A/N: Axel won't come in until later...so just keep your excitement under control for the time being, k? :)

Rated T for language mostly. Some violence, adult situations, alcohol...

If you don't like shonen-ai/yaoi/boy's love, you probably won't like this story one bit, so I suggest that you stop reading...you still here? Great. I will probably throw random pairings in here, Akuroku and Soriku as the main ones. There MAY or MAY NOT be others...no guarantees on that.

~KeedaxEmry

I hate my dad. I hate Kelly and Sora and Riku. Truthfully, I hate my life. Axel made me feel….different. Like I mattered, like I had something to give to this world. When I was around him, everything else fell away, and I wasn't this empty shell of a human being. He made me happy. I thought I did the same to him….but maybe that was just wishful thinking because, in the end, I am the person no one likes to be around. I am the mistake, the reason why everything went wrong. Axel finally figured that out…he doesn't deserve me. He deserves much, much better.

I pulled my knees to my chest, tears burning my eyes and making me choke. I can't take this anymore. I can't.

XxXxX

"Is something on your mind, Roxas?" Naminé asked.

I blinked, glancing up from my bland lunch-water bottle, apple, dry bagel. "….no." I uncapped my water, taking a swing in hopes that she wouldn't see the color rising in my cheeks.

"Want some?" she held out an open pack of M&Ms.

I took some, crunching them in-between my teeth and letting them coat my mouth with sweet sugary chocolate-y goodness. "So," I said slowly, my nerves desperately trying to shut me up, "what are you—" I stopped short, my stomach a giant knot against my racing heart. I blushed even deeper.

Naminé leaned closer to me, her hair falling in front of her face. "I'm not doing anything Saturday night, if you wanted to hang out like we usually do," she said teasingly.

She always knows what I'm thinking; she's just doing this to torture me. Oh crap, what was Olette's advice?

Naminé looked at me expectantly while I racked my brain. Ask her out on a picnic…wait, not at night! A movie? "Do you want to go see a movie Saturday night?" I blurted.

"Oh, that depends. Is this a friendship thing or….?"

"You know what I mean!"

"I don't believe I do," she smiled even wider.

"Do you want to go out on a date? With me?"

Naminé let out the laughter that she had been holding in; it was like the chiming of bells. "Yes, I've been waiting for you to ask me!" she exclaimed.

"And you just hadto go and torment me?"

"Yes," she giggled.

I made a face at her, but, really, I didn't mind. I was flying; exhilarated; ecstatic. I couldn't stop grinning like a big idiot.

Only a few people really understand me…Naminé….my mom…Hayner…I mean, I'm not even that close to Pence and Olette, and they're my best friends, next to Hayner. So that Naminé said yes…is kind of a big deal for me. If only Saturday would come quicker…

My mom was as excited as I was. I went home after school to find her sitting in her favorite recliner, a thick book balanced on her lap, her messy blonde hair pulled back, and her reading glasses perched on the bridge of her nose.

She looked up as I walked in. "How was your day?"

"Ok, I guess. I finally asked her." I kept my face static, my expression blank.

My mom almost knocked her book out of her lap. "What'd she say?"

"Yes," I grinned. "We're going to go watch a movie on Saturday."

She got up, setting her glasses on her book. "That's great," she squeezed my shoulders. "I can take you guys over."

I groaned inwardly. "When can I get my license?"

My mom laughed, already walking out of the room. "Not for a long while."

The smell of dinner was already wafting through the air when my dad arrived home; I was hoping that he'd stay at the office late, like usual, but I had no such luck.

He is the complete opposite of my mother. He is already losing his hair, probably from the stress of his job, and he keeps what's left of it neatly plastered to his forehead. His hair is an ugly black color. My mom, on the other hand, has blonde, flowing, youthful hair. My dad is quiet; my mom is outgoing. My dad is plump; my mom is slender. My dad thrives on structure, routine; my mom thrives on creativity, spontaneous decisions. My dad is a workaholic, at his office, at home, 24/7, always working, working, working. My mom use to be a preschool teacher but now she spends her time at home: reading, baking, watching those weird soap operas….

