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Copyright 2011 by Allegra Skye All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier." Keira Blaine was born second. From the first breath she took, she lived in her twin sister’s shadow. Amanda was bigger, beautiful, perfectly formed. The minute Amanda was born, her parents held her in rapture, tracing her exquisite, delicate features, thrilled They barely noticed Keira, born about five minutes later. She was unnecessary after the arrival of the perfect twin. She was picked up by a nurse and placed in a baby crib, awaiting her parent’s welcome. It never really came. “There’s another one here,” the nurse finally said to her parents. But it seemed too overwhelming for them to realize that two daughters had been born, identical twins, but not really. Keira was smaller, scrawnier, with green eyes that always looked frightened. She kept reaching out for her twin sister to hold onto, but they were completely separated at birth. Her mother never even allowed the two of them to sleep in Keira always felt lonely for the sister she’d been so close to in the womb. But, lonely or not, the twins grew, two very different sprouts on the same tree, with Keira remembered everything. Right from the start, she had a fantastic memory; nothing anyone did ever slipped by. So the first day of school, at Bertram High, was particularly vivid for her. It was nothing at all like the school she’d gone to in the It was shocking for her to start in a new school during her senior year. Keira didn’t like it, but Amanda, her twin sister, was excited to try something new. Their father, a doctor, had just received a job running the emergency room in one of the best hospitals in Illinois, and the family had to move to be close to his work. So they all packed up, left the town the twins grew up in, and moved one hundred and fifty miles away to Everstock, a fancy suburb in Northern Illinois that her mother had always wanted to live in. Her father bought a big, white house, on top of a hill, and they unpacked quickly. By the time they moved in, school had already started, a few weeks Keira and Amanda walked to school together the first day, a cool breeze reminding them that Fall was coming. Amanda chatted easily; Keira, silent, just listened. She was nervous. She actually never had much to say, but Amanda didn’t seem to notice. She just continued to fill the empty space with chatter, anything she could think of. Now she was going on about how much she looked forward to meeting new friends, to joining clubs, playing sports, going to parties, checking out the new guys…. She was excited that they were the new kids in town, and that the spotlight would be on them. It didn’t surprise Keira. Amanda was always happy to meet new people. As she grew up, she’d become more and more beautiful, with long blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, a perfect figure and a gurgling laugh. Everyone always wanted to be her friend. She was always surrounded by tons of girlfriends and boyfriends. She smiled easily, knew the right thing to say, chatted with everyone and fit right in. People were happy just to be It was never like that for Keira. Keira liked to study. She did better in school than Amanda, and she always hung back in Amanda’s shadow. Most of the time, people hardly knew she was there. Keira never knew just what to say; she preferred being quiet, to mull her thoughts over in her own mind. When her mother would tell her to brighten up and stop looking so glum, she’d just stare at her and wonder how. For the first day of school, Amanda looked fresh and happy, dressed in jeans that fit her perfectly and a great new tee-shirt her mother got her. They didn’t have one in Keira’s size, so her mother had picked up a plain, navy one that Keira didn’t much like. Even though they were twins, they never really looked alike. Ever since they were little, they dressed differently. Keira was shorter and thinner than Amanda. She usually didn’t fit into the same clothes. Her body never developed the same way. She didn’t have that lovely, graceful figure that filled out in all the right places. No matter how much she ate, Keira felt she always looked scrawny. When she looked at herself in the mirror, sometimes her cheeks even seemed sunk in. Bertram High was about half a mile from their house, spread out on a large campus. As they got closer, it seemed really overwhelming. It had a huge main building and smaller buildings spread out in the rear. Behind the buildings, she could see tennis courts, a soccer field, a large football field, a track and bleachers. She remembered her mom telling her that Bertram held 4,000 kids, that