. When someone says that "for this complicated moral reason, you have to eat a double serving of asparagus" it doesn't make you suddenly see the wrong in your actions. It's just makes you want to punch them. Mom was full of those lessons and morals and sayings in Latin. It drove me crazy. It still kind of does.

And then she closed the door, because I couldn't sleep when the door was open. Let's say I shifted in the covers. That I grabbed the stuffed mermaid and tucked her under my arms. I could hear her footsteps, creaking down the hallway. Were they actually heading out the door? I don't remember.

I tossed and turned for a long time before getting to sleep. I do remember that, which pretty much proves how self-absorbed and stupid I am.

Anyway, the next morning, she was gone.

I know this, because I called out her name. And then I screamed it, because I was getting angry, and I wanted her attention. And then I kicked off the covers and stormed to the kitchen, the tears already starting to dribble down my cheeks. Back then, crying was easy.

"MOM!!!" My voice probably could have shattered windows.

I stomped into her bedroom. Her bed was neatly made, like it had been the day before. Like she hadn't even sat on it since then or anything.

I was prepared to make her pay for this.

Just because it was morning. And I was scared, and when I'm scared it's too much. I have to revert to anger. It's just back then, I didn't understand my feelings that way.

And then my heart started to pound. The fear became a little realer.

I thought about the stories she told me, where the princess's parents died, and she had to take over the kingdom. Did Mom have a kingdom?

Was I supposed to take over now?

"MOM!!!"

I said it so loud that it really wouldn't be a stretch to put those letters in bold.

I said it loud enough to crack the walls.

I said it loud enough to shatter continents; cleave islands in half.

My hands shook.

That's the first time everything started spinning, I guess.

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