My dad simply nodded his head at me before sitting down at the table to eat. My mom was talking a mile a minute, but he just sat there, chewing slowly and ignoring her.

"Honey, how was your day?" she asked. "How was the office? Did you get a new secretary? Did you finish your paperwork? Did you enjoy the lunch I packed? Are you going to hang out with John this weekend?"

There was no end to her questions. I just stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame, feeling myself getting angrier and angrier; it was no secret that my parents had relationship problems. But at least my mom was trying, while my dad just sat there, treating her as if what she said held no importance. He looked down at his food as if transfixed, cutting through the meat vigorously.

"Answer her," I snapped, actually shaking from rage. My big mouth is going to get me in trouble one of these days.

Surprisingly, he didn't even look up from his plate. "Stay out of this, Roxas."

"Why should I?" I growled.

He gripped his knife and fork tighter, his tendons showing, white and angry.

"Roxas," my mom took a step towards me, "not now. Please go upstairs and give your father and I a chance to talk."

I did go, but my head was reeling. I could hear my dad yelling, no screaming, at the top of his lungs. I listened for a while, my rage bubbling inside of me, threatening to spill over at any moment.

Suddenly, the voices subdued. I let my resentment out; ripping paper (my dad's face), screaming into my pillow (my dad's ear), punching my bed (my dad's face), and kicking various furnisher (various body parts belonging to my dad).

I do have a bit of a temper, but still. How can my dad act that way, as if his family is nonexistent? And when he acts like we do exist, it's to treat us like trash. Like we ruinedhis pathetic life…..as if. He's the reason why my mom cries late at night, thinking I can't hear. He's the reason why the doctor put my mom on various medications. He'sthe reason why our family is falling apart by the seams. It's all his fault.

XxXxX

"Roxas? ROXAS?"

Someone was banging on my door. It was most likely Hayner. I tried to open my eyes, but I was still so exhausted….my mind was already slipping back to dreamland.

I felt my mattress sink due to added weight…..or maybe I was dreaming?

I heard the mattress creak slightly, and my eyes burst open as I flew off the bed, landing with a thump on the floor.

Hayner stood on my bed, cracking up. "God, you're a hard sleeper."

I sat up, irritated. "I was trying to sleep!"

Hayner stuck his tongue out at me. "You sleep enough as it is. Don't you know it's already noon? School started hours ago."

"WHAT?" I craned my neck, looking up at my digital clock: 12:02.

I can't believe I slept so late, I thought. I must not have slept well…..

I jumped up, scrambling to find clothes, not even thinking about why Hayner would be at my house instead of at school.

The t-shirt I sleep in was already above my head, when Hayner howled with laugher again.

I looked at him suspiciously, my arms still raised.

"Roxas," he stated, "it's Saturday."

I blinked. "It's not…."

"Nope," Hayner shook his head, a wolfish smile on his face.

I tackled him off my bed. "You woke me up on a Saturday?"

Hayner snickered, pushing me off him. He ran, and I chased after him, trying to land a blow or two to the back of his head.

We ended up collapsing on the couch in fits of laughter.

Hayner can be a real jerk sometimes, but he's a good friend. Out of the four of us-me, Hayner, Pence and Olette that is-he's the leader. He always makes us do the stupidest things, like that time in fourth grade when he convinced us that our teacher was an alien. We slipped into her house to search through her things; she arrived home, and we panicked, hiding under her couch. All four of us were smashed together, and Olette let out a nervous giggle and that's how she found us. She was pretty mad. I'll just say this: we saw some things we weren't suppose to. Parents were called and some of us were punished (Namely Pence, his parents are so strict). My mom and dad thought it was pretty amusing…..they laughed their heads off. Hayner could be bossy but he was also kind (at least once you got to know him) and loyal.

Today he was wearing camouflage pants, a white muscle shirt, and sneakers.

He handed me a bowl of ice cream. Breakfast or no breakfast, I was eating it. I love sweets: candy, cake, ice cream. Especially ice cream.

