• “We’re very sorry, he didn’t respond well to the treatment, it doesn’t look like he’s going to make it” the doctor explained to my mom.

    I was barely conscious but enough to make out a few words.

    “But he can still pull through, right?” she was so worried about Michael she never even considered if I were going to be ok or not.

    “It’s not likely” the doctor shook his head and patted mom on the shoulder.

    “But he’s not gone yet?” it almost seemed as though she was praying to god to take her not her son.

    “Doctor Allen! Your needed urgently there’s an emergency in room 621!” A nurse rushed in.

    “Wait that’s Michaels room!” mom yelped following the medical experts out of the room.

    That’s how it happened, how we got the news, how I figured out that I would never get to see my brother ever again, or that’s how I remember it at least. Mom and I haven’t spoken much since the accident. He was a brother, a son, a grandson, and a soon to be husband. This is entirely my fault. I shouldn’t have begged. I should’ve just kept my big mouth shut and we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    “C’mon Shay, you don’t want to be late do you!?” My friend Sarah shouted.

    “You know, I don’t really feel like going anywhere tonight” I tried to let her down easy.

    “It’s been almost a year Shay; you have to learn to let things go. All things happen for a reason” She explained apparently disappointed.

    “I’ll talk to you tomorrow” I faked a smile.

    I try not to respond when my friends make comments like that. I want to avoid arguing as much as I possibly can, I mean who is it going to help in the long run?

    She left in a hurry. I'm still deciding if it’s because she angrily disappointed or if she really is in that much of a hurry. I lay on the couch hoping that mom will be home soon so I can make my escape. Ever since Michael passed, mom’s been staying out all night at the bar. I try to stay home so that I can at least know that she is alright. The only sanity I have is with my…

    “What are you still up for?!” Mom screams crashing through the door with a guy attached to each hip.

    “Waiting for you” I explained drearily.

    “Well waitings over now get out of here!” she laughed.

    It wasn’t one of those happy laughs it was one of those ha-ha your life sucks laughs. I dragged myself off the couch and left the house, happily. I walked as fast as I could to my serenity. The one place if any place I can actually call home. Michael and I discovered it when we were just 7 years old. It’s where we came to think. We knew if one of us ever ran away just where the other one would be. You see Michael was older than me, and he would never let me forget it. We shared something not many people share with someone mainly because we were twins.

    There it stood at least 20 feet tall, its leaves dancing in the wind and its bark howling for me to remove its vacant sign. I climbed the weeping willow and sat on Michael’s branch. It still felt warm from where Michael was last here. I gazed over the empty wheat field and abandoned barn that surrounded it. No one else knows of this place because it’s in such a secluded area. That’s why Michael and I were so close to this tree. It’s where we came to think, to let go, and to remember.

    The wind blew my wavy black hair as I lifelessly gazed letting go of everything. My mom, my brother’s death, my friends, school, my abusive ex, the list goes on and on. Mom hasn’t been quite the same, nothing has. She stays at bars…all night. She sleeps all day and brings men home. She locks me out and won’t let me back in, which is why my window no longer has a screen. It’s the only way back in the house of hell.

    I heard deep breathing coming from behind me. I quickly turned to glance at what it was. He stood there out of breathe bent over with his hands on his knees attempting to get some oxygen. I tried to hide myself within the branches but grabbed a weak limb and found myself face first on the ground.

    “Yuck!” I said spitting the leaves out of my mouth and getting to my feet.

    I must’ve hit harder that I thought because as soon as I stood I went right back down or I almost did, if it weren’t for the strange boy who caught me.

    “You alright?” he asked.

    I was dazed for at least 30 seconds before I regained my mind and rose to my feet.

    “Uh, yea thanks, I guess” I was puzzled.

    As far as I knew my brother and I were the only people that knew about this place.

    “What are you doing out here so late at night, or I suppose it would be morning now?” He asked me as if we had known each other our whole lives.

    Did I mention mom didn’t get back until 1 in the morning?

    “Thinking,” I didn’t know what else to say, “Why were you running?” I might as well ask some questions too.

    “Thinking about what?” he asked me completely ignoring my question.

    “Stuff” I don’t this boy why should I have to explain anything at all?

    “I see, well we weren’t supposed to meet like this” he told me.

    I gave him a puzzled look.

    “Michael, before he died, asked me to look out for you. You know I’ve never met anyone so worried about their almost grown sister in my life.” He informed me.

