Autor's Note: Hey everyone! So this is the one-shot-not-so-one-shot after all I promised you all in "This Broken Road". The story stopped being a one-shot due to a tsunami of ideas I had for this fic, and as you can see, this is quite long! But hopefully I'll have you hooked for the second installment. It's going to be sort of a three-shot maybe four-shot, so I hope you all like it. Don't worry if you don't get where you're at, in the beginning... you'll see where the story's going once you're done with the first flashback!

Anyway... read and review!

Sharybabe

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Show Me What True Love Is…

Part I

"Come on, sunshine! Can't you do this one little thing?", Ethan said to me from across the room waving his hands while he opened the fridge to get a bottle of water.

I mean, if I didn't know him any better I guess I would've probably bought the puppy eyes and the pitchy tone on his voice, but please, being the youngest one in the family doesn't mean I have to be the stupid one. Why can't people get that?

Without realizing it, I just rolled my eyes and focused back on the "Pride and Prejudice" copy I was reading before he got back from jogging.

I know what you're thinking, "Pride and Prejudice"? But yeah, that's my favorite book. Always have been, always will be… I blame mom. She's the one that handed me the reading genes in the first place because I don't think I've ever seen dad read a romance novel and I think I never will.

No matter how many times I read that book, everyone knows better than to bother me when I'm doing it. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth require all my concentration and Ethan was depriving me of said concentration with something I clearly wasn't too eager to discuss.

So I tried to do what I do best: pretend he hadn't said a thing… pretend the last 10 minutes of begging and aforementioned puppy eyes hadn't taken place. Of course, I'm old enough to know now that pretending doesn't last long… but maybe, just maybe if I focused my eyes on reading paragraph after paragraph, Ethan would just get bored and go away.

"Sunshine…" he said again moving his head a little, "I'm not going away, so you might as well pay attention to me for a second"

Yes, pretending can't last long.

I know Ethan like the palm of my hand. I think I know him better than I know myself, so I knew that what he'd said, he'd meant. He didn't have any intention of going away, so if I wanted to keep reading how the fight between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth was gonna end, I had to humor him, and humor him soon.

"Not gonna happen, Ethan", I said without taking my eyes from the book, with vain hopes of him just saying "ok" and going to some other place on the face of the Earth… preferably, somewhere away from me. But like I said, I know Ethan… he wasn't going to do that.

"Why not?" he said reaching out for my dearest "Pride and Prejudice" and taking it out of my sight. "I'm asking you this as a favor"

"I'm not talking about mom and dad in front of everybody!" I said completely pissed off. He knows he's not supposed to take books away from me! Especially "Pride and Prejudice". If he was trying for me to do him a favor… that would never be the best approach.

Now that I look at it, I wasn't mad about the book exactly, no matter how incredible that sounds. It was what he was asking of me. Mom and dad are always gonna be a complicated issue for me… that's never gonna change.

But… he's charming, he has the puppy eyes, he's Ethan… and I knew how it was gonna end.

He obviously understood because he sighed as if the whole weight of the world was resting against his chest, and that was something I couldn't take. All of the sudden being pissed off was erased from my mind and my eyes just focused on how defeated he looked when he sighed ever so painfully slow.

Whenever he seemed overwhelmed, even if it was by the most meaningless thing, my heart melted away… It's like a superpower of his.

His superpower, my kryptonite.

"I'm sorry for taking the book away from you…" he said handing it back to me, "but I need you to do this… you deserve to do this…"

And there it was, as simple as that. The way he looked at me when he said those words was enough. My heart didn't need to hear anything else…

I was doomed.

God, I was doomed… Damn puppy eyes!

Ever since I was old enough to form coherent sentences, Ethan has always asked for my help. It's become kind of our own brother-sister routine: he needs help, I play hard-to-get, he uses the puppy eyes strategy, and I end up doing what he needs… It doesn't matter that he's nine years older than me, or that he's a guy and I'm a girl, I think I've saved him more times than I've needed rescue myself.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like he hasn't done anything for me during all these years. He's done his fair share of saving my ass too. He just likes to remain anonymous when he does it.