We watched TV, talking about pointless things. I mentioned my date with Naminé, which I really shouldn't have done.

"Really? You finally asked her?"

"Yeah...you'll have to leave soon so I can get ready."

Hayner frowned, probably thinking 'That witch is my replacement?' "What do you see in her?" Then he added hurriedly, "No offense or anything, she's just…." He waved his hand.

"She's kind and sweet and friendly and open and honest and loyal and understanding and—"

"Whoa. Did I press a button or something?"

"Naminé is a good friend of mine."

"Oh? I'm not?"

"Hayner," I said exasperated, "you're my best friend. You think I'm going to go out and replace you with a girl?"

Hayner looked at my serious expression, and punched my arm-ow-already grinning."Of course not."

Hayner, Pence, and Olette didn't really understand or like Naminé. Basically: if I was with them, I wasn't with her, and if I was with her, I wasn't with them. I guess Pence and Olette were ok with her, but Hayner…..he'd always complain that she's a prep, with a too-skinny waist and too much eye make-up…..until I told him to shut up, that is.

Hayner left shortly after, and I began to tidy myself up. Hair combed…check. Teeth brushed….check. Money? Yes. Coat? Yes.

My mom was helping me, buzzing around with excitement, light on her feet. It was the happiest I had seen her in a while.

"Let me help you with your hair!"

My hand shot up to my head. "Why? What's wrong with it?"

"It's doing that sticking-up-everywhere thing again."

She ran her hand through my hair, patting it harder and harder.

She used water, then moose. My mom got more frustrated as time went on, finally yanking down on it painfully.

"You're hurting me," I voiced.

She stopped. "I'm sorry. Maybe if I use more moose…."

Nothing worked.

We gave up entirely, and went to go pick Naminé up.

Naminé slide onto the seat next to me. We were quiet, for the most part, except for the small talk my mom issued to Naminé.

Mom dropped us off at the mall, and she left with a smile and a beep of her horn.

Naminé looked great-she was wearing jeans, and a white tank top with a denim jacket thrown over it. Her hair was down (like always) and she had her black sketchbook with her (like always).

"What movie do you want to see?" I asked her while we waited in line.

"Hmmm….let's see: there's a zombie movie, a comedy, some new Disney movie, oh and that new fantasy about mermaids."

"Which one?" I asked as we stepped up to the counter.

"The comedy," Naminé decided.

The movie was nice. My stomach was crawling from being in such close proximity with her. It was like insects-squirming little insects, climbing up from my toes and up my legs, and up my chest, and up the cape of my neck, and up over my face, and up to my hair where they buried themselves in my scalp. I shivered despite myself.

Naminé glanced at me in the dim light of the theater, a small smile on her face.

We ended up holding hands towards the end of the movie. Naminé was the one who grabbed my hand, of course.

Why am I so shy? Um, anyway….

After the movie, we slid across from each other in a red booth at Johnny Rocket's.

"I had the creepiest dream last night," Naminé said as we looked over the menu. "I was in a forest; there was fog everywhere, making everything appear white. It was silent and eerie. Nothing was moving, until I saw you. You were crying, and I tried to approach you, but once you saw me, you ran. I couldn't catch you. I eventually stopped and a man appeared out of nowhere," she shuddered. "He had fiery red hair and he grabbed my chin, and forced me to look up into his eyes...he was grinning and he began to laugh and laugh at me. The only thing he said was 'You're Naminé?' Then I woke up."

"Whoa, that's—"

We were interrupted briefly by the waiter who took our orders and left.

Naminé took out her sketchpad and, after opening to a certain page, held it out to me.

I took it. She had drawn black trees with no leaves; they were so tall, you couldn't see the tops. The mist, white crayon, was scribbled everywhere. A man stood in the middle of it, his shockingly red hair pulled back in a ponytail and his black clothes a sharp contrast against the white. The man was clearly laughing, and he had something under his eyes….I leaned in for a closer look. They looked like black tear drops. The man looked really full of himself…it must have been the expression on his face, or something.