    Okay now I was definitely beginning to question my sanity.

    “You knew Michael?” I asked.

    “He was like a brother to me you could say. He was my best friend. I would do anything for him so when he told me to look after you, I promised I would.” He explained staring up at the black sky.

    Well that’s just great I really can get no privacy. Now I will be surrounded by somebody everyday all day and I will never get any me time!

    “That’s very nice of you but I can manage on my own besides Michaels gone, your promise is kind of worthless now.” I said rudely as I tried to make my escape.

    “Yea he said you would say that. All though you two do look a lot alike, you were very different huh? I mean sure you probably cared tremendously for each other but let’s face it if you were to send someone to watch over him he would probably be amazed by just how caring you really are.” He spoke the words as though Michael had put them in his mouth.

    I see now why he would send someone like this. Even them as friends are alike in more ways than me and him ever were.

    “I'm sorry what did you say your name is?” I asked.

    It was too dark to see anything but he sounds so familiar.

    “Does it matter I mean if you want me to go away and never bother you ever again” he exaggerated his words as he slowly crept away.

    “Wait! Chase, is that you?” I asked.

    Chase used to hang out with Michael all the time when we were kids. They would always knock on my bedroom door and run because they knew it would upset me. Besides Chase had a kiddy crush on me back in the day but we were 4 or 5 and we didn’t even understand our words let alone our feelings. Chase had always had a lisp which is why at first I didn’t recognize him but when he spoke just then, the way he exaggerated I knew it had to be him.

    “Now what was it we used to call you ‘Shay Shay’?” he laughed.

    I ran to him and gave him a long overdue hug.

    “I thought you moved?” I said almost in tears.

    Just when I thought I had no one left on this cruel planet he shows up!

    “Well we moved back about 2 years ago but Michael wouldn’t let me see you. He said it would be too difficult whatever that was supposed to mean. When he was in the hospital that night he asked me to watch over you. Right after that his monitor…well you know” he said suddenly quieted.

    Why would it be too difficult for one of my old friends to see me? Michael can be so weird sometimes.

    “I can’t believe this, your back, now I'm not alone anymore.” I took a deep sigh of relief.

    “Shay, you’re never alone. Michael is always watching over you, don’t forget who he is. You think he would let anyone tell him he can’t see you? He’s probably watching us right now” he said signaling for me to look up.

    “Yea I guess you’re right. So how have you been, it’s been ages!” I asked excitedly.

    “Well mom got transferred over to Japan several months ago…Dad doesn’t seem to believe that she is going to come back. He’s beginning to look rough. How’s Barbara?” He asked me.

    “Mom’s not doing so hot, Chase. She stays out at the bar all night and brings men home. Then she kicks me out of the house so she can do her business and she refuses to open the door which is why the screen in my window has been removed. That how I get back in the house you know? Then after a few hours of sleep she repeats it all over again. I'm just glad it’s summer so I don’t have to deal with getting good nights sleep. I really wish Michael was here, he was always mom’s favorite twin.” I said looking down and playing with my hand.

    “Hey,” he said bringing my face up, “this is exactly the reason I'm here” he smiled.

    “I know thank god” I replied returning the smile.

    “No, thank Michael” he chuckled.

    It’s been so long since I’ve had an actual conversation with someone who actually listens to me.

    “I should get home. Even though I could stay out all night I like to get my rest” I told him.

    “I’ll be watching you” he smiled.

    “You know that’s almost creepy except the fact that I'm kind of digging the whole stalker attitude.” I smiled.

    “I should have tried this, years ago” he winked.

    “I think the lisp would have thrown off the moment!” I laughed.

    “I’ll walk with you” he said changing the subject.

    He was always sensitive when it came to that subject.

    “Alright” I said.

    I held his arm as he led the way back to my house.

    “So how do you know which way to go anyway?” I asked suspiciously.

    “I keep my word” he replied.

    “So when you said your dad is looking rough what did you mean?” I asked curiously.

    He kept quiet for a minute then stopped.

    “Let’s just say we don’t get along, I sleep in a hotel every night and I don’t care if I never see him ever again” He picked up the pace again.

    “Wait hold on a second. Phil, Mr. Phil that used to play Santa clause, your dad?” I asked in shock

    “Why, is that so shocking, Shay?!” He accidently yelled.