For me, I guess helping people out of jams and somehow managing for the whole world to find it out runs through my veins…

It's the Atwood genes.

I sighed, and he looked at me, a grin forming on his lips because he'd known I'd given into his pleas. There was no way back now so I simply said, just as defeated as he'd looked seconds earlier, "What I'm a going to say?"

"I don't know Lillian", he said walking to my side "you'll figure it out. But just in case, say something simple. I'm sure you'll do great."

He leaned down to me, kissed my head and left me sitting there trying to figure out what to say.

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And here I am, sitting at a table, tonight being the night of my speech, still trying to figure out what to say.

My speech's supposed to be in about half an hour and since the moment Ethan asked me, which was about a month ago, to this point, I haven't had a clue of what I'm going to say.

Sure, sometimes I'm Miss Spontaneity herself, but to be honest, I need to have things planned out so I can know the exact set of events that are heading my way, and staring at that podium, knowing I'll have to get up there eventually not knowing what's gonna come out of my mouth, if something ever comes out for that matter, it's freaking me out.

How the hell did I let Ethan convince me of doing this? He knows I'm not the one to talk in public, he is! He's always gotten a way of saying exactly what he means, unlike me, a rambler 25 of the time and a silent human being the other 75.

"Say something simple…" yeah right… that's the thing that has kept me from finding something worthy of saying. That's the thing that's kept my mind blank during all these weeks because I've come to learn that nothing, absolutely nothing about mom and dad is simple. That word doesn't apply to them, just like the word brief, reasonable or explicable.

In order for me to try and say something for people to have a clear image of what they're like, I'd have to talk for hours and I'd have to use words unknown to mankind because that's how complex they are. But hey, that's my way of seeing it.

My dad would probably manage to say something meaningful in the simplest way possible. I wish I could do that, but instead, in this kind of situations, the Townsend side is the one that rules.

But anyway, I guess I realized a long time ago that mom and dad weren't straightforward and I remember the exact day when it all started as if it was yesterday.

It all started when I was eight…

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I remember it was a Friday… a sunny Friday, although that's an understatement.

I was sitting in one of the benches on the school parking lot, the heat of the sun on my forehead and my eyes practically closed trying to force the light out, waiting for my mom to come pick me up. The air was kind of hot and heavy… maybe hotter than any other day that time of the year, which was really contributing to my grumpyness and impatience. I also remember having a really bad day… ok, an eight year old really bad day, which probably consisted of not acing a multiplications math test or some stupid thing that to me back then was the end of the world.

It's so funny how as you get older, your perspective of things changes by day and even by second, because sitting there I remember thinking that once I'd get into my mom's car and I would feel the AC in all it's glory, everything would be ok.

Sometimes, when I look back and see myself sitting there all alone, I ask myself if everything that happened to me that day and the horrible heat that was blowing around were signs for me to know that things were about to change…

Now that I think about it… maybe they were.

After about 20 minutes I saw my mom's Pathfinder heading my way. To me, it was as if the car was moving in slow motion, just like the drops of sweat rolling down my forehead. Second by second, I started getting angrier because for some reason, mom couldn't see I was burning my ivory skin under the sun and that she was driving terribly slow… I remember thinking "God, Mom… just get here already!"

It sounds silly, but those were my thoughts and now that I think of it, it makes my heart sink.

Once I got into the car, I closed the door and crashed my head against the passenger's seat. I felt the AC on my face and for a second or two everything felt like perfection… I ran my right hand over my face to clean the sweat of my forehead and closed my eyes. It sounds silly and childish but my multitude of problems went away and there was nothing but perfect peace inside the car… a perfect silence.

And that's when I knew something else was wrong.