"Wow that's…creepy," I decided.

Naminé quickly took it back. "What do you think my dream means?"

I shook my head. "I don't know…you're going to meet someone new?"

Naminé tucked the sketchbook onto her lap. "Maybe….have you had any cool dreams lately?"

"Um, I had a dream that I had my license already and I spent all my time speeding down my street," I stopped to take a sip of my water. "That a really lame dream in comparison to yours."

Naminé laughed, her hand raised to her mouth.

Our food arrived and we dug in. Later we ordered chocolate milkshakes. Johnny Rocket's has the best milkshakes in this town; frothy and delicious….I always get cravings in class to come here and pig out.

I ran a hand through my hair. "I should call my mom."

Naminé merely nodded.

I paid and we walked out into the parking lot.

"Hello?"

"Hi mom. The movie's over, so could you come pick us up?"

"Roxas, how was it? What movie did you see? Did you guys ki—"

"Mom!" I hissed. "Later, ok?"

"Oh…." My mom sounded slightly hurt but her voice regained its cheerfulness and overall perkiness. "I'll be there in a few minutes. Bye!"

"Bye."

Naminé and I sat on the curb, watching headlights flash on and leave the parking lot; watching cars swerve towards the mall, most of them being rowdy teenagers. It wasn't pitch black but it was getting there. Naminé turned her head away from me to watch a girl jog past, the girl's ponytail bobbing to the left and right with each step she took. I looked at Naminé. At the slight curve of her cheek, at her small, fragile body, at her pink cheeks, her full lips, her button nose, her large, innocent blue eyes, her blonde hair that seemed perfectly straight but actually curled down at the ends. She had a content smile on her face.

The wind blew harshly, throwing Naminé's hair into my face and tickling my nose. Her hair smelled like strawberries….

My mom arrived a little sooner than I wanted her to; we dropped Naminé off while my mom managed to keep her bubbling questions to herself.

Once we were off Naminé's street, my mom assaulted me with a flurry of inquires. I told her everything because it was nice to see my mom back to her old self. Also it was nice to have someone to talk to…it's not like I was going to tell Hayner about my date. That'dbe a mistake.

My mom was pretty pleased with the details I had provided for her. I couldn't help thinking that me dating Naminé was like a lifeline for her….something for her to hold onto. I've had a giant crush on Naminé ever since she moved here in the fifth grade. She finally took notice of me a year or so later, and we became friends…..

Now it was three years later. My mom seemed so happy…not like usual. Lately she had been keeping to herself, and she seemed different in a way I can't explain.

I decided to take a shower before going to bed. The hot water poured over me, filling my ears with a gentle roaring sound.

Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world.

She took the midnight train goin' anywhere.

Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit.

He took the midnight train goin' anywhere….

I shut off the water, still singing. I'm sure I was badly out of pitch, and I was probably singing louder than I should have been eleven at night, but I was too happy to stop.

A singer in a smoky room,

The smell of wine and cheap perfume.

For a smile they can share the night.

It goes on and on and on and on.

I stepped out of the shower, the tiled floor cool against my feet. I grabbed a white fluffy towel to dry myself off. I threw my pajamas on, not even bothering to comb my hair. My towel was hung up, and my voice rose in a crescendo as I reached the chorus:

Don't stop believin'

Hold on to the feelin'

Streetlights, people

My hand was on the doorknob when I heard a loud crash. I abruptly stopped singing to throw the door open and race to the kitchen, the blood pounding in my ears. My mom was laying on the floor, a plate shattered beside her. She looked up at me, her eyes dazed and scared; she looked like a used pop can that has been crushed and thrown out a car window to rust next to the highway.

I kneeled next to her, scooping sharp pieces of glass into my hands. "Mom? Are you ok?" My voice was hoarse from singing.

"It's nothing, Roxas," she said, a wisp of a tremble in her voice. "I slipped."

She tried to push herself up with her thin, shaking arms. I swiftly threw the bits of plate into the trash can and bent down, dismayed, to help her.

