Akasha is the book I have decided to e-publish.  The idea stewed in my head for over 5 years before I decided to take a writing class so I could actually write it down. Once I found my voice and understood the story it only took me about 3 months to write. And I have been re-writing/editing it ever since.

If you're hesitant about buying it, and would like to make sure I don't totally suck, here's the first three chapters.


The church was silent. Everyone watched as the Mayor whispered in Father Simms‘ ear. Somehow my mother had known it would happen. I turned to face her, to ask her how she’d known, but she didn’t watch the men in front as everyone else did. Instead, she stared at the stained-glass representation of the crucifixion as she tugged at the fingers of her gloves. My mother hated wearing gloves.  
Father Simms stepped back to the pulpit and scanned the congregation before speaking. 
“The mayor has just informed me that a group of travelers has set up camp just outside of town. We believe these travelers to be gypsies.” Several gasps and a few “my heavens” hissed throughout the church. “As some of you may know, Mrs. Singer had an experience with gypsies before she married the good mayor. For those of you who are not aware, she was robbed and badly beaten. They left her for dead.” 
Mrs. Singer bowed her head and placed a handkerchief to her mouth. This story had been told often since she married the mayor six months ago, and I was certain there wasn't a person in the congregation who hadn't already heard it. 
I knew my mother hated to hear the story, but when I looked back at her she wasn’t watching Mrs. Singer. She had taken off her gloves and now held my father’s gold pocket watch. 
She always held it close to her, absently rubbing its cover to the point where you could no longer make out what image had been etched onto it. She had given it to him as a gift when they were married. He gave it back for safe keeping when he left for the war; or so the story went. He died before I was born. 
I grew up hearing stories of his bravery and how he died saving another’s life. These stories would still bring tears to my mother’s eyes. She was careful not to speak of him in public. Even though the war had ended years ago, every time my father was mentioned anyone nearby would burst out in a chorus of “damn confederates!” 
My mother grazed her fingertips over the inscription inside the watch.
To my Nicholas, with love. Always, Marian.
It had been sixteen years since he had died, and she still loved him. I looked over at the tall curly-blond at my side. Joshua, my betrothed, smiled. Would I still love him in sixteen years?
The description of Mrs. Singer’s encounter with the gypsies had been given in complete detail and Father Simms continued on with his warning. “I urge you to keep your distance. We know them to be thieves and liars. Some towns have even reported missing children after they leave. They use the devil's power and I trust they won't hesitate in using their curses on us. I pray that if we keep our distance, they will follow suit. May God bless us all.” 
The congregation began conversing before Father Sims had made his way down from the pulpit. Before my mother had time to put away the watch, a plump Mrs. Daisy rammed her way through the fearful crowd.
“Oh my heavens, Marian, you and your poor daughter!” Her hat had halfway detached itself from her head and waved up and down as she stomped, jostling her bright orange hair with every step. She pushed a thin man to the side to make room for her large frame in the pew in front of us. I glanced at Joshua who smiled. His parents on the other hand did not. They didn’t tolerate Mrs. Daisy as my mother did, and stood to leave before she could trap them as well.
  “You must be terrified, you poor dear. Living all alone with a daughter, no less, no man in sight. You can always come and stay with Mr. Daisy and myself. You poor dears, what are you going to do?” 
“Thank you for your concern, Mrs. Daisy, but I do believe they mean us no harm. And don't forget Mr. Graham lives close by. He watches over us.” 
“A mile isn't close. If anything were to happen, how would he reach you in time?” She eyed the watch my mother continued to rub throughout the conversation. “Honestly, Marian, I don't think anyone would think ill of you if you were to remarry. It's been years now.”
My mother placed the watch back into her small bag and synched it closed, then slipped her hands back into her gloves.
“I do believe I see your husband talking to Mr. Graham now. I am quite sure he’s asking him to pay special attention to Nichole and myself. Again, I thank you for your concern, Mrs. Daisy. Good day.” 
Mr. Daisy had indeed trapped Mr. Graham. How the Daisy couple ever communicated was a mystery. The way they both talked, it was a wonder either heard the other. My giggles escaped as Mrs. Daisy left us to bombard the quiet Mr. Graham. 
“Not a word from you.” Despite her stern voice, my mother smiled. I giggled again following her as she began to shoulder her way out of the crowd. 
