When Carrie meets Junior, she isn't ready for change. Something about him makes her think he's responsible for more than he gives himself credit for.
Derek has made mistakes - mistakes that threaten to destroy everything he has worked for. Not everyone can be silenced - and definitely not forever.
Carrie Highland knew her life was about to change. But not like this.
She tossed under the covers, replaying her parents' conversation from the previous evening over and over in her head like one of the records her grandad sometimes dug out of his attic;
Her dad's voice had blasted from the kitchen like gunfire; "I can't wait til I'm the fuck out of here!"
"Well that makes two of us, you filthy bastard!" her mam had shrieked back. "Oh, Carrie... Sweetie, how long have you been listening?"
Sick to her stomach, Carrie pushed back her duvet. Her luminous alarm clock declared that it was 6:32. Half an hour ago, her parents had left for their lawyers' meeting. The thought made her shudder. They had each poked their head around Carrie's door, but both times she had squeezed her eyes shut and feigned sleep.
Early morning summer sunlight fogged her tidy, spacious bedroom, made the baby-pink walls glow dimly. She remembered painting it three months ago with her mam and dad when they had first moved in, when everything had been okay. Before the fights had begun.
She couldn't stay here, not as long as she was awake. Waiting for her parents to return was stupid; they weren't due back until early afternoon. And early afternoon seemed decades away.
So Carrie quickly pulled on a tattered pair of jeans, a jacket, the blue Converse her dad had bought for her only a blessed week ago, and headed downstairs to the frosted front door.
She sucked in the cool air of the morning, let it carress her from the inside out. Her life was about to meet a crossroads today. And she wasn't about to wait around here for it to happen.
For twenty minutes or more, she walked in zombie-mode, her mind a million miles away from the silenced, stray cat-ridden backstreets of her town.
"You never listen to me, you bitch!" her dad had yelled.
"Oh, I'm sorry! I know you put so much effort into every little lie you come out with!" had been her mam's retort.
Carrie ground to a halt and buried her face in the palms of her hand as a sob came up out of her like a bout of lava from a volcano.
The screech of brakes almost tore her insides to shreds. The image of the nondescript black car tearing down the street did little to sooth her nerves, as she whipped her head around in panic.
The boy lay motionless on his back, parallel to the sidewalk.
Feeling the last drop of blood drain from her face, Carrie sprinted breathlessly into the street.
"Hello?!" she gasped, her knees scraping the tarmac next to the boy's head. "Can you hear me?"
With hands that shook like twigs, Carrie made a grab for a wrist, hoping against hope that she'd find the throb of life there.
"I can hear you," came a hoarse, but very much living, voice.
Carrie glanced at the boy's face. A thin red line grazed his cheek, probably thanks to his tumble to the tarmac, and his eyes were a light, icy blue.
And blank. As if they were the doors into an empty shell. Goosebumps danced all over Carrie's skin as he squinted at her, searching for familiarity.
"Do I know you?" he asked sincerely.
Carrie swallowed. His question was most bizarre. They had never met before. He most certainly did not know her...