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a/n: the main character in this story, Lauren, will be played by Taylor Hill, who is pictured either above or to the side :)

happy reading, and please read the other authors note at the bottom!

Chapter One

"Mom?" My voice echoed all around me. "Mom, is that you?"

          A thin figure came into view, and I squinted to get a better look.

          The woman was beautiful. Her wavy, chocolate brown hair fell past her shoulders, and her emerald green eyes twinkled as brightly as the sun.

          She was indeed my mother.

          "Lauren," she answered with a voice like silk. "It's me, baby."

          She opened her arms to me and I ran to her, enveloping her into a tight hug. I rested my head over her chest as she held me in her arms securely. The steady beat of her heart was the only thing that kept me at peace.

          She stroked my hair gently, just like she used to do when I was younger and I'd run to her, weeping because I had a bad dream. I felt so loved and safe in her arms, as if nothing could ever happen to me as long as she was holding me.

          My vision became blurry with tears. It had been so long since I had listened to her heart beat steadily in her chest–since she had hugged me like this. So tight, so close to her.

          "Mom?" My voice trembled. "I'm so sorry."

          "For what, sweetheart?" She asked, gently brushing my hair out of my face.

          "For everything. I–I didn't know what I was doing and.. and when the candle hit the floor, I didn't realize what I had done and.."

           It hurt too much to continue.

          Tears streamed down my cheeks as the memories flooded my mind. I struggled to keep myself from falling apart.

          "I'm sorry." I choked out, an inevitable sob racking through my body and bubbling out through my mouth.

         No matter how many times I said it, no matter how many times I'd been told "It's not you're fault", I knew neither of my parents would ever forgive me for that horrible night.

          Because they weren't here anymore.

          "Wake up."

          I looked up at my mother with wet cheeks and knitted eyebrows.

          "W-What?" I hiccuped.

          "Wake up, Lauren."

          "Wake up!"

          My eyes snapped open.

          My heart was racing and pounding, threatening to burst out of my chest at any moment. Beads of sweat ran down the sides of my face, and I struggled to get a full breath of air.

          Emmie was leaning over my bed, worry written all over her facial features. One of her hands was placed on my cheek, and the other was gripping onto my shoulder. Her eyes were searching mine, wide and full of concern. As I slowly began to regain my breath, her gaze softened and her lips turned up into a small, sad smile.

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