Dont Blink

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Breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Blink. These are things your body does automatically. You don't think about, most of the time you don't realize your doing it. It's just something you do. Like a switch in your body. If your reminded of it, you think about it, know its there and it's working but more often then not it fades into the wood work. In a single breath a singer will make music more wonderful and astounding then any one has heard before. In the time it takes to
breath, Inhale, Exhale over a thousand people will die. More will be born. So many things can happen. Inhale. Exhale. Blink. The world changes. Maybe not in huge significant ways, but its the little things that matter most to people. A mother cares more about her babies first smile then a far off earth quake in Chile. THe little things. People used to stop, and care more about the little things. Families, never used to think of eating meals seperatly on a daily basis. THere was a time people stopped to smell the flowers, watch a bumble bee suck it's nector. They watched, and savored the little things. So often we are to busy to see them. To save them. To charish them. We blink, and we miss it all. Life changed on single breathes, on the blink of an eye. So don't Blink. I blinked and in that single moment life changed.

“Alison, will swing with me?” “No Will I don't want to swing.” I said sighing. I really didn't want to be at the park. I loved Will. As far as baby brothers went, he was the best but I didn't want to spend All day, on a saturday with him, not this saturday anyway. Any other Saturday I wouldn't have minded, it was just this Saturday the a bunch of us were going to go to the baseball game. The cubs were playing. We were going to spend the day in the city, shopping, hanging out and then go to the game. Now I was going to miss all the pre-game fun. I blinked. “Will?” I sighed annoyed. All I did was Blink and the kid bounced to another part of the park. “WIll? Will!!!”
Four Months later
“Mind if I sit? This place is really crowded.” I looked up into hazy blue eyes. They startled me, but I was easily startled. They belonged to a guy, not to much older then me. He carried a tray, with nachos and cheese sauce. He raised his eyebrows at me and I remembered his question. I glanced around. I hadn't realized how busy the food court had gotten but he was right it was crowded. “If your waiting for someone, I can find some place else to-” I still hadn't answered his question. “Sure, sit. I'm not waiting for anyone.” I said. “Thanks. I'm Tyler.” “Tess.” I said after a moment. He seemed to think about that. “Nice name.” I smiled. The compliment making me feel more human then I'd felt in ages. “Thanks. Why is it so crowded?” I asked after a while.” He looked at me surprised. “Your kidding right?” He went on when I didn't answer. “It's the weekend after thankgiving, holiday season and all that.” I was surprised was it really november? “Right, I forgot people like to shop then.” I said feeling embarresed. “Not a shopping type girl huh?” His question was almost funny. I used to love to shop. Me and my girlfriends would go to the city and spend the whole weekend shopping almost every weekend. Somtimes I'd bring, “You live around here?” I asked interrupting my thoughts desperatly. I managed to ask enough questions to keep him talking without seeming to obvious. After an hour I left. I changed that day though. The conversation with Tyler woke me up. I couldn't pretend not to be a human anymore, I wasn't a robot. With each step I took the stiff Robot mask fell away leaving me. Very human. Very vulnerable, and very much alone. I made it back to my room before the tears in my eyes completly blurred my vision, and the sobs in my chest broke through. I don't know how long I cried but when I was no longer capable of crying I looked at the clock. I had ten minutes to dress for work. I got up and went to the window. I pulled the curtains back to see A dark sky. I washed my face in the sink and applied more make up then usual in an effort to hide the fact I'd been crying. I was a human again and it came with a lot of hurt, but I didn't want to go back to robot Tess anymore. I realized the next morning Robot Tess didn't eat much the when I woke up at eleven, which was early considering the hours I worked. Not only did most of my clothes not fit, although I realized my wordrope consisted of little more then three outfits and two pairs of pajamas, but there was also virtually no food. “Shopping day.” I said. I kept my earnings, basiclly all of it since the rent came right out of my pay check, in the lockable drawer in the desk. I grabbed a few twenties and some fives and singles and put them in my purse. “I need a new purse.” I said. It was in perfect condition, but there were memories tied to my purse. Memories I didn't need anymore. It was raining as I stepped outside reminding me how much I disliked Texas, though not really because of rain. I decided to do my clothes shopping first, since the food might