“Nichole.” Joshua’s warm hand grabbed my arm. He stared at me with his dark blue eyes and smiled, then broke his gaze to acknowledge my mother. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Howell.” 
“Good afternoon, Joshua. How are you today?”
“Very well, thank you. Mrs. Howell, I was wondering if I might have the pleasure of accompanying Nichole home today?” 
“Of course.” She leaned over to kiss my cheek. “I'll be along shortly. I just want to speak with Mrs. Hamilton for a moment.” 
Almost from the moment my mother and I moved to the town of Singer, Pennsylvania when I was a baby, it was assumed I would one day marry Joshua Hamilton. Next to the Hamilton’s my mother was the wealthiest person in Singer, so I was the obvious choice. Neither of us minded this expectation, and the closer our wedding date approached, the more I knew I loved him.
Joshua led me to his family’s carriage and helped me inside.
“I suppose Mrs. Daisy will have enough to talk about for a while with gypsies being here,” I said. “Do you really think they're dangerous?” 
He tapped on the door to indicate to the driver we were seated and the carriage pulled forward with a jerk. “I don't know. I've never met a gypsy before.” 
“Before church this morning my mother explained that Father Sims would most likely make an announcement. I suppose she saw them herself. She told me not to listen to a word he said about them. You know how Mrs. Singer likes to tell that story?” 
Joshua nodded.
“My mother doesn't believe her and said it's people like her who make gypsies look bad.”
“Well, if nothing else, it gives me a good excuse to come and see you everyday this summer. By the time your birthday arrives, you'll be so sick of me you'll be glad I'm gone.”
I leaned my head against his shoulder with a loud sigh and slipped my arm through his.
Joshua was leaving at the end of the summer, three days after my sixteenth birthday, to study abroad for a whole year. The plan was for him to take over the family business someday. His father wasn't ready to retire though, and felt Joshua would be better suited in the business world if he spent a year in England as he had. His father owned several coal mines within Pennsylvania and I often thought how ridiculous it was that Joshua had to go to Europe to learn about the business. What did Europeans know of coal mines? 
We decided to wait that year before we married since I was so young. As the time for our separation approached, a year felt so much longer than twelve months.
“It'll go by fast, I promise.” He squeezed my hand.
The carriage stopped in front of my house and I looked up at Joshua through my long, dark lashes.
“Will you stay?”
“Only for a moment.”
We walked up the steps and I pulled him over to the porch chairs where a pitcher of lemonade had been set out for us.
Before we’d had a chance to finish a glass my mother and Mr. Graham came into view. He was always a light shade of red in her presence. It was quite evident he loved her. She didn't notice; or she pretended not to. His thin frame and gray-speckled hair made him somewhat unattractive, but his sweet demeanor and kind heart made him beautiful, and I loved him. 
“Good afternoon, Mr. Graham,” I called as my mother stepped down from his buggy.
He took off his hat and bowed his head with a smile, then clicked his tongue and was on his way. My mother bid him good day and walked up the steps to join us.
“Summer is certainly here,” she said closing her parasol. She set it against the railing while she took her gloves off again. 
Joshua stood and faced me. “I should be getting home.”
“Have a good afternoon, Joshua.” My mother winked at me then slipped into the house.
I sighed. “Won't you stay?” 
He pressed his soft lips to my hand while gazing into my eyes. The butterflies in my stomach awoke with a start, and flitted about in a flurry. 
“I'll see you tomorrow. I promise.” He pulled me close and kissed my lips, careful not to let it last too long as any good gentleman would. 
My eyes remained closed as I sighed again, this time with a smile.
The Note

Now that there were gypsies living just out side of town, Mrs. Daisy made sure Mr. Graham frequented the house as well as several others. An endless parade marched through our home that summer, though Joshua was the only one I cared to see. He came to visit me every day as promised.
Though Mrs. Daisy was convinced our town teetered on the brink of disaster, the summer flew by without incident. As the time for my separation from Joshua could no longer be counted in months or weeks my heart grew heavy. It would be my own personal disaster and it awaited me in a matter of days. 
The day before my birthday Joshua and I sat in the parlor with my mother and Abby. For as long as I could remember Abby had always been wherever my mother was. She was treated more like family than a servant and Joshua’s mother often reprimanded my mother for this social faux pas. She never paid it any mind though. Neither did I. 
Abby glanced up at my mother often as if the book she held was nothing more than a prop. She always fussed over both of us, making sure we were comfortable, but since the beginning of summer it had become more than that. She had become protective. 