it served both Everstock and the smaller towns on the edge of the neighborhood, across Junction 101, towns that were poorer, filled with transients and kids who worked while they went to school. She remembered her mom telling her there were 953 kids in her class. She’d swallowed at the thought of it. Her old school only had 200 kids in her class. They reached the school and saw lots of kids milling around the building. Keira took a deep gulp of air, wondering how long it would be before she and Amanda were separated, and she’d be on her own. First they had to check into the principal’s office to get their class list, passes and directions. A part of her wanted to turn back already. Keira felt sick to her stomach as she walked through the main doors. The crowded hallway was filled with kids talking and calling to each other, going here and there. The principal’s office was at the end of the corridor. When they got there, Amanda opened the door and walked right in. Keira followed behind, slowly. The secretary at the desk looked up and smiled. “You must be the Blaine girls,” she said, in a welcoming tone. “Yes, we are,” Amanda flashed her dazzling smile. “Of course, we are expecting you!” The secretary perked up. “And my, you girls are Amanda tossed her long hair over her shoulders and beamed. “Thank you.” Keira noticed that she hadn’t taken her eyes off Amanda for one minute. All her “Welcome to Bertram High,” the secretary continued. “My name is Mrs. Heighen. If you need anything, just let me know. I’m going to give you a list of your classes, maps with directions to classes, the cafeteria, the gym, your lockers and the nurse’s office, in She handed them a bunch of papers. Keira immediately glanced at Amanda’s list of “We’ve arranged it so that both of you will have lunch and gym together. And you’re also in two other classes together,” she said. “This way you can touch base.” Amanda took it in stride. It didn’t seem to much matter to her. Mrs. Heighen looked at her, almost surprised to see her. “You’re most welcome, Right then, a tall, good looking guy walked into the principal’s office, and stopped in his tracks at the sight of Amanda. Mrs. Heighen noticed right away. “Tom, this is Amanda Blaine,” she said. “It’s her first day here.” “Tom’s a senior, too,” Mrs. Heighen said. The bell rang out in the hallways, announcing the start of class. “I’d better get going,” Tom said, leaning over to pick up some paperwork he had come for. “What classes are you in?” he asked Amanda. Keira felt a little queasy. She knew she and Amanda had to go in separate directions immediately for the first class of the day, English. “Oh Tom,” Mrs. Heighen said, as an afterthought, “this is Keira, Amanda’s twin Tom turned and looked over at Keira; he seemed surprised he hadn’t noticed her. “Hey, welcome to Bertram High,” he said. Tom leaned over and looked at Keira’s class list. “Your first class is down the hall, that way,” Tom said. “Make a left and then third door down.” Amanda threw her head back and gave Tom that dazzling smile. Tom looked over Amanda’s list again. “Hey,” he said, excitedly, “you’re in my English class! I’m heading there now.” “Great,” Amanda cooed, “let’s get going.” As luck would have it, she took off with Tom, down the hall in the opposite direction of Keira. Amanda didn’t even turn to wave goodbye. Keira watched Tom and Amanda grin at each other, already chatting easily. She felt momentarily as if she were going to throw up. She’d have to face her first class alone. Amanda already had a friend. That was the way it always went. Keira stepped out into the hall. It was filled with kids everywhere now, laughing and rushing back and forth, and they all knew each other. She didn’t want to be here. She ambled down the hall alone, her head down, looking at the floor. She didn’t want to see what the kids were like. She wondered if she could ever fit in. Why did her parents have to move in senior year, when everybody already knew each other? Did they even stop to think, for a second, that she would end up completely alone? Did they even care? Keira slipped into her first classroom and put her pass on the teacher’s desk. The teacher—she saw from the pass that his name was Mr. Wright—was in his mid-thirties, and seemed nice enough. She was eager to slip into a seat in the back row and hide. “Wait a minute,” he said, taking the pass. Keira stood there, restless. The kids were coming in and taking their seats. The room “Well, it looks like we have a new student here today,” he announced to the class. Keira wanted to fall through the floor. Why did he have to make such a big deal? For a second, the room got dead quiet, as she felt everyone