I grabbed her arms, and she winced, shrugging me off. "Mom?" I sounded like I was about to cry.

My dad appeared in the doorway, jingling the car keys in his hands. "I'll take her to the hospital; you stay here."

I stood up, my fists clenched by my legs. "I'm going too."

He shook his head. "It's way past your bedtime as it is."

When's the last time he used that excuse?

"Roxas, please….." my mom said feebly.

"What happened?" I asked angrily.

"I'm taking her to the hospital because she slipped; get up." My dad frowned down at the form of my mother.

My mom frantically tried to push herself up, but she gasped, falling back down. My dad sighed, wrapping his arms around her and hoisting her up onto her feet.

"Thank you, sweetie," she blinked.

I followed them to the front door. "No," my dad growled, making me feel like a dog.

"I'm coming!"

"Maybe he should….." my mom said softly, leaning against the wall.

"No, he shouldn't," my dad said, his voice full of authority.

"Ok….."

My dad pulled the door open, taking my mom's hand as she leaned against him. They wobbled through the doorway and I followed.

"I am not staying," I said stubbornly.

"He doesn't listen to me," my dad said to my mom.

"Roxas, it would mean a lot to me if you'd listen to your father and stay here," my mom managed.

I frowned, crossing my arms across my chest. "Fine," I said, not looking at either of them.

They left.

I sat in the living room, the room pitch black, my legs criss-crossed and my back pressed against the base of the couch. A clock from somewhere in the house ticked and tocked, the only noise echoing in the silence.

It was hard to believe that I had just watched a movie with Naminé….unfathomable how quickly things change. I had been singing my lungs off a few minutes ago…..

I pulled my legs up to my chest, resting my chin on my knees. All I could think of was my mother…..my small, frail mother laying on a hospital bed in a large, foreign building full of sick, dying people. People sniffing, coughing, wheezing, choking, groaning, crying, screaming, grieving, dying. Doctors and nurses walking through the halls, their faces stone cold and uncaring. The nurses' heeled-shoes clanking on the floor as they walk to patients' rooms, to deliver weird-smelling, foul medicine. The doctors all wear green scrubs and lab coats, non-chantingly telling an uncle, aunt, cousin, friend, neighbor, daughter, son, father, mother, that they are going to die. There's nothing left we can do. You're doomed; damned. And as they sob, the doctors walk away. The doctors have faced Death daily, have seen its black cloak, its pale, lifeless face, have heard its rattling breath, smelled it's decaying smell, and now they see it as a problem to solve. 2+2=4, but sometimes 2+2=x, unknown. You're doomed; damned. Some patients are incurable; so throw your hands in the air and give up. It isn't worth it. It will never be worth it.

My mom is worth it. She is. She deserves the best; she doesn't deserve this….why does she keep getting sick? Why won't she talk to me about…..about whatever is wrong? Why is her face always lined with sadness? Why won't she talk to me? I could help her…..she has to get better. Has to. I need her.

She can't die.

No—

No

Why would I think something like that? Something so horrible. She'll be fine, she only slipped…..but why would she have to go to the hospital for that? She has been in and out of the hospital multiple times this year: pneumonia, infections, broken bones, stomach flues, arthritis, overall bad health.

That can't be normal. What changed? She used to be in great health-a healthy amount of fat protecting her body, a spring in her step. Now she's a pale, thin skeleton; she's trying to hide it from me. She is always smiling when I'm around, pretending to be ok. I have to talk to her because I can help her get better. She won't die alone on a hospital bed—

I roughly brushed my damp hair away from my face. Am I having a panic attack? I panted, trying to take deep, slow breaths, but inside my body was still screaming.

Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.

I raised my head from where I had buried it in my knees. The house, somehow, was still exactly the same: TV in the corner, my mom's favorite recliner in front of it, pictures of our trip to Italy covering the wall.

That had been our last family vacation. I had only been nine years old; I remember having a lot of fun despite the blistering heat and pickpockets.