Like I said earlier, I'm a silent human being… especially on bad days. Always have been, always will be… I blame dad. Mom on the other hand, has always been this upbeat person who can't spend more than five minutes with someone without talking. And if she sees you're mad or upset, no matter how many glares you give her as a sign that you do not want to talk about whatever it is that's bugging you, she just keeps insisting until you realize there's nothing you can do but humor her… I guess Ethan has spent too much time around her already.

Anyway… Townsend DNA taking over. The thing is, she'd been driving for about 15 minutes and hadn't said a word, not even "hi". I can't believe that for a moment there I thought that made me happy; now, it's one of the saddest moments of my life.

Maybe for once she'd noticed I didn't want to talk about something, but then I smiled and rolled my eyes to myself just from thinking how unlikely that possibility was… and that's when I looked at her.

During that period of my life, I idolized mom. Quite frankly, I still do, more than I'd dare to admit to anyone, especially to her. I know her features, her way of walking, her way of listening and her way of rambling even; and I remember as if it had happened a second ago how her face looked like whilst driving the car that day.

She was biting her lips incessantly, and even though her eyes were looking at the road, it seemed like she was looking at something that wasn't there anymore. Her eyes were all shiny and watery and I noticed she'd done her make-up again during the course of that day… How the hell did I know that? That's a mystery I don't even know myself… but I knew… I knew she'd been crying even though I don't remember seeing her cry before that day.

The silence kept being louder and it started scaring me. Mom had been crying and at that point in time, the only one who cried in the house was me and she and dad, and sometimes Ethan, were the ones who consoled me. Dad wasn't there and Ethan wasn't either so it was just me… what could I possibly say for my mom to feel better? What could possibly be so wrong for mom to be crying?

Even though many years have passed since that day, I don't think I'd ever feel something more nerve-wracking and scary in the years I'm left to live than seeing mom as if she was a robot holding on to the steering wheel.

"Mom, are you ok?" I asked breaking the silence between us, all feelings of perfection going out of my heart because I could feel it pumping blood too fast for me to catch up just from the sight of her face.

She immediately ran a hand through her eyes in an effort to clean the tears that were threatening to fall, pretending she was pulling a strand of hair behind her ear.

That's my earliest memory of someone faking something.

She cracked a smile and briefly looked at me before turning her eyes to the road and waving a hand while saying: "Yes, Lilly I'm fine…"

People think because I'm the youngest one in the family, I have to be the stupid one… but please, they couldn't be more wrong. If she would've been ok, she would've said some other Taylor-freaky phrase; I knew that even back then.

But I guess that what I wanted was to believe she was fine so I could feel safe. So I settled for the clichéd "I'm fine" she gave me and just dropped it, thinking it was my dad's job to make mom happy this time. I remember having the hopes of seeing dad hold mom when I got home, and that in his arms; she would feel as safe as I felt on hers and that it could be just another day in the Atwood household.

I mean, if I was entitled to have bad days at school, maybe mom was entitled to them too, all we needed was to get home and see dad and things would be ok.

But just like with the AC, I couldn't have been more mistaken.

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Mom kept driving the car for hours; it was night already and to me, it seemed like we were heading nowhere. By that time, I already knew how many ways were there to get from school to the house and vice versa. I knew the longest route, which mom always took whenever she was listening to a Fiona Apple CD and didn't want to get home before the CD was over, the medium route and the short route, and that day… mom was just driving around in circles without using any of them.

It was really weird for me to notice that we weren't heading home on a Friday night. Friday nights were sacred in my family. I remember those were the nights we all normally used to hang out, at least mom, dad and me whenever Ethan had an issue with Hannah or some other girl.

But even Ethan, with all of his teenage issues of the day, always tried to make room for that family time, and I guess that's why mom loved it so much. Mom always looked forward to those Fridays with an expectation that was a little eccentric, but then again, mom has always been that way.

I'm being a little unfair here. I don't have the right to criticize her eccentricities because, to be honest, I loved those Friday nights too.