stare. Chills went up her arms. Then, she couldn’t believe it, but she heard a few girls giggle. Keira looked over to where the sound came from. There were a cluster of girls sitting together, leaning over, eyeing her up and down. They were all perfectly made up and wore expensive, tight clothes. Amanda would fit in with them beautifully, Keira thought. Keira looked out of the window, wishing she could be anywhere but here. “Now girls,” Mr. Wright said, “when someone new comes to our school, we welcome The giggling continued. Mr. Wright looked over at the girls. He banged his hand Keira was grateful to him for a second, but none of it would have happened if he hadn’t made a big fuss about introducing her. What creepy girls, she thought, probably the popular ones. Her stomach turned. “Remember what we’re working on?” Mr. Wright said. No one said anything. Obviously, there was some kind of problem going on here, and he was using her as an example. Keira was afraid to actually look over at the girls. Did they do this to others? Was this something they’d been warned about before? She shuffled back and forth, eager to sit down. “Keira is a beautiful name,” he interrupted them. For a second, she appreciate his kindness, But still, she didn’t want to be made a She hurried to the back of the room and found a seat, feeling as though she’d been She opened her notebook and started doodling, trying desperately to put her mind Mr. Wright rambled on, but she didn’t care what he was saying. He was talking about some book they had to read. Something by J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye. Keira just wanted to get through the day and go home. She wanted to see her sister. Thank God, they had the next class together, American History, Room 301. When she got there, the kids would see who her twin was, and maybe she wouldn’t feel so alone. The class seemed to go on forever, but then the bell rang and everyone got up from their desks, scraped their chairs on the floor and chattering, filed out. As Keira went towards the door, she noticed the group of three girls who had giggled, looking at her again. They made her feel tiny and insignificant, as if she were no one, and definitely didn’t belong. She didn’t dare turn and look right at them. Who were they anyway, to make her feel so badly? She just wished they would all disappear. It made her think of all the other schools she’d been to. But worse. It was easy to find Room 301, just a few doors away. Keira walked in and Amanda was already there, standing at the teacher’s desk with her pass. Keira rushed up to her, standing close by. “Hey,” Keira said, “how’s it going?” “Great,” Amanda said. “How about you?” “Could be better,” Keira said, but Amanda didn’t really hear. She was just standing in front of the room smiling, enjoying the attention she was getting. Two of the three girls from Keira’s other class walked in and stopped at the desk, near Amanda. Amanda tossed her hair back and looked them right in the eye. One of the girls lifted her eyebrows and smiled, impressed. “Hey,” Amanda answered. “How’re you doing?” Keira put her pass on the teacher’s desk and went to the back of the room to find an empty seat. She’d let Amanda sit wherever she wanted. She’d probably end up sitting with those girls, right in the middle of everything. Keira watched more kids coming into class, stopping at the desk, flocking around Amanda. It was an old story. She’d seen it before. Wherever she went, everyone wanted to know who Amanda was, where she was Keira went to the back, sat down, and started doodling in her notebook again, making pictures of faces with huge eyes, no necks and lips that were far too plump. Some would say they were ugly faces. But Keira liked them. At dinner that night, Amanda and her mom couldn’t stop talking about it. For Amanda, Bertram High was way more exciting than their old school, the kids were cooler, and there were already more of them that she liked. Her mom was thrilled. She loved Everstock, too. Their father sat quietly, picking at his steak. Keira felt that he hadn’t had such a great day Her mother and Amanda were talking about outfits, what Amanda would wear to school, what she needed. She needed loafers and a new backpack; she also needed some new sweaters for the fall. Keira hated to talk about clothes. She didn’t like the way she looked, no matter what she put on. She could never wear the clothes Amanda chose; she just didn’t feel good in them. Her mother barely spent any time on what Keira would like to wear. She couldn’t even Her mother finally looked over at her father. “Eat your food, Phil.” Keira felt sorry for her father. He barely got a word in at dinner. Neither