    I stood there in disbelief wondering to myself how everything could have gone so bad. It’s not just my family either. It’s like ever since Michael left the world is coming to an end! I stood waiting for him to calm down and apologize.

    “Look Shay I'm sorry ok? It’s been tough lately ya know?” he asked.

    “Yea I do know. Anyways let’s get going these woods are starting to creep me out.” I told him.

    “We’re almost there” he explained.

    We walked in silence the rest of the way. I just don’t understand how it could have gotten so bad with his dad that he is actually living at a hotel. I could see the light in my bedroom window.

    “So Chase you can stay tonight if you want I mean mom will never notice and I would feel guilty if I had a place for you and you went back to the hotel” I asked him.

    We’ve been best friends since before I can even remember it wouldn’t be a problem if he stayed.

    “You really should get some sleep I'm not going to be the cause of anything between you and your mom.” He explained.

    “Look Chase, my mom will be gone in a couple of hours and she’s doesn’t care about me or what I do. I set my own rules and yes I have them because I have dignity. It’s no big deal really, besides I will feel more comfortable.” I informed him.

    “You’re not going to let me go are you?” he asked smirking.

    “Not a chance?” I smiled.

    “Ok so how do we do this?” he asked.

    “See this window here? And see this rock here? Watch” I said then I made my way through the window.

    “That seems simple” he said climbing through the window and landing on the bed.

    “See I knew you could do it!” I laughed.

    “Why has everything gotten so...bad?” He asked as if I should know the answer.

    “I wish I knew. It’s as if Michael took a chunk of the world with him when he left. A chunk of our world.” I began playing with my fingers again.

    “It’s not a bad thing you know?” he began.

    I gave him a confused look. He looked at me.

    “If we were fine, living our lives how they were before, then it would mean nothing. It would mean that we thought nothing of him, that he wasn’t important to us.” he smiled.

    He had a good point. If we were living like nothing was wrong that would mean that we didn’t care. It would mean that his time served on this earth was of no use and trust me it was. Michael got me out of trouble so many times I don’t think I could count them with the assistance of my toes.
    I smiled back assuring him I knew what he was talking about. I did of course but he had this weird expression on his face. He was sitting there just staring at me but as hard as it is to believe, and trust me it is, I found myself staring right back at him. I watched the light glisten in his pale gray eyes.


    “Shayla Jessica Anne Jones, get out here right now! You know the rules!” Mom screamed furiously banging on the door.

    “Does she know?” Chase asked suddenly stiff.

    “No, it’s not what you think, I’ll be right back.” I told him opening the door.
    Just as I opened it mother peeked in.

    “Oh I see, like mother like daughter huh?” She chuckled, hanging all over the wall.

    “No, never, He’s just a friend don’t you remember Chase mom?” I asked with a sassy attitude.

    “Oh Chase Evans, thought you died” she said licking the outside of her teeth. You could see her tongue rolling through her lips.

    “No mom that was your son!” I said angrily.
    Within three maybe four seconds I was on the ground shaking. She had never hit me before. My face stung like when you walk bare foot in the snow.

    “You’re late, the guests are waiting! Join us Chase as we escort these fine gentlemen out the door.”She fluttered elegantly.

    “You’re drunk” I mumbled.

    Chase followed behind as I made my way into the living room. Routine is after she gets done with the men I ‘escort’, as she put it, them off the premises. They try to get a grab in if they can.

    “Well what do we have here?” one of the men said standing to his feet and taking a good glance at me.

    I quickly turned around remembering that Chase was here.

    “Go back to my room” I whispered quickly.

    He looked at my face and could instantly tell I wanted him to leave.

    “No way” he said straightening up.

    I guess it made him want to stay that much more.

    “Don’t say a word don’t even move a muscle” I quickly informed him.

    If I were to move when they put their filthy hands on me, they would beat me. Mom is always too drunk to do anything about. She just thinks I'm taking them outside. When I try to tell her in the morning she says I’m crazy and I’m spoiled and that if Michael were here I wouldn’t be saying that but that’s true isn’t it? If Michael were here none of this would be happening.

    I turned to face the two men that stood before me.

    “Now why don’t you just turn around and go to bed Donna” The other one said pointing mom out of the room.

    Mom followed orders as usual and headed straight for bed.

    “It’s time for you to go” I said quietly.

    “Now is that anyway to speak to your elders?” The redneck spoke as he stepped towards me.

