Chapter 1 | Asher Greenly Isn't Suicidal

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Asher was three seconds old the first time he died.

Story goes, he was pulled from his mother's womb to the trill of a flat lifeline, limp in the rubber hands of a doctor. They held him by the ankles, rubbed him with towels until his chest went red, and smacked him on the backside three times. And when still he wobbled pale and wet as a boneless chicken, they laid him on the chest of a dead woman and his lungs filled lush with life.

It was nine at night when Sarah Greenly's heart stopped beating.

It was nine-fifteen when two doctors and three nurses brought Asher Greenly into the world.

It was three years later when he'd died again from an allergic reaction to a wasp sting.

Six years later when he'd fallen off the rock wall at summer camp and cracked his skull on a metal screw.

Twelve years later when he was hit by a car, skateboarding through a four-way-intersection.

A month ago when his father had found him, fully clothed and drown at the bottom of the bathtub.

A week since Rodger Greenly sold his family home, packed up a truck, and drove his son five-hundred miles to Willowbrook Cove to begin a new life.

Ten seconds since Asher Greenly regretted ever coming to this place.

Willowbrook went by several epithets, the first being the town that never ages. The radios played strange, unheard of stations, filled with bands like Duran Duran, Bon Jovi and Dire Straits. The wet, autumn streets glinted with the glowing lights of neon open signs in windows for diners that should'vebeen demolished after the nineties. Citizens didn't dress in hideous neon windbreakers, but instead, girls wore in knee-high socks and pleated skirts, with their hair done up in ribbons or large scrunchies. Men wore acid-washed denim and wife-beaters, and damaged leather jackets, no matter how hot the weather. Convertibles and classic cars stuffed the streets, each glinting with candy-coated paint jobs and smoldering leather interiors, tearing through the neighborhood with roaring engines and full coverage insurance.

It was a town for the well-heeled. The beautiful. The ageless.

Asher was not well-heeled, he was not beautiful. He was not ageless. He knew from the moment he'd stepped foot in Willowbrook that he didn't belong there. Despite that, he quite liked the other name for Willowbrook: The town with three autumns. Being that the place rested on the Western Pacific Coast, weather was mild year-round—or so he'd researched on his phone during the eight-hour drive. Willowbrook was an A-typical Bermuda Triangle of golden leaves and gray skies. Three days ago, while stuffing his face with waffles at the Poppy Diner, an old man approached with a nose for newcomers. "There are three seasons here in Willowbrook," he said. "Autumn, hot autumn, and cold autumn." And so, Asher didn't mind this place, with its old music and strange fashion. because it was a place that never changed. He was tired of things changing.

After a week, he had fallen in love with the drive-in theaters, the street musicians, and the bustling late nights, parked beside a Sonic menu while servers in roller skates glided through the parking lot with stacked burgers and milkshakes. And just as quickly as he fell in love with Willowbrook Cove, Asher fell out of love the moment he stumbled out of his father's red pickup and into the halls of Kingsly Prep.

The tiles beneath him were black as onyx, with pieces of strange gold leaflets flecked about. On every wall hung paintings and posters, nailed carefully between the golden trim of candle-lit alcoves and window benches. The overhead chandeliers moved with the breeze of passing bodies, each in a metal cage that chained to one another like an expressive art piece. The top-floor ceilings stretched far above the rafters, into shimmering stain-glass skylights, like the building had been stitched together by renovated church parts.

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