spoil. My boss had lent me her car for the day. I bought a few pairs of shorts and jeans and some shirts. “Here I thought you didn't like to shop.” A voice said grabbing my arm to keep me from slipping on the rain soaked floor by the doors. It was Tyler from the food court yesterday. “Some things you have to do.” I said. He glanced at my tennis shoes. “Well, since your at it, maybe you should buy some shoes.” “I like them.” I said defensivly. He had two of my bags and was walking with me. “Ok. So where are you headed on this very wet day?” He asked as we reached the car. “Grocery shopping.” Tyler put the bags in the trunk. “What conicedence. That's where I was headed.” “Was?” I asked and then kicked myself for doing so. Human Tess didn't need friends right now anymore then robot Tess had. “My car died and now I have to get a ride home and then go shopping after its fixed. Living on cereal isn't all that bad.” I sighed as I unlocked the door. “Get in.” I said. “I wasn't asking for a ride.” Tyler said. He almost seemed mortified at the thought. I shrugged. He got in the car. “So you new to town?” Tyler asked as we both got carts. “Sort of. I've been here a few months.” He nodded. “What are you running from?” He asked. “What?” I asked startled my head snapping up. “Sorry, I didn't mean that. You seem, sad.” He said as though not able to come up with a suitable word. “I'm sorry I'm not perky enough for you.” I said rolling my eyes. Some where along the car ride I decided that I was Tess and I was human and that I had to move on and live. This was my new life, here in texas. It changed my attitude, or maybe it was that I had an attitude now. “No I didn't mean it like that. Never mind. Friends?” “Sure.” I said. “So, bump into you tomorrow maybe, say for lunch?” I laughed. “Isn't that kind of forword for strangers?” “Sorry, Chilies tomorrow?” I didn't get it but it was supposed to be funny. “Your a girl, you live on your own, you could help me with a project for a class of mine.” “What kind of class.” I scoffed. He glanced at me side ways. “Um, ok, if your buying.” I said. The next day I met Tyler, the first person I really knew other then my boss in Texas, at Subway not chilies. We talked for a while. “Ok, so do you mind if ask you some questions?” He asked. “You were serious about the school project?” Tyler laughed. “Yeah. I have to interview people who fit the profile about how the feel about the recent crime spree.” “What crime spree?” I asked. I was completly out of touch with the world. “Where have you been Tess, under a rock?” “I don't watch the news much.” I said. I realized that sounded lame when Tyler told me about the crime spree he was talking about. A man was going around stalking and attacking younger girls living on their own, girls like me. The next few days went by and I didn't see Tyler though he'd given me his phone number. He didn't have mine because I didn't know it and I didn't really want him to know though I wasn't sure why. I ran into him on the street on friday. “Hey want to come shopping with me?” He asked. “I thought you didn't approve of shopping.” “It's christmas shopping and I could use a girls opinion on a few things.” I wasn't sure. “You could do yours to.” “I don't really have any.” I said. I didn't know who I'd buy christmas presents for, except my boss and I'd already bought that. “Done already?” “I don't have any family.” I said slowly after a moment. “And I don't have any friends here. I'm on my own remember?” Tyler didn't frown. He smiled but there was something like a frown behind it. “I'd like to come anyway.” I said uncomfortable. I helped Tyler pick out a sweater and matching scarf for his older sister, some earrings for his younger sister but neither of us seemed to come up with anything for his mom. From what he told me about her, nothing in the stores we saw seemed suitable. “How about making her a picture frame?” “A picture frame?” “You could put a picture of you and your sisters in it.” Tyler looked at me. “She'd like that.” He said. We stopped at the grocery store and bought a box of chocolates to go with the frame. “See you tomorrow.” “Why?” I asked. “Your going to have to help me make the frame, it was your idea.” “I work late tonight.” He shrugged. “So come when you get up.” He said jotting down his address. I wasn't really sure about going to Tyler's, but the truth was, I was lonely and I needed a friend. Tyler didn't push for answers, which put him high on the list of a good friend right now. I woke up twenty minutes before noon. I showered, put on a pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt. I tied my still wet hair in a careless bun and left. I never had the patients to dry my hair. “Hey, I was just making lunch, hungry?” Tyler said as he opened the door. “Umm, yeah I guess. I didn't really eat yet.” I said. The truth was I'd been eating so little before and now I only ate two meals a day usually it was hard to work up an apatite. “You like tacos?” I nodded. He led me to the kitchen of his apartment. It wasn't overly spacious, but it wasn't tiny. “My room mate isn't here right