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Slipping Sideways: Chapter 1

Roger Parsons is dragged into a web of lies and secrets that all lead back to his sister's suicide.

"We'll be back in a few hours. Don't call us – we'll be on the plane."

I nodded and rubbed the back of my neck, the phone pressing uncomfortably against my ear. "Okay, Mom."

"Can I talk to Caroline?"

I looked over at my sister. She was curled up in a ball of gray sweats, only her tear-streaked face peeking out. I raised my eyebrows in a silent question and she shook her head slightly. I nodded and said into the phone, "Uh, she's asleep right now."

"Alright. Well, make sure she's awake when we get back. We have something to tell her."

Mom was silent for a moment before saying quickly, "I've got to go."

Then she hung up, cutting off my goodbye. I glanced over to Caroline and held up a box of small fireworks. "Ready?"

She moaned into the coach. "No. Go away, Roger."

I sighed and set the box down, walking heavily out of the kitchen. "I wish you'd stop crying."

She threw a pillow at me. It landed short of me, plopping at my feet. I rolled my eyes, "Good shot."

I took the steps two at a time, making loud thumping sounds. I didn't know what had gotten into Caroline. She hadn't been like this before. I walked quickly down the hall into my parents' room and slipped through the window, onto the porch. She'd be alright. Maybe Mom would know what was wrong with her. I'd just mind my own business.

The night was perfect for fireworks. The sky was pitch black and nothing was blocking my view. Nobody was here to yell at me about ruining the porch roof or letting the mosquitoes into the house. Nobody was here to drag me down to the riverside where I supposedly could see better surrounded by a claustrophobic crowd. Nobody was here to ruin the beauty of being totally alone.

I walked the show in delighted silence. Fireworks were my favorite part of summer. The show lasted for a half an hour, the last of the fireworks exploding far above in quick succession. I smiled as the lights faded from the black sky, replaced by masses of twinkling fireflies. I clapped briefly before scrambling back through the window into the house.

I shut the screen, but left the window open, letting the sounds of the Fourth of July filter through. This was my favorite time of the year with the warmth and the endless free time. Caroline always liked to ruin it with dire warnings of summer reading. She'd been so mad when the new English teacher broke the tradition. No dull English papers for me.

As I left my parents' room and walked down the hall, I heard the sound of my sister's pop music blaring. I rolled my eyes and continued, into my room. The dark walls seemed to loom over me. I grabbed my pajamas and slammed the drawers to my dresser shut.

The door to the bathroom was ajar, the breathy voice of Katy Perry emanating eerily from the bathroom.

Caroline's cat, Ophelia, slunk from the shadows and slipped ahead of me into the bathroom, her gray tail waving. I followed, nudging the door further open.

I nearly stepped on my sister's pink phone. I jumped backward. "Crap!"

I picked it up and looked at it. No cracks. I breathed a sigh of relief. Caroline would have killed me.

I slipped the phone into my back pocket and looked up.

In the tub, my sister laid face down, her brown hair waving cheerily in the water. Sitting next to her, on the edge of the tub was a bloody knife. The water was stained a ruddy pink.

I dropped my pajamas, horror forcing a gasp out of me.

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