did she. Mom and Amanda filled up all the conversation. And they were both noisy and loud. “It’s taking dad a while to adjust,” her mom said suddenly. “There’s trouble at the hospital, a weird kind of infection the staff are having trouble with. But it will pass, Phil. Cheer up.” Dad dug his fork into the steak more deeply. Mom always said everything would pass. But it didn’t. Some things stayed right in your life “We should all be happy, we should be excited. We’re in the big time now,” Mom continued, trying to lift everyone’s mood. “The people in Everstock really know how to live.” Keira felt angry. Her mother had all kinds of weird ideas about being in “the big time,” and what it meant to really live, who was worthwhile and who was not. Keira didn’t share any of her mother’s views. Deep down, she felt her father didn’t, either, but neither of them ever got a chance to speak up about what they believed. Her father caught Keira’s glance. “How about you, Keira? How do you like it here?” Keira couldn’t tell him how embarrassed she’d been when the girls had stared at her and “It’s too soon to tell,” she said quietly. “You’re right,” her father said, more cheerful. “These things take time.” “What takes time?” Her mother was annoyed. “The town is wonderful, the people are exciting. Why be a downer at a time like this?” Her mother always felt that Keira and her father were downers when they didn’t go along with what she wanted or felt. Keira wanted to get away from the table, and get to her room. She was tired after her first day, had homework to do, and wanted to start it immediately. She loved reading and writing. It took her into a different world, showed her a new way of thinking. It saved her from being like them. The very last thing in the world she wanted was to be like her Keira scraped her chair away from the table and excused herself. “I’ve got lots of homework. “What’s the big rush?” Amanda said. “Why don’t you hang out for a while?” “Keira’s always running away,” her mother chimed in, “and then wondering why she’s not happy. She never gives anyone a chance.” Keira didn’t like being spoken about as if she weren’t there. She was used to her mother “I’m not running anywhere,” she said. “I’m just going upstairs to do my homework.” “How about you, Amanda?” her father said. “Don’t you have homework as well?” “I can start later,” Amanda said, picking up her spoon to finish dinner. “It’s not such a big deal. It’s only the first day.” Then she and her mother started to prattle again about the pocketbooks they could get at Nettles, a department store in town. Keira pushed her chair from the table to go to her room. “Why don’t we hang out later,” Keira said to Amanda, knowing full well that they seldom “Sure,” Amanda said. “Whenever.” Keira went up to her room. Her new room in this new house didn’t really even feel like hers—it felt like a stranger’s. Her stuff was already strewn all over it—with her clothes all over the floor, and her books and markers all over the desk—but still, a lot of her stuff was still in boxes. She somehow just couldn’t bring herself to fully unpack, the way Amanda had. There were lots of pictures in there she knew she should take out and hang on the walls, to make it less sterile, but a part of her just didn’t feel up to it. They had moved her one time too many, she Keira changed into sweat pants and a sweat shirt and curled up on the bed. Keira thought of Amanda. She felt that Amanda had always been disappointed to have her for a sister. The two of them could hardly relate to each other, which was so unusual for identical twins. Amanda made up for it by having lots and lots of her own best friends. Keira made up for it by reading about different places and people, and planning to go there as soon as she could--when she was older. It was going to be a long year ahead of her, but then it would be over. She was a senior now. She’d graduate and go away to college. She didn’t know where yet, but she couldn’t wait to leave. But, still, there was this year to go. She didn’t really know what to expect, but she had the strong feeling that whatever it was, it wouldn’t be good. The next day they both got to school early. Amanda leaned over to Keira before they went to “Smile at people,” Amanda whispered, “be friendly. You’re not going to the death chamber. Keira didn’t like that at all. She had no intention of trying to become Amanda. She knew who she was and wouldn’t pretend she was feeling something when she wasn’t. Both her mother and Amanda kept trying to change her, to make her more like everyone else. It wouldn’t work, though. Keira knew she was different from her mother and Amanda and that no matter what