now. He'll be home in a few hours.” Tyler told me. “Oh, ok.” I looked around the kitchen. “Can I help with something?” “You want to set the table? Plates and glass's are over there and napkins are down there.” I nodded. It was nice, not eating by myself. Tyler, was a better cook then I was and taco's isn't real cooking. We'd finished the frame, and even found a picture, one of Tyler and his sisters as children in rain boots and rain jackets laughing as they splashed in puddles, and were making brownies when his room mate arrived. “I didn't realize you had company.” He said. It was a normal enough statement but I got the Idea Tyler's room mate was stiff and very much a non fun living person. “Alexander this is Tess. Tess, Alexander.” “Nice to meet you.” I said wiping my hands on my jeans before shaking his hand. He disappeared into his room rather quickly. “Did he like wear sweater vests everyday when he was two?” I asked. “Pretty much. He could stand to relax a little but he makes a good room mate. Never makes me pay his half of the rent anyway.” Tyler said with a shrug. I'd walked to Tyler's house so he drove me home. I saw him frown when I directed him to the hotel where I worked the night shift. “Did you want to come up?” I asked. He looked at me startled. “To get the scotch tape.” I said. “Oh, sure.” He said. I was glad I'd really picked up, and that the chamber maid would have come through by now. “It's in the bathroom, just a second.” I said disappearing through the door. Tyler was looking around. I watched him for a moment. “Yes I live in a hotel. It's where I work and my boss and I worked out an agreement.” I said. Tyler took in my home with one fell gaze. There was a couch and a chair and a small round table, off to the side a mini kitchen with a sink, a mini fridge and a microwave on the counter. The bed, dresser and bathroom were on the other side of the room. “This is where you live.” “I like it.” I said trying to ignore the look of horror and concern on Tyler's face. What right did he have to be concerned anyway? “Here's the scotch tape.” I said. “Thanks.” He said accepting the tape. “So your just going to sit in here on christmas?” “No.” “I lied opening the door. “I need a nap before work.” I said. He nodded. “By Tess.” It was the afternoon of Christmas eve and I was already depressed. I was wearing sweats and tank top when someone knocked on the door. I thought it was the maid. She was bringing some clean towles. It was Tyler. “You have five minutes to get dressed.” He informed me. “What, why, where are we going?” “To many questions, your waisting your time.” I studied him a moment while he leaned against the wall waiting for me to obey. I sighed and disappeared in the bathroom. Tyler had a bag as we walked to his car. I couldn't remember him walking in with it and I decided I needed to actually wear my glass's since I wasn't wearing my contacts anymore. “Where are we going?” I asked again as we left the city. “My parents house, for christmas. I had to kidnap you or you wouldn't come.” Tyler said. I realized Tyler hadn't come in with a bag, he'd packed mine while I dressed. “Kidnapping is a federal offense.” “I got permission from the judge.” Tyler said. “No you didn't.” “I did and it is a three hour drive so you'd better quit complaining and get used to it.” Tyler suggested. I fell silent. How had I been dragged into this? I was around people a lot, it went with my job but actually being with people, being with them and talking to them. Tyler and my boss were really the only ones I was truely around. My boss was my senior by at least twenty years and Tyler to was about three years older then I really was. Being around Tyler was good for me, it made me human again, but it also made me feel again which made me feel so, unstable. “Hey, you ok?” Tyler asked shooting me quick glances. I wanted to say yes, I was fine but that would be a lie and a very obvious one. “Look I didn't think this would make you so upset, we can go back if you want.” Tyler said concerned again. “No it's not that.” I said taking a steadying breath. It didn't help. Tyler stopped the car. “What's wrong Tess?” I was crying, something I'd been doing everyday but the fact that I was doing it in front of Tyler annoyed me. How was I supposed to tell him? The truth was I couldn't. “It's hard. I used to have a family, friends, now everything is gone and I feel so alone.” Tyler stared at me long and hard till I looked back at him. “Your not alone anymore Tess. I've got a big family, I can share.” He started the car again and the rest of the trip was nice. I realized Tyler was right. He'd become my best friend and I discovered his family was nice to. His older sister and her fiancee Ryan were there and her fiancee's daughter. Tyler had told me about her. Her name was Laila. She was seven and deaf. Ryan had adopted her when her mom was killed in a car crash. Tyler's younger sister was sitting on the porch waiting for us. No one was surprised to see me. “Tyler got you here after all.” His mother, Mrs. Danning said squeezing me in a tight hug. It reminded me of my mom. “I'm