Chapter One

Lila could smell freshly cut grass. The sharp, sweet smell made her think of the days when they rode on the swings, as high as they could go. Higher and higher until the world melted away and there was only the whoosh of the air as it raced past, the thumping of her heart as the adrenaline kicked in and the feeling that everything was perfect.

This was it. Happiness.

Something cold and wet dripped onto her face and she woke with a start. The cemetery had darkened in the time she had nodded off. Thick grey clouds rolled in slowly with the promise of heavy rain. A few drops had already fallen and Lila noticed that the grass around her was wet. She sighed grumpily and stood up, straightening her summer dress and grabbing the backpack and Math homework that lay forgotten by it. Her sandals slid slightly as she walked through the rows of gravestones towards the exit and she checked her phone. It was only six pm, she noticed with relief. An hour till sunset at least.

Once on the main road, she could see and hear the cars again. Rush hour. People driving like maniacs, impatient and angry at the slightest delay. It made her glad she was walking. She slipped in her earphones and soon the chatter on the radio filled her ears. They were talking about Riya – a popstar returning from her tour abroad back to home turf in Kincelly. She would be holding a concert next week and Lila felt a rush of butterflies in her stomach when she remembered that Caden had bought tickets for them.

Caden. Her new but not-so-new boyfriend. It made her giggle to think of him like that. They had been in each other's classes for years and never spoken. She hadn't noticed him much until last summer at the start of sixth form when news got around that he had beat up a bunch of guys trying to rape his sister Ella at a party. He made local news and the guys got jailed.

Then he asked her out a few weeks later.

Lila had declined. He was handsome with his striking green eyes and dark hair but they seemed worlds apart. From the little that had been reported about him, he came from a wealthy family on the other side of the city. His parents were lawyers, he had three sisters and he wanted to travel the world and then train as a Doctor. His clothes and car boasted money. His face had registered surprise when she politely declined his offer, as if he had never had anyone say no to him before. Lila's distrust of him had heightened and she avoided him in the weeks that followed.

But the more she tried to stay away, the more they seemed to always be near each other. He didn't speak to her directly but he would come and sit a few tables away from her at lunch. Or in the classes they had together, he would be only a few chairs away and glance at her surreptitiously. Lila found herself turning pink on a few occasions, certain that everybody else had noticed but no one did except for her friend Diana who teased her about it incessantly.

Once, as Caden loitered after class behind her, she sighed grumpily. He had been extra helpful the last few weeks. He had raised the largest amount for charity in their annual school competition, had single-handedly tutored two poorly-performing junior students to whiz through their resit GCSEs and he had led the recent win by the Hounds in their regional Rugby game.

"And so, it is with great pride, that we award Mr Caden Emmel this medal of honour, the Kincelly Star," Professor Antoine, the Headmaster, stated in is deep, proud voice as he pinned it to Caden's shirt at the assembly this morning.

Not to mention he seemed to get more attractive as he tanned in this summer heat, Lila observed grumpily as she left the empty room and he walked behind her. She could hear his deep breathing as he got closer and goosebumps went up her arm. She looked around, but the corridor was empty. Whirling around she pushed him against the wall. Caught unawares, he looked down at her. He was actually really tall, she realized craning her neck up.

"Can you stop following me around please?" she hissed indignantly. "Everybody's starting to notice."

To his credit, he didn't deny it. He smiled at her, embarrassed. "We need to go out on a date," he stated, as if he was picking up a conversation they had started moments before and not months ago, which was how long it had actually been since they had spoken.

Taken aback by his directness, she tried to remember why that wasn't a good idea. Before she could say anything though, he leant down, a hand on the nape of her neck and gently kissed her. His smooth lips were like electricity on hers. It felt like the world was melting. Her skin felt scorched with fire and everything fell away until there was only him. And her.

In that cold corridor on a summer afternoon.

They broke apart. He mentioned something about coffee a few hours later and walked away before she could reply.

As her senses recovered, she thought of how arrogant he was to just kiss her like that. And expect her to show up for a date the same day when she hadn't even said yes! But she did show up. And that was two months ago. Since then, Lila learned that he wasn't as big-headed as he led the world to believe, he had dreams that seemed crazy to her but he was selfless and genuine in his hopes to change the world. And he was actually fun to be around. He was like the complete opposite of her, so focused and driven whereas she felt like she was floating through this world, her future unplanned and unclear. She did well academically, she reflected as she stopped at the traffic lights of the four lane intersection leading to Belle Avenue. She worked hard. But she didn't know what she wanted, she didn't make plans and goals and all that stuff Caden did.

She existed. She drifted. And it made her unhappy sometimes.

Her phone rang, the shrill ring startling her as the radio presenter's voice was cut off. "Hey mum," she answered as the lights turned red and she stepped into the road.

"Lila, when will you be home?"

"Soon, I'm only-" she stopped suddenly. Her heart had sped up almost before she turned her head. The screech of the brakes, the smell of burnt rubber and she was in the air. Her backpack somehow stayed on as she landed awkwardly onto her right side, her head snapping back. Her mouth opened, gasping for air and there was an odd ringing noise in her ears. Her phone landed a few yards away, her Mum's panicked voice suddenly cut through the haze as the pain kicked in, scorching her veins.

"Lila! Oh my god, Lila! What happened? Are you okay? Lila!"

And then another voice. A male, calm and soothing as he whispered in her left ear, "Welcome home." She turned her head with confusion and saw with surprise that there was a boy crouched there, perhaps only a few years older than her. Thick lashes framed the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. His smile made her heart stop for a few seconds, literally. His skin was smooth and he smelt like the grass from earlier in her dream. All clean and crisp.

Another woman ran up to her garbling words of panic and things that made no sense. "Ambulance… Belle Avenue… Girl… Dead." Lila looked back at the boy but he was gone.

Her eyes unfocused then. The grey sky fell towards her as the heavens finally opened.