I smiled sadly to myself as I watched her peer out the kitchen window, gazing at the sunrise. The picture of innocence, Gabriella couldn't have been purer. After a moment, I moved silently across the kitchen floor and placed a hand on her little shoulder. The small girl spun around, exclaiming my name, and leaped into my arms. I laughed, but I had been careless. I knelt on the floor, wrapping my arms around my sister's waist. She stroked my hair kindly, so unaware, so innocent. How could I tell her what had happened? How could I say anything? I drew away from her and looked her dead in the eyes. Somehow, she knew.

"It's going to be different now, isn't it, Cassi?" She still smiled, still stroked my hair, except now her eyes were slightly glossed over, and her hand shook.

I nodded. "I'll take care of us, don't worry." Gabriella gave me a reassuring grin and I laughed again. A choked sound. I knew that there was only one reason she wasn't sobbing; She had to stay strong for her little sister. A single tear leaked out of her left eye, and she wiped it away furiously.
How could something so small know so much? I felt the need to shelter her, to make absolutely sure she would never have to experience something like this again.

"No, Sister. I'll take care of us." I stood, scooping her into my arms. She leaned towards me and pressed her tiny, soft lips to my cheek.
"It's begun now, we've got a long way to go."