I remember we would order pizza and watch some old movies my dad loved. No one ever told me to go to bed early because there was nothing for me to do the next day. Instead, I would stay up as long as my eyes would let me and fall asleep on the couch in between my mom and dad…

Since I'd had a bad day, and somewhere in the back of my mind everything was still uneasy, I wanted to get home as fast as we could. But when I saw that mom pulled over in the mall, poof! All my worries were gone and home was the last place I wanted to be.

Poof… just like that.

If there was something I loved more than Friday nights, it was going shopping with mom; and it was even better when aunt Summer tagged along. It always meant that I was getting some new fruity flavored lip gloss or a new dress or if I was lucky a new book… and even when I got nothing, which honestly never happened, I guess I could've settled for just watching and hearing mom and aunt Summer banter all night long as if they were four year olds. Seriously, feeling like the grown up rocked while going shopping.

I looked at my mom with the biggest smile and the shiniest two blue eyes that have ever existed and I asked: "Are we going shopping?!"

Mom just giggled and I thought everything was back to normal. In my world back then, there was no way mom could've giggled like that without being totally fine… but, I was just eight years old and I didn't understand how complicated grown ups can be.

Quite frankly… I still can't.

I practically started jumping up and down in my seat and mom started laughing with me… but then she said: "Hey, don't get too excited 'cause it's just you and me this time around… Aunt Summer's taking care of Daniel tonight…"

"Who cares?" I said not being able to control my enthusiasm "We're going shopping! YAY!" And with that I just stepped out of the car and mom and I went inside the mall.

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Like Alice in Wonderland, or even like Dorothy landing in Oz… that's how I felt that night. Mom took me to every single bookstore in the mall and I ended up with lots of books like The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Snow White and the Sleeping Beauty.

As you can see, I have a thing for fairy tales... it's something I've loved since the cradle. And being with mom that night, that's how that felt to me… like a fairy tale.

I think I'll always admire the way she made me feel so great, while all the time acting so normal in an effort to hide what her poor soul was carrying, because to me, nothing was bad with the world; I could never see that what she was doing was giving me one last magical night, I could never see she was just postponing the inevitable.

I could never see that whenever she looked at me checking out a book, her eyes got misty and she smiled nostalgically, almost at the verge of tears.

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Sometimes, I don't know if I should be thankful to mom for giving me that one night in the mall before everything changed, or be mad at her because she used one of the things I loved most in my childhood innocence to stall and make time. I just don't know.

There was this time, about three years ago. I was sitting in my room and Ethan called me from his dorm in USC.

It wasn't very unusual, since we've always had a close relationship and we've been able to talk about any subject since I was… well too young to even recall it. Just like dad and Uncle Seth or mom and aunt Summer, we just can't stand more than two days without talking to each other. What was unusual though was the hour, it was about 11:00 pm.

I knew something was up.

He started talking to me and he started telling me how he'd just broken up with Hannah, his high school sweetheart and love of his life. They'd always had a on and off relationship but I'd never heard Ethan so… so bad as he sounded that night.

He started telling me how, for the first time in between all of their dramas, Hannah breaking up with him didn't make sense. He started telling me how he thought that maybe she was scared because of all the things that had happened to them in the past.

If that was the case, I can't say I blame her.

Let's face it, even mom and dad know that those two are a magnet for disaster, no matter how much they love each other.

"I just don't understand why is it that we're so…" he said and then completely trailed off.

"Dysfunctional…?" I asked trying to help him out finishing his sentence.

"Yeah…" he said still sounding lost and miserable.

I really wanted to help him that time. I really wanted to make him feel that I was there for him, even when I was only fifteen. And According to mom, I've never been a child, I've always been a grown soul… so I just said: "You know? Maybe she felt it was best to cut it off because she's protecting her heart. If I've learned something from my thousand of books and The Valley re-runs, is that people do insane things when they're trying not to get hurt."

