Chapter 1

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Present Day: Freedom, New Hampshire

            It’s funny what people will notice about someone else; that first thing they see that forces a second glance, then a third. For some people it’s the eyes, maybe the way they move or the sound of their voice, or maybe something a bit more carnal. For Alex Woodard it had always been the color of her hair. Bright red, almost on fire. He watched her from his table at the small diner as she seemed to bounce from place to place, taking breakfast orders, refilling coffees, and charming everyone she served with her never ending supply of smiles and small talk. She was slim and athletic, and very pretty with bright green eyes that Alex swore shone with their own light.

Most of the guys that walked in for breakfast tried endlessly to get a date with her or even just her number, always without success. Her name was Nadia Roberts and she was one of the first people Alex had met when he moved to the small town of Freedom, New Hampshire several years back. From that first day on they had been best friends, spending every summer together chasing frogs or fishing off the shores of the small lake they both lived on. As far as Alex was concerned though, she was the first person besides his brother Mark that he had ever truly met.

….

            When Alex was five he lost his parents to a horrible car accident. They had been driving home after his first kindergarten open house when his father lost control of the family car. The police never found a reason for the accident, the road was straight and dry, the weather clear. The car unexpectedly went out of control and swerved off the road and into an empty parking lot rolling over twice before coming to a rest. Both his parents died instantly with broken necks, Alex himself was nearly killed. He spent almost an entire month in a coma before waking up, a medical miracle. The ordeal left his brain injured and it wasn’t until he was almost six before he was able to start remembering anything, all the years prior being no more than a blank space in his mind. The doctors counted it as yet another miracle when he was able to regain movement in his limbs and after months of physical therapy he was sent to live with his older brother Mark in the small state of New Hampshire.

Although those first few years were still a bit fuzzy to Alex he could still remember the first time he saw her skipping along the shore of their little lake. At a distance she looked like nothing more than a little red-headed pixie, hopping alongside the water and stopping every few feet to suddenly pounce on the ground like a two legged cat. After moving in with his brother it was a few weeks before Mark let Alex outside by himself, so he spent his time on the porch watching her play by the lake and wondering what she was always trying to pounce on.

A few times he would wave at her when she was close enough to see him and she would always wave back but would never venture close enough for Alex to talk to her. Finally Alex was allowed outside to play alongside the lake by himself. He spent the morning walking the shoreline slowly, ducking quickly behind a bush or tree whenever she would turn in his direction. He wasn’t quick enough once and she spotted him from the corner of her eye. A smile spread across her face and she came running up to him excitedly with something cupped in her hands. When he looked up at her nervously she simply smiled down at him like she had known him her entire life and was simply playing a game of hide and seek.

“Look what I gots from the water!” she laughed

Sticking her dirty hands out in front of Alex’s face with a sly grin and a giggle she opened them up to reveal a small frog sitting in the middle of her palm. It sat just long enough for Alex to get a look before jumping out of her hands and into the water.  Alex would always remember the way she laughed when it hopped away and the way she looked at him from between the muddied red curls of her hair.

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