Joshua squeezed my hands. “You promise you’ll be there at exactly noon?” 
“Of course I’ll be there.”
“I know you’ll be there, Nichole. I mean for you to mind the time. You’re always late.”
I glanced at my mother who often told me the same thing, but she paid no attention to us. She stared at the glowing lamp while rubbing her pocket watch with her thumb.
“Nothing could make me be late tomorrow. I promise.” 
We stared at each other, both smiling back our giggles. The abrupt knock on the door broke our gaze and I turned to Abby as she walked past to answer the door. She returned a moment later holding a box wrapped with a wide red ribbon, which tied in a bow on top. 
My mother's head tilted to the side. “Who was at the door?”
Abby shrugged her shoulders. “This was left on the doorstep.”
“It must be an early birthday present,” she said smiling at me. 
Abby placed it in my hands and sat back down. 
“It's light,” I said shaking it slightly. 
“Open it,” my mother prodded. She was worse than I was with surprises. I pulled the ribbon, releasing the bow and pulled up on the lid. The only thing inside was a small slip of paper. 
“Well, what is it?”
“A piece of paper.” I pulled it out and read the message. Then I read it again. “I don’t understand.”
“What does it say, dear?”
“I've found you.” 
My mother's hands stiffened slightly, and her smile froze. I showed the small paper to Joshua who read it twice. 
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“It says I've found you?” my mother repeated, the color draining from her face.
“And a triangle below the message. That's all.”
My mother stood and in two quick strides was next to me holding the paper. Abby remained sitting but was on the edge of her chair.
“Mrs. Howell?” Abby stood and started to inch toward us.
After a moment my mother forced a small chuckle. “I’m sure it’s nothing. A prank by one of the Martin boys. You know how they love to tease you.” She grabbed the back of her neck and smoothed down the stray hairs that had fallen throughout the day. “It's getting late. You should probably be getting home Joshua. And, Nichole, you have a long day ahead of you so you should probably get some sleep.
Joshua and I stared for a moment as she continued examining the message with Abby reading it over her shoulder. 
“I'll see you tomorrow, Nichole.” 
I remained sitting, staring at my mother while Joshua had already made his way to the door.
“You should go to bed, Nichole,” my mother called to me once I stood to follow Joshua.
I glanced at him and gave an apologetic smile before he disappeared behind the closed door. My mother was so preoccupied by the strange gift she didn't even bid me goodnight. 
* * *
I dressed for bed and brushed out my long dark-brown hair, so much like my mother's, all the while hoping the motion would relax me. It didn't. Fat, naked cherubs smiled and laughed from the ceiling as I lay beneath them replaying the last few minutes from downstairs. It hadn't been my imagination. My mother acted strangely after I had opened that box. The question was why? I've found you. Who had found me? 
Tap. Tap.
I sat up at the sudden sound.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
It came from my window. I pulled the comforter up to my chin and stared at the curtains.
Tap. Tap. Thud!
“Hello?” Who would be outside my room, in the dark, two stories up?
“Nichole, it's me. Let me in.” His voice was muffled through the window.
“Yes, please hurry, I'm losing my grip.” I ran to the window and threw the curtain aside. He was holding onto a tree branch high above his head with both hands, knuckles turning white. I pulled up the window and leaned out.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
Joshua threw his leg up onto the sill. When he swung his other leg in he let go with his hands and lunged himself forward, landing in my room with a soft thump.
“I didn't get to kiss you goodnight,” he said. 
I looked at the door then back at him. “My mother will kill you if she sees you in here.” 
A wide smile grew across his face. “Your kisses, Miss Howell, are worth dying for.” He took a step toward me and I stepped back.
“If you think I'm kidding...”
“Your mother isn't even here.” His hands found my waist and pulled me close. But before he could press his lips against mine I pulled away. 
“What do you mean she isn't here?”
“She left a moment ago.” He tried to pull me close again and when I wouldn’t let him he added. “And Abby is downstairs writing a letter at the moment.” Before I could protest again he wound his arm around me and pressed his lips to mine. They were soft despite his firm grip. Just as I allowed myself to fall into his kiss, he released me.
“Good night, my love.”
“That's all?” 
He was already at the window with one leg dangling outside. “Your mother isn't the only one who will kill me if I'm caught up here.” He smiled wide again.