There I was, trying to say something meaningful that would ease his confusion, but then he proved to me why, out of the two of us, he's the one to talk in public. He said something so deep, something that got me thinking just like Jane Austen or Nicholas Sparks would, and that's saying something.

"People do insane things when they're trying to protect the heart of a loved one too… you should know that…"

Maybe mom was trying to protect her heart that night because watching mine break would totally break hers…

Maybe she was just trying to protect my heart at the expense of her own…

Mad or thankful… I don't know.

I guess someday I'll find the balance.

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We got out of the mall and got back to the car. Once we were inside, mom switched moods again. Of course, I didn't realize it this time, although sometimes I feel I should've noticed since she'd been silent just like before; but I guess I was just too excited reading all the books I'd just gotten! I mean, it took me a while to realize that when the car finally stopped we were on our driveway.

Mom just sighed quickly before detaching the seat belt from her body and said: "Are you ready to do this?"

Thinking that she was talking to me, meaning if I was ready to show all my books to dad, I answered: "Of course I am!" But she wasn't talking to me, she was talking to herself. That's one more thing I didn't notice back then.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and relive those days with the knowledge I have now. I keep telling myself that it would've been easier, but if my wish was to be granted, I'd probably just do the same things over again because I'd do whatever it takes to keep my innocence. Those last moments I was able to have were because mom wanted me to have them.

We got out of the car and as soon as mom started looking nervously for her keys, we both heard something that froze us. We could hear Ethan's voice inside screaming and yelling: "You don't get to do this Ryan… you simply don't!"

And home again was the last place I wanted to be.

For all the wrong reasons.

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When Ethan first arrived home, I was about three years old.

My dad found him outside of work one day, looking troubled and I can only imagine he had those irresistible puppy eyes on his face, that he was looking like the weight of the world was resting on top of his shoulders. I can seriously picture it.

Ethan was an orphan… well sorta. His mom had died, his dad was MIA, still is, and he was living with a step dad, who obviously wasn't too keen of having around. One day, Ethan just had enough of it and he ended up in front of my dad's project building. Dad had a similar upbringing before he came to live with Grandpa Sandy and Grandma Kirsten and I guess he just saw himself in Ethan's eyes and wanted to pay it forward.

He took him home to mom and me and once mom said it was ok, with help of Grandpa Sandy of course, they started the paperwork, and he became a part of my life.

That's the shortened version, of course. When it comes to how similar Ethan and dad are in that aspect, I guess there are a lot of details I still don't know, so I don't dare to say much. I've settled and I'm comfortable with the important thing: they're both part of my life… Ethan's a part of my life and that's the beginning of the Ethan/Lillian saga, as mom and Uncle Seth would put it.

Of course, I don't really remember the day he arrived, I just know one thing: I didn't exactly love him the minute he arrived, and he didn't exactly love me either.

He was just a 12 year old boy, who'd found himself a new potential family and was suddenly stuck with a three year old. And I was a baby… I didn't trust anyone who wasn't mom, dad, aunt Summer, uncle Seth, and the rest of the Cohen clan.

I know that by saying "clan" I've probably mentioned half the planet's population but my family tree is too complicated, so let's sum it up by saying I wasn't Ethan's number one fan. I mean, a whole year happened before I could fall in love with him.

It's so funny… it only took one day.

When I was growing up, the house was always filled with little model homes and pieces my dad used to do his projects. Of course, to me, those were dollhouses, and it didn't matter how much dad would tell me to stay away from them, I just couldn't resist. But the charm those little thingies had stopped when I seriously damaged one of them and my dad's project was due the next day.

I remember I was totally scared, way beyond scared now that I think about it. But I wasn't scared about being grounded or getting yelled at, I was scared because when you disappoint dad, he gives you this look, this strange and unsettling look that totally leaves you wishing he'd hit you or something because it would probably hurt less, and even when I was four, I knew that look. I was born with the gift of reading people just by looking at their eyes and dad, well, reading dad is the easiest thing because he pretty much says everything he needs to with just a glare.

