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"They call me Lilly," the girl whispered, her voice soft. She stood uncertainly on the threshold of her door, a slim hand pressed against the oak door.

"Well, Lilly," a boy with tanned skin and laughing green eyes said seriously, "Will you play with us?"

The girl's blue eyes widened, and she shook her head once, her short blond locks shimmering gold under the sun. The green-eyed boy frowned, his dark hair falling in front of his eyes.

Pushing it back up impatiently, he asked, "Why not?"

Lilly flinched, her face turning pale. "I c-can't go out w-with s-st-strangers," she mumbled, her cheeks flushing, "a-and--"

"I'm Aiden," the boy interrupting, sticking out his hand. Lilly shook it lightly, quickly withdrawing her hand. The boy sighed. "Now we know each other. Can you play now?"

Lilly shook her head once again. "I d-don't think so." Upon the Aiden's look of disgust, she trembled, and hurriedly said, "My m-mother and f-father are s-sick. I c-can come out w-when th-their better." And she stepped back, closing the door swiftly, leaving Aiden outside her doorstep, shocked, along with the four other children behind him.

Aiden blinked once, then recovered. "We'll come back tomorrow," he told the others. "Maybe Lilly'll play with us then."

~ ~ ~ ~

"What do you mean you can't come outside; you never come outside!" A lanky boy with emerald green eyes snapped. His dark hair was fell in front of his eyes.

"I'm sorry," Lilly responded coolly, her clear blue eyes apologetic. Her long, silky gold hair braided down her back. "I can't go."

Aiden sighed. "We're in fifth grade now, Lilly, everytime I come here the guys keep teasing me. We get along fine in school, are your parents STILL sick?" He glanced forlornly behind him, into the soccer field where his buddies were.

Lilly lifted her chin, her eyes flashing. Her tone was polite. "I'm taking care of them. The only time I'll leave is for practical purposes, like school and buying food or medicine." And she shut the door on Aiden's face, just like she did five years ago, and every day in between.

~ ~ ~ ~

Lilly had grown into a pretty young girl, with a strong jaw, delicate features, crystal blue eyes, and golden, waving hair. She'd been taking care of her parents for real since third grade, being responsible for going out alone and buying things, and walking herself home from school. Earlier, her aunt would tend to her parents, but she'd left awhile back.

Lilly was the picture-perfect girl in school; always participating and receiving high scores. But she'd never go anywhere after coming home, besides the pharmacy or store. She was serious, mature, and her life focused mainly on taking care of her slowly dying parents.

It irked Aiden much, to see her old beyond her age, her life revolving around her parents. Especially since he'd seen a different side to her.

~ ~ ~ ~

<<third grade, soccer field, recess>>

"C'mon Lilly!" Aiden dragged his friend across the playground to the field.

"Ow," Lilly wrenched her wrist free from Aiden's grasp. "I said I'd try soccer, I didn't agree to you dragging me across the field!"

Aiden laughed, and Lilly tentatively followed his example. It was the first time Aiden had heard Lilly laugh.

"C'mon, before they pick teams without us!" Aiden sped away, and Lilly followed, picking up speed gradually.

Soon she raced past Aiden, her honey hair streaking behind her accompanied by a sweet laugh.

"Hey!" Aiden cried indignantly, picking up his pace as well. "No fair!"

They both arrived at the field, laughing giddily and breathless. They played soccer, and for the first time in her life Lilly screamed and kicked and had a whole lot of fun. On the way back inside, Aiden grinned at her.

"It's fun, isn't it?" He had some dirt streaked on his cheek, which he swiped at, grinning.

Lilly's eyes were shining, her blond hair tangled and streaked with dirt. "Fun," she repeated, as if the word was foreign to her. A smile spread on her face. "That was really fun."

The next day, he'd stopped by her door again.

"We're playing soccer..." he told his friend mischievously, hoping Lilly'd finally come out. Then he looked up at his friend, and froze.

Lilly's eyes were blank again, her face cold. Her short hair was brushed silkily and she stood stiffly. "Sorry, I can't. My parents have gotten worse." She slammed the door in Aiden's face, leaving him bewildered and dejected.

~ ~ ~ ~

In high school, Lilly's parents died. She didn't come to school that day, or the day after, or the week after. Aiden, worried, ran to her house after school ended.


Aiden gaped at the block red letters stamped on the FOR SALE sign in front of Lilly's house. He ran up the steps, pounding the door. It swung upon.

Lilly's face was ashen, her eyes wide and unseeing, her hair pulled back into its usual braid. She seemed to focus on Aiden for a second, and then she quickly slammed the door.

She wouldn't open it afterwards.

Aiden wouldn't be able to see her anymore, and a month later the new family moved in.

~ ~ ~ ~

Lilly was now twenty-three, and had recently lost her job as a waitress. After leaving Aiden on her porch, she'd moved across the country, restarting at a new school. She'd taken on some small paying jobs, so she could pay rent. A recent customer and flipped the tray piled with his food on it, then blamed it on her. He'd convinced the manager.

She sighed. Her life, she realized, had really not been much of anything. As she was walking home, she saw a person familiar to her on the streets. Her blue eyes widened.

"Aiden?" The man looked up at his name. He wrinkled his brow, then walked over to her with a curious expression.

"Excuse me?" His dark green eyes were lined around the edges, and he was broad across the shoulders and slightly taller than her. He seemed weary. His eyes searched her, then emptied. "Do I know you?"

Lilly blinked. "They call me Lilly..." she said haltingly. "Remember?" Her brilliant blue eyes were hopeful.

His eyebrow raised. "Lilly?" Aiden's gaze seemed to brighten slightly, then it dimmed. He stared her straight in the eye, his face blank. "I'm sorry, but I don't know a Lilly."

~ ~ ~ ~

That was it. No one remembered her. She was unremarkable. Even her former best friend (?) didn't recognize her. She staggered back.

"I'm sorry. I must've been mistaken," she muttered, swiftly walking away, blinking the tears out of her eyes.

~ ~ ~ ~

The man sighed, then looked down at his hands. "Lilly," he muttered. "Could she be the one everyone told me about...?"

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