I stood up slowly and carefully, walking up to the pictures and running my fingertips over the smooth glass covering. There's us at that wine-tasting place, the leaning tower of Pisa, Lake Como…

I stopped at the lowest picture. We had been walking down through Milan, one of the largest cities in Italy, when my mom saw this famous artist or singer or something. His name was Leon, I think. My mom, being her, wanted to get her picture with him so she shoved our camera into the hands of an un-expecting tourist and we all grouped together.

Leon is scowling at the edge of the picture while a black haired girl yanks playfully at his arm. (Where'd she come from?) My dad has his arm wrapped around my mom's shoulders and they are both smiling towards the camera. They look…so happy. I stand next to my dad on the far right side of the picture. I look small and insignificant next to him-I only reach his waist!-but at least I am grinning.

I sighed, dropping my hand to let it hang by my side, and looked at the clock. It's already three in the morning. I really should be in bed, but I know that I would be incapable of sleep.

Instead I went to the kitchen. The light blinked on, making me shield my eyes; I look through all the cabinets and the refrigerator. My family sure stocks up on junk food: Doritos, Cheetos, Skittles, Milky Ways, anything chocolate, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, pizza, cheese crackers, granola bars, cake, ramen; vanilla, chocolate, cookie dough, and sea-salt flavored ice cream.

I tore open a packet of popcorn, trying to be somewhat healthy, and set it in the microwave. The microwave whirred to life after I put it on the right settings, and almost immediately the room smelled of butter and salt.

They've been gone a long time. I pulled myself up onto the white countertop where I sat, my legs dangling off the side. Shouldn't my dad call? It can't take this long….can it?

I swatted the negative thoughts away like flies; no need to worry.

The microwave went off with a beepbeepbeep exclaiming "END" in bold green letters.

I jumped off the counter and grabbed a large bowl to pour the popcorn in. I walked out, the steaming bowl in my heads, and headed down the hallway into my room, which was at the far end of the house.

I turned my laptop on and sat on my blue computer chair with the bowl wedged in-between my legs.

Oh. Hayner's online.

Roxas: Why r u on?

Hayner: No, why r u on so late? :P

Roxas: I'm waiting for my parents to get home from the hospital.

Hayner: Oh shit, Roxas, what happened?

Roxas: My mom fell.

Hayner: Fell?

Roxas: Yeah.

Hayner: What? Down stairs? Your house doesn't even have stairs.

Roxas: IDK she fell in the kitchen.

Hayner: Geez that must have been a hard fall.

Roxas: Yeah.

Hayner: Ummmm.

Hayner: Know what next week is?

I smiled at the bright screen, putting another handful of popcorn in my mouth before setting my fingers back on the keyboard.

Roxas: No.

Hayner: Liar.

Roxas: What is it?

Hayner: Your birthday, stupid.

Roxas: Yeah I know. Fifteen-I'll be older than u!

Hayner: In your dreams. I will be always be older than u. Anyway, guess what I got u.

Roxas: What?

Hayner: Guess.

Roxas: WHAT?

Hayner: You have to GUESS.

Roxas: Tell me!

Hayner: Do u know the meaning of the word 'guess'?

Roxas: Hmmm…..NO.

Roxas: Say it already.

Hayner: Ha I'll never tell u. You'll have to wait.

Roxas: Uhhhhh

The door creaked open, revealing a black silhouette.

"Dad?" I inquired, spinning in my chair to face him. He nodded. "Is mom ok?" I asked, eagerly, expectantly.

My dad's hand passed over his face and for a moment I expected the worst, my fear threatening to choke me. Thankfully, mercifully, he said, "She's fine but she needs rest. She's in bed right now; I won't have you disturbing her, understand?"

"Of cou—"

He was already gone, closing my door with a soft click.

I turned back to the computer, happy even as I realized how worn out I felt.

Hayner: R u there?

Hayner: Hellooooooo?

I quickly typed my reply.

Roxas: Sorry, my parents just got home.

Hayner: And?

Roxas: She's ok.