I went to bed that night before dad had come home, thinking that I was seriously screwed. But when I woke up the next day, before anyone else, even mom, I found the model home fixed on the kitchen counter as if the Lillian Tornado hadn't passed around there…

And next to the little building was Ethan's sleeping form, resting against the counter, with the special glue dad used all over his hands.

And that was it, as simple as that. He became a part of my life, a part of who I am.

See what I mean when I say he likes to remain anonymous when he saves me?

I don't care how people say 'blood's thicker than water,' 'cause you know what? Ethan's my brother and he always will be. If being the daughter of Ryan Atwood and Taylor Townsend has taught me anything is that you don't have to share the same DNA to consider someone family and I know Ethan thinks the same too. He even started calling mom and dad, 'mom and dad' for my sake, and he managed to control his temper around the house just because he was concerned about me… his little sunshine.

So when I heard Ethan, first of all, yelling, and then calling my dad 'Ryan' that night…I somehow pulled out of my book fantasy dream and started feeling scared again because something was off.

Way off.

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I can still remember that mom had her keys in her hands and that her eyes got glassy and surprised. It happened maybe for a split second because mom has always been the kinda woman who acts fast, so as a reflex maybe, she opened the door and sounding as perky as possible, she yelled in her very own Taylor-ish way: "Lillian and I just got home!"

I guess mom's right when she says I was never really a child, 'cause I understood she yelled that so Ethan would stop screaming, which, as always, she succeeded at because when I was finally able to take a look inside the house, Ethan and my dad were looking perplex.

What I didn't understand, was why?

Instantly, six pairs of eyes were on me and my fear reached a whole new level. You have to understand that none of it was normal for me. I'd never seen mom cry or heard Ethan yelling and I certainly hadn't seen dad looking at me the way he looked at me right then. For a moment that to me felt like a lifetime, a deathly silence reigned in the living room, and I was standing like a statue because no one else had said another word.

"Hey sunshine…" dad said looking down at me with a forced half smile, almost as if it was hurting him to smile at me.

You know? That's the exact moment the denial stopped. During everything I've told so far, my heart wanted to believe everything was ok, just like mom had pretended she'd been fine when I asked her. But when I saw dad absently smiling at me, I knew nothing was gonna be ok… at least not that night.

That feeling of reality resuscitated in my heart how scared I was when I looked at mom's face in the car, only this time it was kinda deeper because neither mom or dad were giving me safety and I had never experienced that before.

I remember feeling scared.

More than scared actually.

Terrified.

So for once in my life I acted my own age and ran to him. Running to him was the only way I was gonna feel safe, even if it was for a second. The moment he saw me running, he kneeled to the floor and opened his arms to catch me and I crashed into his chest.

He enveloped his arms around me wordlessly while I buried my face into his right shoulder. I wasn't crying, I don't know why since I've always been a cry baby, but I thank God I wasn't crying because me crying, would've made dad cry and I know I couldn't bear to see dad crying.

Something tells me I couldn't.

Dad clung onto me for dear life, as if he was trying to feel safe too by holding me. See? Its little details like those I can remember from that night, because that night marked my existence; only just then, I was too young to realize it wasn't just marking me… it was marking everyone else too.

I didn't really want to let go of dad, but without realizing it I thought I'd held him enough, so I pulled out of the hug, our blue eyes collided and I asked: "Daddy is everything ok?"

Dad has never been a great liar or good at hiding what he feels, at least not to me because, like I said, he says everything with his eyes, so I know he would've told me right then. He swallowed and looked to the floor for just a second while he said: "Actually…"

He would've kept talking if it hadn't been for mom saying in a rather unsettling tone and in just one breath: "Ethan, would you mind taking Lillian upstairs for a while? I need to talk to Ryan."