sorry to impose.” I said. “Non-sense. No one should be spending Christmas alone in a hotel room.” Tyler's family was warm and welcoming. The human contact felt so good. It's simple things, like motherly hugs, or the bump of an elbow during a card game that matter so much when you've gone without them for so long. I had hated taking spanish in highschool, so I got my princepal to agree to let me take sign language for my language because I already knew that. “Not sure what the colleges will think, but with an argument like that I can't refuse.” He'd said. We ate a light snack upon arriving and then Holly, Tyler's older sister took me up stairs. “This is the guest room and the bathroom is right across the hall. There's shampoo and stuff in there if you need it.” I nodded. I wanted to take a shower but I wasn't sure what I was going to wear after. We wera all going to church but I knew Tyler didn't pack any nice clothes, I didn't have any. “Here I got you this, call it an early christmas present.” Holly said sliding a box out from under the bed. “You didn't,” “I love shopping, this gave me an excuse.” Holly said cheerfully. I liked her. She was kind of like an older sister I'd imagine if I knew her better. I opened the box and almost cried again. Little things made me cry lately, not really because of whatever it was but what I avoided thinking about. The reason I came texas. Inside was red but almost pink dress. “Perfect for a christmas eve service.” Holly said. “Thank you.” I showered and changed into the dress Holly gave me before realizing that I only had flip flops, the only thing Tyler had given me time to put on. I returned to the guest room to find Anna. “Hi. Tyler told me not to bother you so if I am bothering you promise to kick me out.” I smiled. I'd never had sisters. Being around Tyler's made me wish I had, till I remembered and then I was glad I didn't have any. “Oh, and I brought you some of my shoes, your feet look small. Tyler was never very good at packing, he should have let you do it but he told me he'd have to kidnap you to get you here.” I couldn't help but smile. It was one of the few Genuine smiles I'd given since arriving in Texas. “Thanks.” I said. “I like your hair. It's so long.” “I haven't cut it in a while.” I said. “When did you dye it?” Her question startled me and she seemed to realize she'd asked the wrong thing and a worried look crossed her face. “A couple months ago.” I said forceing a smile to put her at ease again. “I have a hair dryer if you want.” I shrugged. “I never seem to have the patience for blow drying my hair.” I said. “Blond looks good wet.” Anna said. I smiled. SHe wanted to be my friend and was trying hard. It felt good, that people wanted to be my friend. I hadn't been to a proper service at church without coming in late and leaving early since I arrived in Texas. I went every sunday night before work, since night time church services seemed less conspicious but somehow this was different. It was a small church and everyone seemed to know everyone, well enough to immediatly spot a stranger but it wasn't incrediably tiny. “This is Tess.” Tyler said introducing me to his old sunday school teacher. “Friend of yours Tyler?” Tyler nodded. He didn't seem to realize till we walked away that his teacher thought we were a bit more then friends. After the service I returned with Tyler and his family and we sat around the christmas tree with coco singing christmas carols and talking about Christmas's past. Once, Tyler's mother began to ask me what my family had done for Christmas but Tyler diverted her. I wasn't sure what Tyler thought happened to my family and why I was on my own with no place to go, I only knew it was no where near the truth. As I was getting ready for bed Holly's soon to be daughter shyly peeked her head around the corner of my door way. I smiled at her and motioned her on the bed. She grinned and jumped up on the bed beside me. I'd said a few things to her in sign language but she seemed unsure as to if I would understand when she signed what she wanted to say. “I want to show you something.” I asked her what and with the simple motion of my hand, a reply her eyes lit up. She unclenched her hand and held it out to me. It was a rock, no bigger then a thimble on a chain. It was smooth as marble and the as white as rock could be without looking fake. “My Mother gave it to me in the hospital, before she died. It's white for clean. She told me accidents happen but that's ok. She said I'm still white, like the rock. My mother said sometimes, it's ok.” “Ok to what?” I asked. “To miss somethings sometimes. We have to you know. Sometimes they are good things, and sometimes they are bad.” There was a sad look in her eye and I could tell she was missing her mother. “But we have to blink.” Her last sentence startled me, frightened me. How could she know about that. That is what I had done. I'd blinked and it changed my life. That was why I was in Texas, why I was all alone. I let this little girls words wash through me. I smiled as tears clouded my vision. “Your right.” I agreed. She