I walked to the window and he took my hand. “I'll see you tomorrow.” 
I humphed in annoyance. He pulled me close again, giving me another kiss, then swung both legs out the window.
“Wait! You can't go back down that way. You'll break your neck!” 
He turned and inspected me, stopping at my eyes. “You're lucky you're so beautiful, Nichole. It makes this worth it.”
“No one asked you to kill yourself for me.”
“You wouldn't have to. I would die willingly.” The smile he wore didn't let it sound romantic.
“Go home before your mother knows you're missing!” I laughed.
He swung around and jumped into the tree. I gasped and he laughed. “Going down is the easy part.” 
I stuck my head out the window, trying to keep sight of him. The sound of his feet hitting the ground was a comforting one. He looked up at me and smiled one last time before he ran off, disappearing into the night. 

The Music Box

“Nichole,” My mother's whisper blew soft air across my face. She stood over me holding a small wrapped box in her hand.
I sat up, trying to rub the sleep from my eyes. “Where’s Abigail?” Abigail had always been the one to wake me. Her face was the first I saw every morning.
“She went to send a letter. Besides, I wanted to give you your birthday gift as soon as possible.
She handed me the lavender striped box and took a deep breath. “I hope you like it.” When I lifted the lid a mysterious looking eye stared up at me. I turned the box upside down and let its contents slide into my hand. It was a glass music box, unlike anything I'd ever seen before. 
The glass was light blue and arranged in stained glass fashion. Thin veins of metal separated the small panes, which became rounded and larger at the bottom. Ten tiny diamonds in the center of the front surrounded an emerald-cut sapphire stone, my birthstone. A large agate stone on top had an eye carved into it. It seemed to be watching me. The box was so small it fit in the palm of my hand, incapable of holding anything other than the music. So small, in fact, I didn't notice the claw-foot legs that held it up just above my hand until I raised it so the sunlight could illuminate it. 
“Turn it over,” she said. 
The key was at the bottom. I gave it several twists, then turned it back over and listened to the familiar tune. It only took two notes for me to know it was my lullaby. My mother had sung it to me every night when I was a child. As I sat next to my mother the tune I hadn't heard in years brought back comforting memories.
“I love it!” My grip on the box tightened as I wrapped my arms around her neck. 
My mother held me tightly, unwilling to let me go when I released her. That’s when I noticed one of my bags sat next to the door stuffed full. “Why is my bag packed?” 
She gave me another tight squeeze before dropping her arms beside her. “We need to leave.”
“Leave where?” 
She remained silent as she moved toward the door. “Gather any personal things you’d like to take.”
“How long will we be gone?”
She didn’t answer.
“Does this have anything to do with last night?”
She inhaled as if to speak when a powerful knock came from downstairs.
“We need to leave soon, Nichole. Please get dressed.” She rushed down the stairs and I threw myself back onto my bed. Wherever we planned on going I was certain we would take Abby with us, so I would await her return. If anything she would explain my mother’s behavior.
“Good morning, Mrs. Daisy.” My mother’s voice lacked the politeness she often had with Mrs. Daisy. “I apologize but now isn't...” 
“I take no pleasure in this visit, Marian, so you may save your good morning for another day.” 
I stood as quietly as I could and walked to the door. 
“I know where you went last night,” Mrs. Daisy said. 
“You followed me?”
“With all the scare this summer...”
“Which is completely unnecessary,” my mother interrupted.
“I worry about you. When we saw you riding out of town at such a late hour I was afraid something had happened to dear Nichole. I grabbed Mr. Daisy and we followed, hoping we could help. I'm not proud of it, Marian, but it's a good thing we did. You were talking to the gypsies and don't try to deny it, we saw you. What on earth would possess you to do such a thing? Honestly, Marian, I think...”
“You've made what you think perfectly clear.” 
I grabbed my robe, not bothering to put it on, as I ran down the stairs.
“Go back upstairs and gather your things, Nichole.” My mother's face was a deep red as she pointed me in the opposite direction.
“Gather...Are you're leaving?” Mrs. Daisy's eyes shot back and forth between my mother and me. “You sneak off in the middle of the night to talk to those vagrants and now you're leaving? Are you planning to join them? They're heathens, Marian. Devil's people.”