Immediately, dad and I looked at mom confused and I remember asking "why?" in my mind. Of course, I knew better than to ask it out loud because mom's tone was the one she used whenever she needed to talk to dad about something concerning me.

Ethan didn't need to hear anything else and he carried me upstairs to my bedroom. I think that's been one of the fewest nights where Ethan hasn't said a word to me from the moment I'd gotten inside the door. But he was mad, he was angry and I guess that if I had been his age and in his place I would've been pissed off too.

I do have my share of anger management issues.

Ethan left me there on the bed and he went to his room. I was left alone there in mine, and I needed to know what was going on downstairs. I needed to know if I'd done something wrong and if the reason why everyone was acting so weird and sad was because of me.

I needed to know.

So a while after Ethan had left me there, I got out of the room as silently as possible and I hid behind one of the walls of the staircase.

It wasn't like I hadn't done it before. I knew exactly how to sneak around to the kitchen in the middle of the night when I wanted to eat some cookies or some peach torte my mom had done for dessert.

I sat there on the floor and I started hearing voices, I could hear mom and dad talking but I couldn't see their faces because they were out of my sight.

"You weren't supposed to be here Ryan…" my mom said sounding exasperated while I heard some steps on the floor; steps I assume were hers because she tends to do that thing where she paces around the room uncontrollably.

"I know…" was all my dad could answer, in a tone that was new for me.

"I mean the plan was that I was gonna go pick up Lilly and we could buy some time so you wouldn't be here when we got home… This is exactly why I make plans Ryan… so stuff like this doesn't happen" mom said in practically just one breath while the steps got quicker.

"I know Taylor!" my dad said raising his voice "You think I want my kids to watch me leave? You think I wanted Ethan to catch me packing my things and for Lillian to be upstairs while we're discussing this?"

Why was dad leaving? Why were they talking to each other like that? What the hell was going on?! Those were the questions I had inside my head.

Those exact questions. Probably in a friendlier language of course, but the same questions nonetheless.

"Wait…" mom said in a lower voice "Ethan caught you? Wasn't he supposed to be with Hannah? Why did he come home early?"

"Why do you think he was fighting with me when you decided to open the door?" my dad said in the same defeated tone Ethan uses when he feels overwhelmed by the world. The only difference is that Ethan's rarely as overwhelmed as dad was that night.

"You do realize that this is…" mom said after a sigh and almost trailing off "really… difficult now"

There were no more steps after that. She started sounding as burned as dad sounded, and every time she said a word, my mind kept getting flashbacks to her holding on to the steering wheel.

"It was already difficult, Taylor" dad said in the same tone "now's just… a million times harder"

After I heard that, without realizing it I just started moving so I could get a sight of mom and dad talking at the end of the staircase. There was something about the way they were talking that unsettled me so much.

By that point I knew that they weren't talking about something bad I'd done at school and strangely, I was wishing they would've. I couldn't resist it anymore so I moved a little and I caught a glimpse of mom's slender frame.

She started fidgeting with her wedding ring while she looked at her left hand and said, her voice almost breaking: "Did you ever think you'd be doing this?...We'd be doing this?"

"Leaving my kids like my mom left me? Leaving you?" dad said again in a tone that made my heart beat faster, while taking a step closer to mom, allowing me to catch a glimpse of him too.

"Never…"

Somehow I was getting the picture of what was going on and I didn't like it.

"I guess…" mom said before raising her head to take a look at dad. "People do change huh?"

Dad took a step closer to mom as if he was about to take her hand, which she was still playing with, when he raised his head and saw me at the beginning of the stairs.

Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I hadn't been there. What he would've said, and I guess I'll always wonder if the destiny of my parent's marriage would've been fixed before it had a chance to be broken.

Dad looked at mom and mom looked at me. Then they looked at each other and dad took a step back. He smiled a little and then he nodded in an "it's ok" manner before mom looked at me again.

"Hey Lilly…" mom said with a few tears in her eyes. "Your dad and I have something we need to tell you…"