hugged me before slipping back to her room. I wasn't sure what to expect the next morning. I woke early, feeling unsettled in my heart, and sad as Tyler liked to put it. Anna came down and sat next to me with Laila in tow. We talked. Anna was amazed at my ability to talk with her so for the next hour Laila and I taught Anna some things. Christmas morning officially began with warm cinnimon rolls and the reading of Luke two. After that each person examined their stocking. “This one, is yours.” Tyler said sitting next to me. I looked up at him in surprise. “Santa's got lots of magic, remember?” I didn't know what to say. After that we all walked to a house three blocks down each carrying part of a christmas feast. Laila, sweet and looking like an angel knocked on the door. We delieverd the meal to a family, who Tyler explained had been through a rough patch. The father had lost his job, and though he had a new one, it barely covered their expenses and the son had just gone through a kidney transplant. Watching Tyler's famiy traditions was nice. I missed family traditions, the sense of family itself. Something I'd taken for granted for to often. When I looked back at who I had been, I thought how immature and self-centered I was in my own little world. I'd grown up alot, the hard way. Presents were opened when we returned home. To soon it seemed it was time to go home. It was two days after christmas. I was Sad to go, to leave the family life. “Come down with Tyler anytime, he comes down everyother weekend.” His mom told me. “Call me sometime.” Holly said. “Your family is so, nice.” I said. “I think so, but I'm a little biased. You ok?” Tyler asked as he carried my bag up to my hotel room. “They are so nice and welcoming and you are and I don't deserve it.” I said fighting back the tears. “WHat you deserve to be living in a hotel room by yourself on your own with no family, no friends, not even to call or visit?” Tyler asked. “Yeah.” I said with something between a laugh and a cry. “I'm not who you think I am, I'm not a good person.” Tyler waited, to see if I had anything else to say I suppose before he spoke. “Not a good person? No your right your a horrible person who every day goes the long way to a coffee shop to buy a bagal and coffee for homeless man, and who every week carries two bags of groceries for a little old lady without a car and who just happens to be there every day play with two strange kids at a park for an hour so their mom can try and get work done. Your right Tess your down right horrible.” I looked at Tyler sadly. I didn't know how he knew all that, unless he'd been watching me. “I've done some really horrid things in my life, things I can never take back.” I turned and locked myself in the bathroom till he left. “How was your christmas?” Mrs. Wild, my boss asked the next night at work. “Better then expeted. Thanks.” Mrs. Wild stuided me. “Tess, I love haveing you work here, your good but I hate seeing that tortured sadness in you. You hide it from the customers but, well I see it. You have nobody in this world. Tyler is a good boy. Don't push him away.” I didn't really know what to say but a patron appeared before I had to much to my releaf. Life settled into a new routene. I was no longer hiding, working merely to keep a place for me to hide from the world and food enough to not get sick. I was living a life. Every other weekend I went with Tyler to his parents. THere were frequant phone conversations with Holly. Tyler took me all over Texas. We saw everything from the Alamo to Jimmy's burgers. For the first time in a long time, I thought maybe I was going to be ok. It was march when things seemed to fall apart. The second weekend in March was Holly and her fiance's wedding. Tyler and I went up on Wednesday night. Thursday, Holly, Laila, Anna and I went shopping. The three of them seemed to love to go shopping for me. “You need something awesome to wear to the wedding.” “Thanks.” I laughed. Maybe it was the wedding, the beautiful way they included Laila, or maybe it was because I knew what next weekend was, but whatever it was, it grew harder and harder to be there and not shut down, so I did, I began shutting down. Turning off all systems that made me feel. Tyler took me on a walk sometime during the dance. `The dance and reception was on a boardwalk by a river. Tyler and I sat on the edge our feet dangling over the rocks. “What's wrong?” I couldn't stop the tears. I couldn't shut myself down like I had before and it was Tyler's fault. “What do you care?” “Your my friend Tess.” “You don't even know me.” I said not even bothering to hide the tears. “Yes, Yes I do your my friend Tess,” “My name isn't Tess, it's Alison I'm not really twenty-one. I'm eighteen. My family didn't die they live in small town twenty minutes from chicago.” I nearly choked on my tears as I inhaled sharply. Tyler's face was at first shocked and then confused. He shocked me with his reaction. He hugged me tight. “What happened? Why the lie, why did you leave them?” He asked softly after I'd stopped crying. “I killed my baby brother, I killed Will.”


