Chapter One

Absolutely (Story of a Girl)

This is the story of a girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world

And while she looks so sad in photographs, I absolutely love her

When she smiles

Let me just begin by saying that there are two sides to every story. There's their side.

And then, there's my side. The right side.

It's a muggy August night, and the sky's colored an ominous black sapphire, threatening all kinds of thunder and lightning. I'm cleaning up from dinner, and Granny's doing a crossword, while Den slumbers peacefully at her feet.

"Mr. Hughes called this afternoon while you were out, Winry," Granny comments as I pass by her place at the table, simultaneously balancing a precariously stacked hodgepodge of plates and silverware and attempting to mentally outline my latest ideas for my still unwritten college essay. "He says that Ed and Al want to come home for this school year."

I can't help it; two forks and a knife clatter to the floor and at least two plausible sentences vanish from my brain.

Granny's glasses have turned opaque in the light of the overhead lamp, and I can't see her expression. All she says is, "Do you want some help, child?"

"N-no, it's fine. Thank you." I carefully settle the dishes atop the counter next to the sink and bend down to retrieve the fallen cutlery.

"That's… surprising," I finally manage once I've stood. I don't fully understand my clenched fists or the quiver in my voice.

"Just 'surprising?'" Granny asks mildly. "We were both sure that you'd be jumping for joy."

I roll my eyes, but she can't see. "When are they coming home?"

"Well, they should be here by sometime tomorrow. They're taking the night train out of Central." She then lets out a ferocious sort of groan.

"Granny, what–"

"This infernal word puzzle! Whoever writes these things must be some kind of sadist who enjoys watching little old ladies suffer!"

I laugh as I begin scrubbing down a plate. "Okay, what's the question?"

"'What is a four letter word for enameled metal?'"

"Are you serious, Granny? It's iron!"

Granny looks at the puzzle, and then at me, over the rim of her glasses. "Well, so it is." She chuckles. "That's embarrassing."

"What a sadist," I mutter. I reach for another dish.

"Hey, missy! We aren't all future mechanical engineers!" she admonishes, sticking a wrinkly, calloused finger in my direction.

I just laugh at this. "Granny, we both know that you're an ace mechanic as well. Your eyesight's just… well…"

"I know I'm getting all old and crumbly, child. You don't need to tread lightly about it." She winks at me and then stands, although her head doesn't come up much farther than the table she had been sitting at.

"Let me help my only grandchild with those dishes."

The first of the thunderstorm begins just as I finish with my shower, which I consider pretty fortuitous, because I don't plan to be electrocuted just yet. First, I need to get into MIT.

I'm toweling off in my room when Den comes rushing in like a black and white bullet. She howls at the sight of me, which nearly causes me to drop my towel, and then leaps onto my bed and buries her furry head beneath my quilt.

"Careful, Den! You know that that quilt's all I have left of Mom–" I cut myself off. No use rubbing salt into old wounds.

There's a quiet knock at the door. "Come in," I answer quietly, even though I'm still in my towel.

Granny looks a little taken aback at my appearance, but she doesn't say anything. Instead, she sits next to me on the bed and begins to rub Den's shaking head.

"I guess that makes two of us who aren't huge fans of thunder," she chuckles, smoothing back her fur in a calming gesture. "Poor, poor puppy."


"Yes, Winry?"

"Where are they going to stay?"

"Ed and Al?" She knows right away whom I mean. "They're staying with us, of course."

"What?!" I exclaim, but it sounds like a shriek, which causes Den's ears to perk up. "Here? In our house?"

"Unless you want them to stay with Principal Mustang again–"

"Noit'sfine," I say much too quickly, my words slurring together. I draw in a deep breath and reach over Granny's tiny lap to give Den a pat. "They can stay here."

She looks at me just as she had in the kitchen, when I couldn't quite see her expression. She opens her mouth, and I'm sure she's about to impart some kind of ancient wisdom on me.

But all she says is, "You'll need to be careful about walking around in just a towel like that."

"Granny!" I hit her with one of my pillows.

The next morning, I'm far too fidgety. I should be slogging through my summer reading or working on my latest project or going out for a run or something. Anything but sitting on the front porch stoop, staring off towards the rise in the hill, where, at any moment, Ed and Al could appear.

I don't know why I'm so nervous about seeing them. They were my childhood playmates, my best friends, the only people I could truly rely on besides Granny (and Den, of course, if you count dogs as people, which I do).

But it's been over a year since I'd last seen them. What if things had changed?

Of course they've changed, I scoff to myself. That's what people do. You can't fight it.

Den emerges from the house and sits down on the concrete beside me, wagging her tail. The night's thunder brought a beautiful morning to us, with a cloudless blue sky and a brightly shining sun. The dog gently tugs at the sleeve of my too-big white t-shirt, and I giggle at her pleading expression.

"Okay, okay! Den, fetch!" I grab the piece of multi-colored knotted rope and give it a good toss. It, along with Den, disappears over the rise in the hill, but then–

There's a nasty-sounding thwack, accompanied by a shout of surprise.

"Ow! Hey! What the hell!" cries out an all-too-familiar voice.

"Brother!" A second voice floats towards me over the wet grass, filled with concern. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," answers the first dismissively. "Hey, Den! Look at you! You're such a big girl!" All of the anger has disappeared, replaced with highly uncharacteristic mushiness. "C'mon! Bring the rope back!"

This is it. My heart is beating far too erratically for me to not understand why. I fiddle with one of my many earrings, push an errant strand of blond hair out of my face, and then–

Den appears first, gleefully pulling the length of rope. And then, following her over the rise in the hill, are Edward and Alphonse Elric.