“Breanna!” Mom roars. “That is uncalled-for!”

“Selfish much?” murmurs Liam. Shame heats my face, but what causes the tears to burn my eyes is the sadistic lift of Clara’s mouth. Mom never yells at me. The perfect, responsible daughter is plunging from the pedestal Clara created for me and Clara gloats in her victory.

“Go outside,” Mom says to Liam and Clara, but it’s me she pins with her ticked-off gaze. “Get the car ready. We’re leaving in minutes.”

The moment the door closes, I suck in a breath. “I’m sorry, but you don’t understand—”

Mom cuts me off. “I know I’m asking a lot from you and I know Clara has not been very good to you over the past two years.”

Try since birth. In fact, for years she’s done nothing but dump the burden of her unhappiness onto me.

“But your sister needs me.”

I attempt to rush out the truth. To tell her about the weekend, to tell her about Kyle, to tell her I’m scared and terrified and that I crave nothing more than to be six and climb onto her lap and let her chase the monsters away, but my mother steps forward and places her hands on my cheeks, hampering any hope I had of confessing.

Mom’s hazel eyes soften as they bore into mine. “Clara isn’t like you. None of us are like the two of you, but Clara struggles with this gift. This past year almost broke her, and when she didn’t graduate, I thought your sister was going to enter a depression I couldn’t dig her out of.

“Your dad called in a favor and we transferred her to a school near Nora. We’re hoping that staying with Nora will help ground Clara. Classes started last week, so she’s already behind. If she focuses, then she can graduate this December. I’m staying for two weeks to help her get organized, to help her catch up on work she’s missed, to help her with her confidence. Honey, these are things I don’t expect you to understand because you’re the one who has it together.”

Her words are like small razor blade slices to my soul, and even though it’s just a trickle of blood at a time from each wound, I’m slowly bleeding out. A bead of something warm escapes my eye and Mom catches it with her thumb.


“But there’s this boy at school...” I start, but Mom talks over me.

“And I want you to tell me, but not now. I’m late and I need to focus on Clara.”

My throat tightens. “But I need you.”

Mom tilts my head so I have no choice but to spot her sincerity. “When I return, I am a hundred percent yours. I promise you. Right now, your sister needs me more. I’m depending on you, and your dad is depending on you. This project is a make-or-break moment for him. He needs to focus on that. I need you to focus on this family. I am begging you not to let me down.”

But I already have. I’ve let her down in so many ways that she’ll be sickened to look at me. I need my mother so desperately. I need help, but there’s no hope to be had. Before I can respond with a yes or a no or before I could throw myself to my knees and beg for mercy, my mother collects her suitcase and leaves me utterly and completely alone.


“HOW’S LIVING WITH CYRUS?” Chevy asks. It’s before school and the two of us are leaning against the lockers near my English class. Chevy’s looking out for Violet’s younger brother, Stone. I’m searching for Breanna.

She sent a text last night I didn’t see until this morning: We need to talk. Can we meet before class?

I texted back yes, but nothing more from her.

Because of my absence yesterday, the last time I saw her she was climbing into a car with her friends at Shamrock’s. She texted me Saturday to confirm she received the code, so I know she made it home safely, but there’s this itch to see her I can’t shake.

It’s both annoying and addicting.

Breanna Miller—the girl with soft skin and gorgeous hazel eyes. Breanna Miller—the girl who can tell me about the Milky Way. Hell, she can probably tell me about anything.

“Are you smiling?” Chevy asks. “Shit, you’re smiling again. That’s the second time in days. Gotta admit, that scares the hell out of me.”

I sober as I answer his first question. “Everything at Cyrus’s is good.” Since I left home, Dad and I have had no communication. Not sure where that leaves either of us.

“Does the shift in your normal fuck-off attitude have to do with what you’ve got going on with Breanna Miller?”

I don’t respond. I already informed Oz and Chevy that Breanna’s off-limits. She’s a private person. So am I. The one thing Breanna has after we chatted on Friday is my respect.

Out of thin air, Chevy produces that coin of his and flips it over his fingers. “Remember when we were kids and we’d catch fireflies in the forest with Olivia?”

I nod and watch the coin appear and disappear up and over his knuckles. This kid could make a good living in the circus...or make a million dollars as a pickpocket.

“Do you remember how Olivia taught us how to catch them by cupping our hands after she explained how fragile they were?”

I nod again, wondering where Chevy’s heading on this memory lane detour.

“Do you remember what happened next?”

I snort because I do. Chevy tosses the coin in the air and he catches it between his hands with a loud clap as a reenactment of what occurred that night. We squished the hell out of those first few little fuckers.

“None of you listen,” Olivia chastised us. “Each of you are too excited to do what you want to pay attention—to learn.”

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