“Judith? What are you doing up here?” Judith brushed back tears as her husband sat next to her. “I miss my baby Luke. I miss all her fiesty sarcasim, the way she'd roll her eyes at me when I asked stupid questions about some new gizmo she was showing me. Why'd she leave Luke, where is she?” It had been almost nine months. Nine long months. Judith thought she was past times like these, when she could only sob, feeling as though she'd fall apart. Luke rocked his wife, his own tears mingling with hers. He wished he knew why in one summer day his family had fallen apart. The truth was he didn't know why, he could only try to hold what was left of them together. They hadn't given up looking for Alison. When they'd realized she was gone, they'd called the police. “Our daughter's missing.” They'd said. At first the police had been helpful, until they decided that Alison had run away after she'd been missing a month. “She's almost eighteen, practically an adult.” “So?” Judith had cried incredulasly. Detective Krell had sighed. “Look, I really wish I could help but your daughter ran away and as far as the department is concerned, she's an adult and so it's ok.” Judith had started to cry. “Take this card. He's a private detective and as far as I'm concerned the best. If anyone could find your daughter, it's him. I wish I could help more.” Dective Krell had become a family friend after that. His private detective friend, Joe Wilson had spent another two months looking for Alison. He'd found a few leads but none that led to her. In time, he to became like part of their family. He and Detective Krell both were still looking for leads as to Alison's where abouts in there free time. “Honestly Luke, If we were going to find her, we would have. I'll search for her till I'm in the grave because you and Judith are my friends, but I can't let you have false hope, It will hurt you, and I don't want to see you guys hurting anymore.”


We were sitting in Holly's soon to be house. We'd gone back to the wedding and said goodbye to Holly and her fiance Ryan, then taken Laila back to her new home. Holly and her husband would honeymoon for a week, and then Laila would join them. Laila was asleep and Tyler and I sat on the back porch. I wrapped my arms around my chest. “It was a saturday. My friends were going to the city to hang out and shop before we all went to the game but my parents made me stay home and watch Will till I had to leave for the game.” I stopped thinking about my sweet little brother. “We were ten years apart but so close. Will he was so special. He was my best friend. He was such a sweet little boy. He knew me better then anyone else. Honestly, I love him more then anyone else in the world.” I stopped and took a deep breath. THe tears still spilled across my face but I couldn't care. “Anne would of called us Kindrid spirits. I killed him Tyler, I killed the person I love most in the world. He was only seven.” “What happened?” Tyler asked softly. “I blinked, that's all. We are at the park.” I said again. “He knew I wanted to hang out with my friends. He wasn't hurt or offended. He tried to make it better. I told him to go play and sat on a bench texting. He played by himself because he thought it made me feel better if I didn't play with him. He asked me to swing with him, just so I knew he still loved me. I told him no. When I looked up, I didn't see him. I blinked.” I bit back the tears in my throat. “I saw him, but it was to late. Will's deaf to.” I said. Tyler was watching me intently. Not horrified, but concerned, for me. “I screamed but it was to late. The car flung his body almost fifty feet.” My voice rose a pitch with my tears. “He was so limp.” My words were barely more then cries now, but I'd started the story and I was determined to finish. Tyler had to know what a horrible person I was. “I don't know why or how he was still concious. I ran to him as I called the ambulance.” My mind replayed the moment like a movie in my head. It hurt. I remembered every detail, every feeling and every tear that I shed. “Alison?” Will asked as I bent over him. “It hurts, it's dark.” He said. “Shh I know I'm here, stay still Will.” “Dark.” He repeated signing the letters in my hand. “No, no Will stay here. Will! WILL!” “Tess?” I didn't realize I was shaking. “He was unconcious and he didn't wake up again. He died in the hospital two days later and it was my fault. I killed him. He saw a flower, across the street. He had it clenched in his hand. It was my favorite flower and he got it to make me feel better because I was being a jerk. I was being pouty and I killed my baby brother.” It felt like I couldn't hold myself together anymore. Then I felt strong arms wrap around my own. I heard a frightening tortoured sound and realized it came from me. “Shhh Tess. It's ok, it wasn't your fault.” He repeated the words over and over. When I woke the next morning I was in a bed with a blanket draped over me. Laila was cuddled next to me, but she was awake. I heard a noise and saw Tyler sitting in the chair, asleep. “Are you still sad?” Laila asked when she knew I was looking at her. I