This is my first story, so please be kind...constructive criticism is always appreciated :) We will see Sharon in the next chapter, I just had to set this up first...

Los Angeles in February always seemed so listless and lifeless, the vibrant colors of the bustling city muted by winter. Not my favorite time of the year but in all honesty it was immensely better than the hundred-degree weather of the summer months. The air crisp, cleansed from the soft drizzle ruining my hard work on my hair, while I struggled not to slip walking up the steps to my home. Ushering my key into the lock I glance at the drive way and no gold Crown Victoria is in sight.

Well, I guess she'll be later than she thought, I think to myself and let a strained sigh slip through my lips; and as if on cue my phone dings. I reach automatically into my coat pocket, the glowing screen shows me just what I expect, an apology and a promise to be home by dinner…

I brace my self against the door as it slowly swings shut, its solid enough to hold up my battered body…for now anyway. What was I thinking taking on this kind of load this semester? Aren't I only a sophomore, just a baby practically? The bag falls from my shoulder and lands with a thump in front of the hall closet, I debate on leaving it right where it is.

She'll yell at me later for it, I consider, but at that moment I'm too tired to care.

So begins my daily routine, as I hobble down the hallway all the layers I had donned earlier that day to keep me warm are shed and left where they fall. Down to just my jeans and flannel long sleeved tee, I pad up the staircase and come to a stop on the landing.

I stare down the hallway towards the large bay window, complete with an enormous window seat. Its days like these that you would find me in that very spot listening to the rain, curled up with a good book. As I slowly make my way down the hallway, my feet silent on the plush carpet, I run my fingers just under the line of photos decorating the warm walls. Each one holds a specific memory, some happier then the rest, but all just as important as the next. One captures my attention specifically, it's the photo taken just a few years ago of all three of us…our clothes pristine and pressed, hair coiffed just so, the picture perfect family. Although what the photographer had failed to notice was the haunted looks in our eyes or the way our smiles were forced, almost painful.

My hand continues on its journey and suddenly comes into to contact with the smooth, rich paneling of a bedroom door, so polished I can see my tired reflection looking back at me. I give a little push, the door creaks open and a wide smile spreads across my mouth. Amongst the chaos that is his room, clothes and possessions slung around, floor to ceiling, is my sixteen-year-old brother. Leaning against the headboard, Xbox controller clutched in his hand and eyes glued to the screen, I'm taken aback by how much he reminds me of her. The way his shaggy chestnut hair falls over his forehead, or how his jade eyes flash mischievously as he smiles at me.

"Jesse you know what mom said…is your homework done?"

"Yes Rachael, I've been yelled at enough to know its beneficial to me to just get it done and not argue…saves us all a lot of time," he winks at me with a wave of his hand to sit on his bed with him," Come and relax with me."

I look longingly at his bed, thinking about how much closer it is than mine, but all I want to do is strip down to my underwear and sleep for a year. My head pounding and body sagging I smile softly.

"Maybe later little bro, I'm not feeling so well," I yawn, "Mom should be home by dinner, I'm going to take some medicine and lay down."

He tilts his head and looks at me with concern, "You ok? You look a little pale?"

I don't want to unnerve him so I lie, I don't tell him my face feels like its caving in or that I've had the chills all day long, I just want to end the conversation so I can sleep.

"Yes Jesse, I swear I'm ok, just a little run down is all."

"Well ok, do you want me to wake you for dinner?" he asks and I know his unasked question, and keep mom out of your room?

"No that's alright, I'm just going to call it an early night," I shrug and feel the nerves in my head scream in pain.

"Gotcha, just call me if you need anything," and instantly he is engulfed back into the game. I smile to my self as I turn in his door way and gently pull the door shut behind me.

No sooner am I in my room then do the jeans come down my hips and off my legs, pooling on my floor, the coldness a shock to my bare feet. I turn around and catch a quick glance at myself in the full-length mirror.

I don't exactly look like my brother…or my mother for the most part; where their eyes are piercing green, mine are a muddy brown. Where their hair shines a soft and silky auburn, mine is reminiscent of chocolate syrup, curly and fickle in this damp weather. Like my mom my brother is lean and lithe with the right 'meat' in the right places to make him look dashing; I on the other have inherited the curvy side of the family. I'm not overweight, I work out regularly…I guess I'm just more curvaceous; full breasts and a rounded bottom complete the picture. I try not to be self conscious, but when you look nothing like your family it tends to weigh on your mind, that and all I see is him.

I cease to call him dad or father, he has been out of our lives for ten years and yet the memories are just as fresh. I hate that I look like him, that I have the same round face instead of oval like my mom's. That my crooked smile and quick wit are all him, and that I'm forced to look at myself everyday…in this very mirror and see a face or rather semblances of a face that has caused our family so much pain. Sometimes I wonder how my mom manages to look at me, to gaze at me and not feel hate or contempt, I am after all a daily reminder.

I don't get in moods like this often but when it does happen I run it over and over in my head for several days, destroying my self worth in the process. I know these thoughts are inaccurate, even asinine, but I can't help the way I feel.

I peel the covers back on my bed as I crawl under the cool sheets and heavy blankets, my skin is graced with goose bumps.

My fever must be higher than I thought.

Seeking the blessed relief that is my migraine medicine, I pull my bedside table drawer open and snatch up the opaque and orange prescription bottle. I shake two pills into my hand and reach for my water bottle constantly kept by my side. As the liquid and pills slide smoothly down my throat, I sink deeper and deeper into my pillows, awaiting the fuzzy haze and drowsiness that would soon follow. The last thing I remember was a quiet prayer that escaped my lips:

Please help me find my place…I don't know where I belong.