she did, they would never know who she truly was. Thankfully, her first class went quickly. The nasty girls only turned around once, to see if she was there. Most of the time, they just snubbed her. Mr. Wright kept talking about The Catcher in The Rye, which actually caught her interest. “Holden Caulfeld is a perfect example of teenage rebellion,” the teacher was saying. “Nothing makes him happy. He’s expelled from school for poor academic achievement and spends his time criticizing others for being phony and superficial.” “It’s worth thinking about this character,” he continued.” This book asks us look at our Keira looked around to see how the others were responding. Almost not at all. They seemed to be listening with blank eyes, except for one cute guy, sitting to the side of her. He was paying attention, tapping his pencil on his desk as the teacher spoke. He had tousled sandy hair, was tall and cute. Keira always did better with guys than girls. She glanced over at him, as Mr. Wright Maybe Amanda was right, she thought. Maybe she should give someone a chance. Keira leaned back in her chair, tossed her hair back over her shoulders. She was Amanda’s twin after all, and Amanda was so beautiful, maybe Keira didn’t actually look as bad as she felt. The teacher paused a few moments during the lecture and Keira turned towards the cute guy next to her and gave him a long look. He must have felt it, because he suddenly looked right at No reaction. He glanced at her blankly, then turned away. Keira was bummed. That really went over like a dead weight. The class ended and the kids got up. The guy next to her stood up and without even saying a Keira ambled along to the door, feeling worse than before. Just as she got to the door, one of the girls in the class came over to her. She was on the heavy side, with a pretty face and long, “Hey,” Keira said and looked away. At least someone remembered my name, she thought. “Where’s your next class?” the girl asked. “Maybe we’re going in the same direction.” “My name is Nora,” the girl said. “The first few days are always rough.” Keira appreciated that. “They sure are,” she said as Nora walked alongside her in the hall. As they walked, some of the girls who’d giggled at her passed by. They were slim, extremely pretty and dressed exactly the same, perfectly from head to toe. They looked at someone else, pursed their lips, and broke into giggles again. “Don’t pay attention,” said Nora. “That’s Prissy Gane and Stacey Allen. They’re rich, they’re popular. They think they own the entire place, that nobody’s as good as them.” “There’s a pretty big bunch of them in senior class,” Nora went on. “They all live in Keira didn’t want to answer right away. Nora turned and looked at her, waiting for an answer. “Oh,” said Nora and started to move away. “Wait a minute,” Keira said. “I’m nothing like them.” “I don’t live in Everstock,” Nora said. “I’m from Cummingsville, the town on the other side “That’s fine with me,” said Keira. Nora looked at her and shrugged. “For now, maybe,” she said. “But kids from Everstock and Cummingsville don’t really get along. They don’t pal around. Ever.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” Keira said. “But I’m not like them.” It seemed as though Nora sighed a little sigh of relief. “Most people in Everstock think no one can touch them, that they’re on top of the world. If you don’t live there, you can’t break in.” “Give it time,” Nora said. “You’re new here. You’ll find out soon enough.” Nora was in Keira’s next class, and so was Amanda. Keira knew very well that Amanda would barely notice Nora. When Keira got to class, Amanda was there already, laughing with a group of girls. Keira walked a little closer and saw that one of them was Prissy Gane. It made sense. Prissy and Amanda were talking as if they were old friends. Prissy even motioned to a few other girls to come over and meet Amanda. They all came. Keira walked over to the group, but hung back for a minute, as Nora took a few steps closer, too. Prissy suddenly saw Keira and was about to start giggling again, when she looked at Amanda, and then quickly back at Keira. Her head went back and forth a few times. “Oh my God,” she suddenly said, “are you two related?” “We’re twins,” Keira piped up, causing Nora to lurch away from her. “That’s amazing,” said Prissy. “Just amazing. I never would have known it.” Amanda tossed her hair back over her shoulders, and looked out of the window, as if “I mean I can tell now that you two are related,” Prissy continued, right in Amanda’s ear, “but you look so different. It’s weird.” “We are different,” Amanda replied, in a lilting voice. “No two people are just alike.” Keira