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Throughout that dialogue, Syn’s mother had not said a word. She’d nodded, sipped her tea, and listened. Silence is golden. Right. The liquid that had slid into the syringe had been golden. The doctor’s eyes had been a deep, golden brown. Her mother’s smile had been as sweet as golden honey. Nothing. Syn’s mother had believed nothing. She’d called a doctor, and Syn had told her story again. The drugs had followed. One drug, another, and another still, in quick succession, each chemical attack trying to drive out the demons. Trying to drive out something that was just there, not illusion but frightening reality, made more frightening as the drugs robbed Synthia’s control. There was no way to make them understand; only silence had helped. The silence had stopped the drugs, but by then two years had passed. Cynthia had passed to Synthia irrevocably, awakening as a junior in high school with barely passing marks and no friends with a future. Through it all the angels had watched the world in silence, and she had watched them in turn, never speaking.

Now they were multiplying. No matter where Syn turned, she saw them. When she closed her eyes, she felt them. When she slept, she dreamed dreams populated with their shadowy forms and empty eyes. She didn’t even know why she called them angels. They looked more like ghosts, but that wasn’t a place she felt comfortable. Angels would never hurt her . . . ghosts might not care. Ghosts might have laughed when Momma and the doctor brought the drugs. The angels had paid no more attention to the drugs than anything else.

Since the night Brandt had left the band, the ghosts had slowly overrun her reality. She knew it was foolish to dwell in the past. She hadn’t spent enough time with Brandt when he was with them. She had teased him, promised him, but she’d never let him get close. Now he was gone, and that music—that last night. How could she reconcile herself to the reality that was the band and the memory that was Brandt and feel anything but loss and regret? How could she live her life walking through a mist of angels? Brandt had noticed her. Without that notice, the weight of his eyes and the soft sound of his voice, the nothingness of the angels’ presence weighed on her like a shroud.

Syn rose, pulling the sheets up around her, automatically shielding herself from the prying eyes of those who didn’t even watch. She blinked and shook her head to clear the cobwebs. She needed to hurry and shower. Shaver would call soon. He called her like clockwork, every afternoon at four. It gave her a minimum amount of minutes to shower, paint herself to perfection, and gather her wits. It gave her a chance to push aside the visions and focus on herself, and her life. Angels didn’t pay the bills, and though the band wasn’t breaking any records, since Brandt’s drunken ass had carried itself so dramatically down the road, they had been doing well enough to get by. They might even break out of the bar circuit and cut a CD soon. If Syn could keep it together. If Shaver didn’t lose his heart. If the new guy, the pseudo-Brandt they’d hired, Calvin, with his long, long hair and his long, long eyes, and his constant sniffing; no way to ignore the chemical base of that subconscious habit. Calvin could play. Calvin could sing. Calvin was barely aware that he could do either. He was helping the band in ways that Brandt never could have, but . . . he was no Brandt.

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