Hayner: Good. Arg, Olette is bugging me about being on the computer for so long

Roxas: Her and Pence r over there?

Hayner: Yepp.

Roxas: Thanks 4 not inviting me.

Hayner: You were out with Naminé.

Roxas: So?...anyway, what'd u get me?

Hayner: Not telling! What r u doing next Sunday?

Roxas: Hanging out with my family, eating cake.

Hayner: We should hang out Saturday.

Roxas: Sure. Doing what?

Hayner: Something.

Roxas: That doesn't sound good.

Hayner: Don't lie to yourself. Uh Olette shut up already.

Hayner: I am being forced to get off to go watch The Princess Bride

Roxas: R.U.S.!

Hayner: Rats of unusual size r going to kill us all. XD

Hayner: Bye.

Roxas: Bye.

I shut the computer off and set the now empty bowl on my desk.

I felt slightly woozy-probably the combination of eating sweets, staying up late, and staring at a computer screen. I crawled into my bed, the light off and my window cracked open.

I didn't close my eyes for a little while, despite my fatigue and the deep urge to sleep for a hundred years. I pressed the cool sheet against my cheek as a slight breeze settled over me; it had a slight chill in it, promises for a harsh winter, but it was also crisp and refreshing.

I looked at the glow-in-the-dark star stickers plastered across my ceiling before closing my eyes.

XxXxX

A week later, I woke up early, and crawled out of bed to take a shower. Once I was done, I found the house eerily quiet.

I walked to my parents' room and peeked inside the cracked door. The room was dark, all the shades down, and I could see a tuff of my mom's hair underneath the sheet.

I tiptoed to the kitchen. My dad usually works on Saturdays, so I was surprised to find him sitting at the table, a cup of coffee in one hand, the newspaper in the other. What wasn't surprising was that he was wearing his black business suit.

"G'morning," I said briefly, grabbing a bowl from the cabinet.

"Uh-huh."

I grabbed the first box of cereal I could find-Cheerios-and poured some into my bowl, splashing milk on top.

I sat in the living room, eating, and listening to the crinkling noise of the newspaper.

A little while later, my dad left to "finish some paperwork" after making sure I would "be quiet" so that "mother can rest".

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," I said to myself.

I spent the day lounging around ('loafing' as my mom would call it) until the mail arrived.

I looked down at the envelope in my hands. It was "Black Blood", a horror movie my mom and I had ordered a while ago. It was our tradition to scare each other with horror movies….I would force her to watch movies with living dolls, which worked the best to scare her. And in return, she would make me watch movies with zombies or ghosts….Although now we had seen way too many horror movies and they no longer scared us.

"Mom?" I crawled onto her bed. "Mom? Are you awake?"

Looking at her, I felt horrible. Her skin was pale, and her breath was quick considering that she was asleep.

"Mom?" I tried again, a little louder.

She flinched awake, looking at me. "What is it?" she asked groggily.

I held up the movie case.

She smiled. "The zombie movie, right?"

"Yeah, let's watch it."

"I don't know if I'm up to it…"

"Please?"

She made a noise in the back of her throat and wiggled to the other side of the bed. "Let's watch it here."

Grinning, I started the movie, sitting next to her.

The movie was short. Afterwards, my mom yawned, "I'm going back to bed, but have fun tonight."

I nodded, and left.

I went back to the living room to wait. It was already six, Hayner should be here any minute….

It was growing dark when he finally came.

I saw his car, a small red Toyota, make a sharp turn into our driveway and skid to a stop. He beeped the horn.

I stepped outside, my feet crunching on gravel as I walked up to his car.

I opened the passenger door and sat down.

"I thought you weren't suppose to drive without a parent?" I asked.

Hayner laughed. "You could say that."

I buckled my seatbelt as he sped down the street and onto the highway. "It won't be my fault when you get your permit taken away. Where are we going, anyway?"

"Hey, I get my license soon."

"You didn't answer my question. Where are we going?"

He turned off the highway, and onto a dirt road. "Somewhere."