“Mrs. Daisy, I assure you it is not what you think. Now, please, I need you to leave.” She grabbed Mrs. Daisy's arm and lunged for the door. Mrs. Daisy protested and tried to get out of my mother's grip by pulling her arm away, all the while screeching. I ran down the last few stairs and tripped on the last one, sending the music box flying forward toward Mrs. Daisy. It fell on the small carpet next to the door, right at her feet, which jarred it enough for it to repeat the last few notes of the song. Mrs. Daisy looked down at it, the eye staring up at her, and shrieked. She felt for the doorknob behind her and began twisting it back and forth until the latch gave way and the door opened.
“Is that what you were doing with the gypsies, Marian? Buying their curses?”
“It's only my birthday present, Mrs. Daisy.” I picked the box up and examined it to make sure it was undamaged. There wasn't a scratch. 
She gasped. “Marian Howell. You gave your daughter that thing? The Mayor will hear about this, I assure you.” She ran through the door and called out as she ran down the steps, “He will hear about this!”
My mother closed the door and leaned her head against it. “Please, Nichole, go get dressed. We have to leave.”
“Not until you tell me what's going on.” I clutched the music box tighter, trying not to raise my voice. 
She pushed herself away from the door and walked toward the staircase without answering my question.
“I won't be back in time to meet Joshua, will I?”
“He was leaving you anyway.”
“He isn't leaving me!” The box almost flew from my hand again as I forced my arm downward in an over-dramatic reaction.
She turned and walked back to me, the red in her face returning. “And why isn't he taking you with him, Nichole? Why has he chosen to spend a year without you? If he loved you, really loved you, he wouldn't be able to fathom the idea, much less ask you to do the same.” She was right in front of me, screaming out all the insecurities I had tried so hard not to think about. 
“You're wrong. He does love me. If I asked him to, he would take me with him.”
“But you never did ask, did you? What does that tell you?” 
“I'm not going with you. I want to see Joshua.”
“You are leaving with me, and we're going just as soon as I'm done packing, whether you're ready or not.” She turned and rushed up the stairs into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
If she needed proof Joshua and I really loved each other then that’s what I would give her. When I saw him I would ask him to marry me as soon as possible instead of waiting, and he would agree. We would find that both of us had been too afraid to ask the other to divert from our plan made so long ago, and we would never have to be apart. 
When I walked into my room I stared at the bag my mother had prepared for me. I would use it to leave her instead. There were things I wanted to take with me but weren’t necessary at the moment. All I needed was a dress to see him in. I grabbed the lavender one he had been so fond of and stared at the corset laying across the chair. Where was Abby? 
Something clanged in my mother’s room startling me. There wasn’t time to wait and I wasn’t sure Abby would go against my mothers wishes anyway. I did my best at dressing myself, grabbed my bag and corset and raced off to the only place I would be welcomed looking the way I did. 
My dearest friend Grace had helped me through so many things, I knew she wouldn’t turn me away now.
* * *
“I suppose this is what I get for sneaking out,” I sighed.
Grace had agreed to help me, especially after I explained all that had happened from the time the gift was left at my door. She accompanied me to a clearing where we were to meet Joshua a couple of miles away. The clearing wasn’t far from where the gypsies had been spotted. I almost wanted to continue down the road to find them and see for myself who they really were and why they had created such a frenzy. Instead, I sat waiting for Joshua. 
Grace tried to keep my mind off the fact he was late. My mind kept wandering to him though. How could it not. I was certain he had planned to give me my ring today, making our engagement official. But the fact he was late had turned my excitement into anxiety.
Grace began twirling her chestnut hair in her finger as she usually did when she was nervous. “It’s been an hour, Nichole, I don’t think he’s coming.”
“Where is he?” I asked in desperation.
She took my hand. “I’m sure he has a good excuse. Maybe he assumed you wouldn’t meet him because of the storm coming.”
I hadn’t noticed the black clouds until that moment. In fact, I could have sworn the sky was blue minutes before.
“You can come stay with me if you’re worried about your mother.”
The invitation was tempting, but my anger had subsided. My mother and I had always been close and the thought of being without her, even if it meant being with Joshua, made my chest ache.
“I should go home.”
The brewing storm had brought a chill in the air, which made me realize summer was over. The leaves were beginning to turn the bright red and orange I loved, and even though they were brown now I could tell wildflowers surrounded the clearing.
“I'll bet it looks beautiful here in the spring.” Grace stood and helped me up as well. “Can you imagine all the flowers? You should make Joshua bring you back here when they bloom.” Grace let her fingers graze the top of the brown plants as she passed them.
