Chapter 1

It was cold out. Colder than it should be in Boston for this time of year. The bus stop was nearly deserted except for a few stragglers who were either carrying briefcases, shopping bags or children. The air was icy. Not chilly, not cold, but icy – as if something was coming; something big.

Ava took a long drag on her cigarette. To be honest – she knew it was unhealthy, but she wasn't trying to quit. She was too hooked to quit. Nicotine was about the only thing going right in her life right now, and she wasn't about to let that slip away from her.

She stared impatiently down the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the big, white bus that was coming to take her away.

"Damn transit system," she thought to herself. "Getting slower every day."

She looked down by her side, and unfortunately realized that she was one of those stragglers. She had a backpack full of everything she owned, and a bus ticket in her pocket. She was leaving the city. She was tired of the city – at least, this city. Boston hadn't been kind to her, and realistically, she didn't even know why she came to this blasted city in the first place. All she had managed to accomplish here was how to smoke a pack a day, and where to get the best beer.

As she stomped on the last remaining ashes of her cigarette, she heard the bus coming down the hill towards the stop.

"Finally." She said, picking up her bag, and fumbling around for her ticket. She climbed on the bus, and grabbed an empty seat near the back. It was already getting dark outside, and she knew she was in for a long night. Ava didn't mind though – the one thing she actually did like about being alone, was that she was able to gather her thoughts. Right now, she had plenty to think about. First and foremost on her mind, was why the hell she was leaving Boston to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma? Of all the places in America, why was Tulsa so appealing? Truth is, it wasn't appealing at all. Tulsa was the last place that Ava could've ever imagined herself going, outside of maybe Alaska.

The bus continued to travel down the road long into the night. Soon the tall skyscrapers turned into modest family house, and then to farms, until finally there was nothing in sight but road and fields that stretched seemingly to the edge of the planet.

Ava tried to sleep, but she couldn't. She usually wasn't intrigued by scenery, but this type caught her eye.

Ava had grown up in Virginia. It wasn't as barren as Oklahoma, but it wasn't a big city like Boston either. She had two younger sisters, and from day one she felt that it was her responsibility to make sure nothing happened to them. Her mother wasn't exactly the textbook, apron wearing, dust mopping, supper cooking mother. She went out to bars at night with her friends, leaving her three daughters alone in an empty house until the wee hours of the morning, then came home drunk as a skunk and passed out on the couch

until mid afternoon. Ava was used to fending for herself – making her own meals as well as her sisters', and getting herself to school on time. She managed to keep her grades up well doing all this – until her mother overdosed on sleeping pills and never woke up.

Ava was 16 when this happened. It was little over a year ago, and she could still remember it vividly. She had picked up her sister's, Denise and Michelle from school and walked them home. As soon as they got in the house, Ava saw her mother sprawled out on the couch – as usual – with a bottle of pills on the coffee table beside her. She didn't think anything of it until Michelle went to wake her mother for dinner, and came running out to the kitchen to inform her that "Mommy wasn't breathing anymore."

Needless to say, there was nothing anyone could do for her. She was already gone, and there was no use trying to get her back. The fun part had come after the funeral. The state came up to check on Ava and her sister's every once in awhile – as Ava was considered old enough to look after them so long as she kept the state up to date on their condition. Everything was going smoothly until one day the state decided that Denise and Michelle would be better off in a foster home.

Ava wasn't a crier by nature, but she would be the first to admit that this broke her. Her sister's were all she had left, and by them being taken away from her, it cemented the fact that she was now alone. She managed to keep up her schooling for another couple of months, but it wasn't any use. She couldn't concentrate, and this is partially what caused her to start smoking. Casually at first, but then more and more as she found it helped settle her nerves. Eventually, she dropped out of school altogether, and hopping on the first bus to Boston. She wasn't sure why Boston called her then, anymore than she wasn't sure why Tulsa called her now, but she followed what her brain was telling her, and soon became a city girl.

This is when her life began to live in the fast lane. For her 17th birthday, her "friends" took her out to a bar, and snuck her in, claiming she was 19 (although she really could pass for it). They all drank long into the night, and Ava could shamefully admit that she understood what drew her mother to this lifestyle. As long as she was drinking, she didn't have a care in the world, and she liked that better than being burdened with – not only her own problems – but everyone else's as well.

After that night, all she wanted to do was party hard. She started smoking more; up to a pack a day if she set her mind to it. She also managed to be drunk more often than she was sober. Not that she could remember it anyway, but that's what people told her.

Everything was going fantastic for her. She had a boy that she considered a "boyfriend" – although, in this world, "boyfriend" was just another euphemism for "someone to sleep with when she was bored". It was April 29th that would cause her to change her outlook.

She was out partying again with her boy, and the other usuals. Nothing different about the night at all. The bar's were hopping that particular evening, but she didn't

notice. Somehow, she decided not to get drunk that night. She figured it may have had something to do with it being her time of the month. It's never fun to get drunk while you're cramped up. She drank a few beers, and watched the rest of her crew get wasted, including her boy, Andrew.

After a few hours, they all decided to go for a walk on the peer outside the bar. Ava was still the only one that was sober. Everyone else was hobbling alone, and walking in lines that were anything but straight. She was laughing and carrying on with the rest of them, when she noticed Andrew wasn't with them anymore.

She turned around to see if he was behind them, and to her horror, saw him standing on the edge of the dock with a beer in his hand. It wouldn't have been so bad if he wasn't already out of his mind, but him being as drunk as he was could only spell trouble.

Ava tried to call for him to come back to them, but he wasn't paying attention. In one split second, everything in Ava's world shattered. Andrew stepped off the dock, and fell face first into the water. She was the only person who was conscious enough to understand the severity of the situation. She left the rest of her friends, and ran to where Andrew had been standing. She started yelling his name and scanning the water for signs of struggle. Andrew never resurfaced.

The suddenness of his death sent her reeling into a spiral of depression. She started drinking even more so than before, and sometimes didn't leave her apartment for days. It was one of these long secluded times that she decided she needed to get away. She needed to get away from the city – away from all the influences – away from the deaths that had shattered her so deeply. She made up her mind that next day to move to Tulsa. She still didn't understand why Tulsa. Perhaps she was drunk, pulled out a map, closed her eyes and pointed, but she couldn't be sure. All she knew, was that she was leaving, and never looking back.

A sudden jolt shot Ava out of her subconscious, and the bus began to travel over roads that weren't suited to it. Ava checked her watch, and saw it was just after one in the morning. The next street sign she saw noted that Tulsa was only 50 miles away. It wouldn't be that long now, and she'd be starting over again. She had no idea how she was going to do it, but all she knew for sure was that she had to. It was the only way she was going to survive.