turned back and walked over to Nora, who had retreated into the background, Just then, Tom, the guy they’d met in the principal’s office, came bouncing into the classroom, and headed right over to Amanda. Keira shuddered. This place was different from the other school she’d been to. Even though things had been hard there, too, it was nothing like this. This place had a strange atmosphere. The teacher started to speak as Keira and Nora took their seats. He was an older man, Mr. “Pay attention and listen,” said Nora. “He doesn’t pass you, unless you work.” “That’s fine with me,” said Keira. “Okay, class,” Mr. Nordgren said to them, went to the blackboard and picked up some chalk. “Let’s review the reasons for the American Revolution again.” Some of the kids snickered softly and rolled their eyes. Others were paying attention. Keira noticed that Tom, who was sitting right next to Amanda, was jotting notes as the teacher spoke. He seemed to be a good person. And so good looking. Amanda got lucky again. “There were several causes of the Revolution,” Mr. Nordgren continued. “Let’s list the economic, social, moral and philosophical causes. Then we’ll find other ones.” Keira liked this teacher and was interested in what he had to say. Something about him calmed her—maybe it was his rumpled suit, or low-key way. She leaned over and listened. “When something takes place in our lives,” he continued, “we have to understand all the causes. We can’t be satisfied with just looking at the surface of things.” Most of the kids weren’t listening. But Keira’s heart started to beat as he continued to talk. She sensed he had something important to say. “Before a huge revolution takes place, before there’s war, death and bloodshed,” he said loudly, “many small acts have taken place that pave the way to this.” Nora leaned over and asked Keira if she needed to borrow a pen. Keira was so fascinated, she hadn’t written down a word he’d said. She stopped and thought. For some reason, his last quote really struck a chord. Many small acts. Many small acts had to take place to pave the way to the revolution. She thought of her Mom. Of her many small acts of meanness. Of these girls all around here. Of their many small acts of meanness. Keira felt something brewing inside her. She didn’t know exactly what it was. It was a sort of intolerance, an intolerance to the way people treated her. Her entire life she had just been a doormat, had let people get away with saying and acting anyway they liked. But something was blooming inside of her that was saying Enough. She felt that soon, just maybe, she’d be strong enough to make them stop treating her this way, to stand up to all of them. As Keira was thinking all this, she had let her eyes wander, and was gazing out the large classroom window, into the courtyard. As she looked, she couldn’t believe it, but there, suddenly, a boy appeared, walking across the lawn. How was it possible? she wondered. He was clearly cutting class, and doing it openly, walking brazenly in front of the whole school. How could he be so bold? How could he get away with it? Keira’s jaw dropped as she watched him, casually strutting across the way. More than that, more than anything, he was striking. Gorgeous. Other-worldly. Weather a tight, black leather jacket, with a shock of blond hair, he walked with a cool, collected confidence she’d never seen before, as if he had all the time in the world, as if he weren’t afraid And then—even more shocking—he suddenly, as if sensing her gaze, turned and stared right at her. To Keira’s utter surprise, their eyes locked. His eyes, she could see even from this distance, were steel grey, the color of an ocean on a stormy day. They shone with the power of the sun, and Keira felt her heart pounding as it never Keira blinked hard, certain she must be imagining things. And when she opened his eyes, just as quickly, he was gone. It was not possible. The courtyard was closed on all ends. There was no possible way he could have crossed that quickly. Keira was so shocked, she actually stood from her chair, craning “Keira?” came the teacher’s voice. Keira suddenly noticed the thick silence in the class, noticed everyone staring at her. “Is there something out there more fascinating than this lecture?” the teacher continued. Keira reddened, and slowly slunk back down into her chair. Eventually, the teacher started lecturing again, and the kids turned back around, letting it go. She had just seen the most beautiful—and most mysterious—boy of her life. {The entire novel is available for sale on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes and elsewhere…}


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