    “Moms gone to bed, there’s no reason for you to stay here any longer.” I said again this time with a little more oomph.

    “Well aint you gonna introduce us to your friend here?” He said pointing his hand towards Chase.

    I looked at Chase who was frozen in place. He looked like he was ready to kill someone.

    “He’s not important, just an old friend.” I explained.

    He grabbed a hold of my shoulder and softly massaged it. I was so disgusted I felt like puking right then and there.

    “Well if he aint important than he won’t mind leaving now will he?” He said.

    “He has to stay, to uh, see to it that I stay here at the house.” I tried as hard as I could to come up with an excuse.

    The other man stumbled over and moved the hair from my neck around to one side. He touched the back of my neck making the hairs on my arms stand up. I knew what this meant. They were going to beat me whether Chase stood and watched or not.

    I took a hard blow to the same cheek mom had smacked just a few minutes ago. I didn’t see a point in trying to get up but I knew if I didn’t it would show that I’m weak which I definitely am not. Begging isn’t something I do either. I stood to my feet once again quickly shooting a glance at Chase who had slowly paced himself back to my room.

    “I have to go now, so do you, now leave before I call the cops and you know I will” I said fiercely.

    “No need to be hostile now angel, we’ll see you tomorrow.” He ended with one final blow to the gut.

    I waited for them to leave before I went back to my room. I shut the door locking it behind me just in case.

    “How could you let them do that to you?!” Chase was furious, either with himself or me or just this whole thing. I couldn’t tell which one it was.

    The tears silently rolled down my cheeks resting on the bottom of my chin before descending. I held my stomach with one hand as I softly rubbed my face with the other. I limped to my bed and carefully sat down.

    “Please, Chase, just for tonight let it go” my voice croaked.

    I couldn’t find the words to speak or the breath.

    He knelt down in front of me and took my right hand, the one covering my face. He searched my face for a few minutes but I refused to look at him. I didn’t want him to see me like this. I didn’t want him to see me weak and defenseless. I didn’t want him to know.

    He sat down beside me and leaned against the wall. I laid the left side of my face on his chest and shut my eyes as he combed through my hair. The slow steady breathing put me to sleep like a baby.

    When I woke up it was to the sound of laughter. Can you believe it, laughter?! I gazed around the room to find Chase standing there, laughing, talking on the phone and staring out the window.

    “Chase?” I called weakly. I didn’t feel like moving but I knew I had to if I was going to get stronger.

    “Oh, I have to go, love you too, bye sweetie” He said closing his phone.

    “Who...it doesn’t matter” I thought twice before asking who it was because it really is none of my business.

    I felt my face gently. The stinging was gone although I was pretty sure that it was still red. I lifted my shirt just enough so that I could see the battle wound. I looked down and there it was a big black and blue bruise right smack dab in the middle of my stomach.

    “That doesn’t look peaceful” Chase flinched.

    “Well it doesn’t feel peaceful either” I told him.

    “Maybe you should see a doctor” He suggested.

    “And tell them what I fell down the stairs? Oh that will work!” I rolled my eyes.

    I put my shirt down and lay down on my side facing the wall.

    “Is it like this every night?” he asked bravely.

    “Only some are brave enough to risk it” I explained.

    I heard some ruffling around but I didn’t move.

    “I want to show you something” he told me

    “Does it involve moving?” I asked

    “A little, yes.” He laughed.

    “What is it?” I asked curiously.

    I didn’t feel like moving but that’s just it. That’s what makes a person weak. It’s not wanting to do something, when you know you have to.

    “Come with me” he wouldn’t let it go.

    I sat up and got off the bed. I followed him out of the house and back into the woods where the tree stands.

    “Why are we here?” I asked confused.

    “We’re not here yet” he chuckled.

    We walked right past the tree and kept going on further, deeper into the woods until we came to a cliff. It wasn’t just an ordinary cliff though, it was beautiful. There were wildflowers growing all over and a river that flowed through a valley just beyond the rocks.

    “Wow” was all I could manage.

    “This is MY thinking spot. I used to come here all the time when I was a kid. No one else knows about this place” he explained it as though he was watching a movie.

    It felt like one too. I have never seen anything so amazing in my entire life. The sun was rising right over the valley walls illuminating the sky orange.

    “How did you find this place” I asked noticing that he had taken a seat. I sat next to him.

    “I didn’t,” he began taking a pause; “Michael did” he said softly, gazing over his shoulder at me.