It was a pleasant thought. I could imagine Joshua down on one knee, professing his love for me surrounded by beautiful wildflowers in all different colors. It was a perfect scene, and one I intended to hold on to. Whatever kept him I wouldn't allow myself to believe he didn't love me enough.
A sudden nagging feeling I was supposed to be somewhere else distracted me from my daydream. It was an irritating feeling and I stood contemplating where else I should be. Probably home, I thought. She'll be worried. 
Grace turned, and as she did dozens of flowers in blue, purple, yellow and white burst into bloom all around the barren field. We stared at each other for a moment before I could speak. The sight, though beautiful, was wrong. 
“Oh my! Have you ever seen anything like this?”
Grace shook her head. We twisted and turned, circling again and again in unbelief. Her eyes became wide. “Nichole, how far away are the gypsies?”
“You think they did this?”
“How else would you explain it?” She waved her hand vigorously for me to come to her. “Let's leave. I don't think we should be here.” 
Grace was halfway to the horses before I made the decision to follow. For a split second before I began running I wondered what it would be like to meet them. To see if they really did posses the power to make flowers bloom. The horses brayed and kicked as if sensing something was wrong. We turned to take one last look at the mysterious scene. Once again the field was barren and brown, just as it should have been, and the horses relaxed enough to let us approach.
In unison we faced one another. “Nichole, if anyone finds out about this...”
“I know.” 
The whole town would be in an uproar and demand the mayor take action to remove the gypsies. It would cause further feuds with my mother, possibly between her and the entire town because she would defend them. After all, it was just flowers. 
“Grace, we can't tell anyone about this.”
“I know. Trust me, Nichole. This I take to my grave.” 
* * *
My mother paced, fidgeting with the music box in her fingers, and glanced out the window every so often. 
“I'll go in alone. There's no need to drag you into this,” I told Grace. She nodded, looking concerned.
“Hopefully, I'll see you tomorrow.” She waved a meek goodbye and gently nudged her horse around toward her house. 
The worst part was I would be getting into so much trouble for nothing. Joshua had never come, which left me wondering if my mother spoke the truth. I slid off the horse and shook off the idea. No, he loves me, I kept repeating and walked up the steps to the front door. It was then I realized no one had come to take my horse back to the stable. Before I had time to question it the doorknob turned and the door was open. My muscles tensed as an automatic response to my mother’s face. But she didn't yell as I thought she would. Instead she pulled me into the house and wrapped her arms around me.
“Do you have any idea how worried I was about you?” Her voice was soft at my ear. “Please don't ever do that again.” 
Unsure of what I was supposed to do I wrapped my arms around her. “I had to see him.”
She pulled away and searched my face. “Was he there? Did he come?”
I dropped my head.
“Then it's too late. By now she's told everyone. I'm sorry, Nichole.”
“Won't you tell me why this is happening? Did you go to the gypsies? Is that really what all of this is about?”
“There's too much to explain right now. I promise I will—everything—just not right now.”
“At least tell me where we’re going.”
“The letter Abby sent this morning was to inform her family she’s going home. We’re going with her.”
“We’re leaving our home?”
She straightened and released my shoulders. “Yes. There’s a storm coming so we can’t wait any longer. Please, Nichole. I’m asking you to trust me.”
I stared at her for a long moment. Her wide brown eyes were so fearful how could I not trust her? “All right. I’ll go,” I whispered.
She handed me the music box, then went into the parlor to grab the two small bags that held her things. I tipped the music box over and wound it, hoping the comfort the minor-key melody often brought would find me in that moment. The tune was loud in the quiet house. The only other sound was my mother's light footsteps as she walked back to me and I assumed she had sent away all the servants. 
I swallowed the large lump forming in my throat and closed my eyes to concentrate on the tune. “I've missed this song. It's been a long time since you've sung it.”
“Please, Nichole.  We need to leave.”
“But where’s Abby?”
“She knows where we’re going. She’ll find us.”
My mother opened the door, but we didn’t walk through it. Laying on the porch in front of us was Abby. She was dead, of that I was certain. I didn’t need to watch for the rise and fall of her chest or press my cheek against hers to make sure she was still warm. Her eyes spoke death. They stared up at me white and empty. They had no color, as if something had taken her soul through her eyes.
That was the last thing I remember before the fire.