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Adaline’s first day back at Dalton High was terrible.

Living in Paris was easy, much easier than here. In Paris, nobody knew her and she was able to start her life from scratch, creating new relationships without judgement. It was like a breath of fresh air.

Not even an hour had passed since she arrived at Dalton High and by now every single person had either seen her or heard of her return from their friends. Obviously, everyone knew Adaline. If it wasn’t because of her last name or her looks, it was because of Michael, and everyone knew Michael.

People who used to kiss the ground she walked on, were not so kind now. In the corridors, not only did they gawk at her but they also threw her disappointed looks as if to say ′you didn’t deserve Michael’.

Adaline knew how right they were.

Almost everyone was angry at her for leaving. Even if they weren’t his friends, they all respected Michael. He had that kind of aura around him.

He wasn’t like Prince, whose head was too far stuck in his ass. Or like Jack, who would fuck anything with boobs. Or like Sebastian, who saw the whole world in terms of money. Unlike Wesley, Michael had never touched drugs in his whole life.

He was all the four boys combined into one, but without their flaws.

He was perfect.

And that’s precisely the reason why she had to leave him.

Adaline had the tendency to break anything that was perfect. And so she left, unknowingly shattering him anyway.

Too lost in her thoughts, Adaline didn’t see the boy with sandy brown hair and soft freckles on his face limping towards her. Cole made his way to her with his crutches tucked inside his underarms on both sides.

As soon as he reached near his sister, Cole dropped his crutches and fell into her arms.

“Shit, I missed you, Addy.”

Adaline held him tight in her arms. Cole was younger than her by only one year but he always treated Adaline like she was his mother. Ever since their own mother passed away anyway.

“How’re your legs?” Adaline asked him and broke their embrace to pick up his fallen crutches from the ground before steadying him again.

Cole’s disability to walk on his own was another reason why Adaline didn’t trust herself around perfect things. If only she had been looking out for him that day, he would have never ran in front of that speeding car to catch his soccer ball and had never gotten into the accident, damaging his legs forever. The accident happened eight years ago but not a single day passed when Adaline didn’t blame herself for it.

Cole shrugged at her. “Same as before. Useless.”

Adaline gave him a sharp look and Cole softened his gaze. “Hey, Addy. It’s not your fault, okay? When will you stop blaming yourself for a freak accident that was eight fucking years ago?”

“When you start walking on your own again.”

Cole rolled his eyes but didn’t argue further with his stubborn sister, nothing good ever came out of that.

Cole was the only person who knew about her plan to leave for Paris a year ago. Even though she wanted to cut all ties and start afresh, she couldn’t do that to her brother. Cole never cross-questioned her about her decision, instead he just hugged her and asked her to call as soon as she landed. Cole had stopped trying to work out the inner workings of his sister’s brain a long ago.

Though he did ask her to do one thing before she left.

“Talk to Michael,” Cole said as he limped towards the kitchen. Adaline followed him with a frown on her face.

“I can’t.”

“Why?” Cole raised his eyebrows. He knew that his sister was in love with that guy, even though she pretended that it was just another casual relationship.

Adaline fixed her gaze on the floor as she spoke.

“Because he’s the reason why I’m leaving.”

After she left, Michael had pestered Cole for almost a week to tell him why she had left before he gave up, knowing that Cole was loyal to his sister and would not tell him anything that Adaline didn’t want him to know.

Cole and Adaline walked from the gates of the hospital to Adaline’s car in the parking lot of the hospital. He didn’t go to school today because he had to visit the hospital for his monthly check-up, something which he hated.

Cole had made peace with his disability seven years ago and he knew that no amount of medical check-ups or physiotherapy would cure him, but he still went to every single one of his appointments because of his sister who was adamant that he would recover soon.

Adaline helped Cole into the car before walking to the driving seat herself. Cole turned to look at her but she kept her gaze firmly on the road.

“I can’t believe you came back.”

Adaline glanced at him and then gave him a soft smile. “I promised you I’d come back whenever you needed me, and I don’t break promises.”

That was true. Adaline never broke promises. Then again, she barely made any in the first place.

A few days ago Cole had found himself to be very lonely. Maybe it had something to do with his girlfriend of two years breaking up with him, or his father returning late from his office and not even bothering to glance at him, or that it was his mother’s tenth death anniversary that day. He was drunk and didn’t think twice before calling his sister and telling her that he wants to see her, that he misses her.

Adaline had booked the earliest ticket back to New York City as soon as she had hung up. She barely got the time to say goodbye to her friends in Paris but she didn’t care. Her brother needed her and she was good at breaking ties anyway.

“How’s dad?” Adaline asked him. She knew this was a touchy subject for Cole. His relationship with their father was turbulent to say the least. And even though Adaline knew that their father was a jerk for treating Cole the way he did just because of his disability, she always tried to make excuses for him to her brother. Adaline loved her father and he loved her back.

Fighting with him would only strain their relationship, and Adaline couldn’t afford to lose any more loved ones.

Cole gave out a bitter laugh. “How would I know? He barely even looks at me.”

Adaline shook her head. “He gets busy with work, Cole.”

“Stop trying to make excuses for him.”

“I’m not making excuses,” she began defensively, before Cole cut her with an exaggerated sigh.

“Addy, please shut up before I say something I regret.”

They both kept silent for the rest of the ride.

Adaline hated fighting with Cole, but more than that she hated that she couldn’t stand up to defend her brother from their father.

Even Adaline had a breaking point, and she wasn’t sure what would happen if she lost anything else.

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