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'And you're sure you don't want to come with us?' my father asks for the tenth time that morning

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'And you're sure you don't want to come with us?' my father asks for the tenth time that morning.

It doesn't matter that Anna- Beth has done the drive to Norris Lake multiple times, or that Daddy has checked her car as though inspecting it for an MOT. It doesn't even matter that we'll only be six hours behind them, Anna-Beth picking Lissie and I up after the fair. Daddy's just worried about leaving us here alone. Not unsurprising after Lissie pushes boundaries at every opportunity. Had her outrageous clothes choices not been enough to send him over the edge, her date with James had.

After a long and unbearable wait at the kitchen table - both of my parents appalled that Lissie would leave me alone to go out - she had floated through the door at - to my thinking - a still respectable time of ten thirty. To my parents' thinking, Lissie might as well have stripped naked and set fire to herself on our front lawn. James shuffled in behind her, muttering apologies for the time.

'I don't have a curfew during the holidays,' she had argued to my parents when they demanded that explain herself. My father had raised one bushy eyebrow at this and I could see his brain whirring, getting ready for a retort. That was until Lissie added, 'But that's because Daddy is too busy screwing his latest secretary or mother is too out of it on diazepam to notice whether or not I am at home.'

At this, any scolding my father had prepared vanished. Instead, the same concerned look that he held when I first asked him if she could spend Christmas returned. After that, he had offered her a cup of tea and sent a very sheepish-looking James home. Christmas had been frosty, saved only by the Whittinghams disappearing to Lucille's parents in Mississippi for the past week. James wouldn't have made it to his 18th otherwise.

I kiss my father on his cheek and reassure him we won't burn the house down in the next six hours. I wave the car off as thunder rumbles in the distance. Thick clouds roll over the hills and blot out the weak December sunlight. Wrapping my coat around my shoulders, I check Cricket's instructions. I smile at the photo of her setting up her stall, piles of bright scarves and hats pooling around her.

'We'll be late if we don't go soon,' I call into the house, listening for Lissie's footsteps on the steps.

Hearing none, I cross the frosted expanse of lawn between ours and the Whittinghams hoping a returned James will lure her away from the mirror. Loud voices are muffled behind the heavy door, but anger radiates through. I lean closer, desperate to hear the words, and rest my head against the grain. I all but fall through when the door is yanked open, colliding with a broad chest. The hard planes of Finch's body ripple with anger. My fingertips grasp onto him for support and he bristles at the unexpected contact.

We've not spoken in a month. Truth be told, I've even avoided looking at him since we ended. It's easier to pretend he doesn't exist when anything else brings regret.

'What the-' His voice is full of surprise and still gruff from whatever argument he and James have started.

'I'm sorry,' I stutter. 'I didn't want to knock if you were, um, busy, or-'

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