wondered how I'd gotten there, or how she had. I vaugly remembered being so tired suddenly, physically and emotionally, and Tyler carrying me upstairs. I remembered waking screaming Wills name, seeing his limp tiny body being flung in the air. That was when Laila had come in. She'd climbed on the bed and didn't try to comfort me, she merely shared the pain. I nodded my head at her question. Tyler woke up. He must not have been sleeping deeply. We all got up and well Tyler and Laila made breakfast I took a shower. I told him the rest of the story, how I'd come to Texas over breakfast. “I got in my car and took off when I found out he died. I don't know what I was planning. I had my purse and the clothes on my back. I drove to Wisconsin before I realized I couldn't go home. I ran into some man and got him to sell my car. With that, I took the money and rented a new one. I drove to Michigan, dyed me hair and spent a few days, earning some cash. I eventually made my way here, to Texas. I had no more money, I hadn't eaten or showered in two days, when I got a flat tire just outside of town. That's where Mrs. Wild found me. She got me a job in the hotel and worked out an agreement for me to live there. “Is it legal for you to work as a bar maid if your only eighteen?” Tyler asked. “I told her I was twenty-one. My guess is she know's I'm not, but has to big of a heart to fire me.” I was staying with Laila for the week. Tyler stayed to. That week, the two of them helped me face what I had been running from for months. They helped me face Will's death. The worst part, was accepting the truth, it wasn't really my fault Will died. That was hard to accept, to believe. It was the first day in April I sat down with Tyler's family. Holly, Ryan and Laila had returned. For now I was taking a leave of work. Tyler had explained to her some of it. I was staying at his parents house. He'd explained what happened to Will. This was the first time we'd all actually sat down and talked about it. “So you just left? Your parents don't know where you are?” I shook my head. “I haven't talked to them since I left.” I said shakily. Tyler squeezed my hand. “First off, you are not living in a hotel room anymore. Your staying here, till you can decide what you want to do.” Talking about Will and what happened after so long was strange. I didn't know how to react. We had a long talk about, Will, about my parents, how I'd been living. “Do you miss them?” Tyler asked me as we walked along the vast property of his parents. “My parents? Every day. I miss how my mom and I would bake cookies and have long talks about everything. How my dad would tell me these stupid stories that made no sense to try and make a point when I was feeling bad.” “They don't blame you for what happened.” “How do you know, and I just left them.” “Yeah, that was pretty dumb.” Tyler agreed. I snapped my head up. “Kidding.” We walked in silence for a while longer. “Tyler? I want to go home.” Tyler smiled. He, his mom and Anna and I flew into Chicago three days later. Before we left, I undyed my hair. I hadn't liked blond much anyway. My chestnut Brown hair returning made me feel, more myself. “It's weird, calling you Alison.” Anna said on the plane. Her constant chatter helped. We landed in Chicago a little before noon. It felt as though thousand butterflies were taking off in my stomach. I was scared and nervous, but there was a growing excitment building up inside me. “How are you feeling?” Mrs. Danning asked. I smiled at Tyler's mom. “I don't know.” I said. We hadn't called my parents, hadn't given them any warning. We rented a car from the air port and drove the twenty miles to our house. It took us about a half hour because of traffic, making it a quarter past one when we turned onto the familiar street where I'd once lived. We parked two houses down. My dad, just seeing him made me ache, was on the drive way with two men I didn't know working on the car. I exhaled sharply. “You alright?” Tyler asked. I nodded. “You want us to wait here?” Mrs. Danning asked. I shook me head. We got out of the car. I clung tightly to Tyler's hand. Mrs. Danning and Anna walked just behind us. My dad and the two men were engrossed in their conversation and didn't notice us. WE reached the drive way and my dad looked up. “Alison,” He half whispered as though afraid his voice might make me disappear. “Daddy.” Tears clouded my Vision. “Alison.” He said again closing the distance between us, he wrapped me in a hug holding me tightly to him. “Baby girl.” He said. I felt his warm tears. He pulled me back to look at me. “You came home.” He said. “I missed you.” He hugged me again and then pulled me back as though suddenly remembering something. We heard the house door open and we turned. I gasped my heart soaring. “Alison?” My mother cried out, grabbing the railing for support. My tears spilled over as I knelt and caught Will as he sailed into my arms. “Will?” He hugged me tight, his little arms wrapped tight around my neck. One. Two. Three squeezes. “I love you.” I blinked. Will, was still there.





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