The first morning of September dawned bright and cool. My breath curled and writhed in the air and the cold bit at my nose and cheeks. It wasn't too cold -- not yet, at least -- but having just come from stifling August, it was a shock to my comfortably warmed skin.

There was only a scant ten days until school started. My stomach writhed and twisted when I thought of it. I was to go into a public school, friendless and alone, clueless and confused, and struggle through the day like that. It would be bad enough if I wasn't going to be a novelty in the school.

I stuffed my hands into my pockets and exhaled, watching my breath fog in the morning air. The sky was perfect and cloudless, the purest colour of blue. The sun threw rays that looked like melted gold over the landscape. A smile curled my chilled lips.

Standing on the hill behind my house was one of my greatest escapes. That, and sitting in Alex's meadow. You could see everything, standing up on that hill. My house was right at its base, a little, white-walled structure, bordered by trees and open fields. I could see my window from where I stood, the red of my curtains alight in the sun. I could see up till the hazy horizon, maybe even further if I so desired. But for now, I was content with the little bit of the world I was able to see from here.

My mother and father were still asleep. Good thing too -- my father, Andy, hated it when I was out by myself. There was nobody around, as usual. The DeLarens were all out already. Since Alex's death, they never spent as much time together as a family, much less in their own house. Living close to Alex's grave took a toll on them all. It was Alex's decision to be in the meadow, though, and Mrs. DeLaren could never deny her daughter anything.

I closed my eyes and inhaled. I tried to push my best friend out of my thoughts, but the daunting thought of school took its place. I opened my eyes again and looked out into the horizon, where the sky met the ground and everything looked picture-perfect. All thoughts of school vanished like the fog of my breath as I exhaled.

I checked my watch. Andy and my mother, Heidi, would be up any minute now. I took one last sweeping view of the countryside and started down towards that little house at the bottom of the hill.

The End

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