Prologue

The children had been playing in the park every day after school since their father had died and their mother had been admitted into the hospital. There was Charlotte, a fourteen-year-old girl, and her brother, Phillip, who was five. Every day, Charlotte woke up, fed her brother and herself, walked to school, and dropped of Phillip at his kindergarten classroom before going to her seventh grade homeroom.

After school was over at two-thirty, Charlotte would pick up Phillip at his classroom and speak with his teacher about what he did that day. When Charlotte was finished speaking with Phillip's teacher Mrs. Graham, she and Phillip would walk the five blocks to Calens Park. The kids went to the park every day after school so that Charlotte could finish her homework undisturbed while Phillip would play on the jungle gym to his heart's content.

Though her schedule took up almost all of her time, Charlotte always set aside ten minutes to think about her parents. When she thought of her mother's beautiful smile and her father's great big bear hugs, she felt warmer inside, and a breeze blew through her long, strawberry-blonde hair and against her pale, freckled face. Charlotte knew each and every time that it was her father, keeping her warm on cool, overcast days, and cooling her off on warm spring afternoons.

Even when she tried to dwell on all of her good memories of her parents together, happy, she couldn't keep her mother's laughter in her mind for very long before she remembered that those days were over. Then Charlotte always started thinking about that night that had passed just three months prior and all of the horrors that came along with it . . .

9:30 p.m. It was a Friday night, three months before, when Charlotte's father had decided to work a double-shift. He had loved his job at the train station as an engineer, and he also needed the money to buy Phillip a special birthday gift without reaching too far into the bank account. Phillip was turning five the following week. Mr. Kennedy had planned on being home at nine twenty, but he never told his family of his intentions. Charlotte's mother had only thought that Nathan, her husband, had been out running errands for his boss, for that had happened on many occasions.

Since Charlotte was finished with her homework, and Phillip was jumping up and down at the thought of seeing "The Power Rangers" in theaters, Susan Kennedy decided that they would leave to see the movie instead of waiting for her husband. She didn't want Phillip to go to sleep too late. Her only wish was that her husband would make it to the theaters in time to watch the movie with them. Her decision made, Susan rounded up her children and left the house at eight twenty (the movie started at eight thirty-five), Nathan was twenty minutes from their home, ready to give Phillip his surprise present. He did not know that he was the family member that was to be surprised.

When Nathan arrived home at nine thirty, he noticed that the door was half-open, and a windowpane in the door was shattered into a thousand tiny mirrors on the floor. Nathan dropped everything he held, even the Power Ranger toys he had bought for Phillip, and ran to the door knowing something was wrong. How was he to know how unprepared he was for what he was about to see?