The sky wasn’t grey with grief. The thunder wasn’t bellowing its meek cries. The clouds weren’t unleashing their pitiful tears. No, instead the sky deceived them with its soft sunset hues. Beautiful shades of pink and orange painting the sky, nature making it her very own canvas. The thunder ceased and the autumn clouds fluttered as they drifted with the refreshing breeze.

It had only been a week since the holidays had officially begun, but that was too much for Jasmine. She already missed Onyx’s witty humour, Aster's tender sweetness, and Runa's lively chattiness. It was a relief that they had finally found a day for them all to hang out. Jasmine loved her family dearly but if she heard her mother call her name one more time, she would lose her mind.

Hopping over a fallen tree trunk, Jasmine’s backpack jostled as she huffed. Adjusting the strap of the bag, she swept her bangs away from her eyes, they had grown since she last cut them and had become tedious.

The treehouse wasn’t far from her house but it was quite the trek. Hidden between endless layers of woodland oak trees, the small treehouse rested upon one of the shorter tees, a ladder of rope and planks leading up to the door. It was by no means magnificent and she was sure that by Winter there would hardly be any remains of it but it had grown to be their second home - an escape for when they had a little too much on their plate and just needed a cosy place to rest. They had spent a whole week building it, tirelessly gathering supplies. Jasmine remembered Runa's insistence, at first she was adamant that she wouldn't help with building it, citing a broken nail as proof that she couldn't, until Dahlia somehow persuaded her into it. She had always been good with words, Jasmine thought.

A sharp gust of wind ran across her skin, eliciting goosebumps from Jasmine as she bundled her jacket closer around her. The soft suede material of her jacket protected her from the bite of the Autumn weather. Her friends had bought it for her last birthday, pooling their money together - it was an expensive jacket, one that Jasmine had her eye on for a while. She knew none of her friends were particularly wealthy, the gesture feeling even more heartfelt.

Eventually she found herself at the base of the sturdy oak tree. Although it was short, it provided a good view of the entire woodlands. From here you could see the greenery stretching on for miles and miles. Jasmine often tried to spot her house from the top of the treehouse, but her attempts had been fruitless, the tree simply wasn't tall enough. Still she persisted, telling all her friends that one day she would be able to spot it.

The climb up the tree was an awkward one. Precariously shuffling up the unstable wood planks was even harder with her backpack threatening to slip off her shoulders, but she had made it, just as she had done probably a hundred times by now. They had only built the treehouse in Summer, the blistering sun beating down on them had made it even more laborious. Despite only existing for a few months, Jasmine had been there almost every single day. After all, it was the closest to her house, and as much as loved her family she also loved the peace and quiet of the woodlands. The chirping of the birds, the crickets singing their songs, the woods were nature's very own orchestra.

Jasmine set her bag down on the small table in the centre of the treehouse. The entire space was decorated with cushions, blankets, and comfortable chairs, truly a home away from her real home. The finishing touch were some fairy lights glittering across the whole room - Runa's idea. As twilight descended on the woodlands, cool toned blues decorating the night sky studded with stars, the warmth of the golden lights was welcomed by Jasmine.

Jasmine had gathered her friends here for a reason. There was something she needed to tell them - something important. Something that could change their entire friendship.

Footsteps climbing up the ladder allowed her to push the thoughts out of her head. A head with dirty blonde hair appears through the hatch before letting themselves in. Dahlia. Jasmine surely didn't expect her to be here this soon, especially not by herself. Dahlia and Onyx were pretty much inseparable also coming to gatherings like this together.

“Damn it's cold out there…” Dahlia muttered, shrugging off her jacket. “Oh Jasmine! I almost didn't notice you there, you're not normally this quiet.”

“Yeah, I was just thinking about something.”

“What were you thinking about?” She replies pleasantly, but the way her eyebrow slightly quirks up seems odd.

“I'll tell you all later, don't worry about it.” Jasmine speaks rather dismissively. It's not that she doesn't trust Dahlia, but she'd rather let everyone know together.

Dahlia nods slowly, eyes narrowing slightly. Before she's able to say something Runa appears through the hatch, Aster in tow.

“Where Onyx?” Dahlia asked, almost reflexively.

“You could at least say hi to us first you know?” Runa cheerfully replied, flinging herself onto the small sofa next to Dahlia.

“I texted him earlier, he should be on his way.” Aster answered her question while taking a seat at the table.

Dahlia thoughtfully nodded. Jasmine had always found it hard to understand Dahlia, sometimes she had no idea what went on in her head. It wasn't as if she didn't trust her, it's just that she was sometimes wary. Although extremely rare, Dahlia could switch off her charming personality in an instant revealing a cold, almost callous persona. Jasmine never wanted to be on the receiving end of that vicious stare.

“Sorry I'm late.” A voice rang out, shattering Jasmine's inner thoughts. Onyx found his way into the treehouse taking a seat.

“Okay! Now that we're all here, what did you call us for, Jasmine?” Runa started the conversation, gesturing towards Jasmine to speak.

“Well…” Jasmine's voice trailed off, interrupted by another - Dahlia.

“Wait!” she said. “Jasmine. I need to talk to you about something, and what better time than now when everyone is here.”

“Okay…” Jasmine didn't know what to say. Dahlia wasn't really the type of person to interrupt so it must be important.

“You're hiding something from us aren't you?” She gets up from her seat, voice raising slightly. “What could it be? Is there anything we need to be worried about, perhaps?”

“Dahlia, what's this all about?” Aster spoke, a bewildered look painted on his face.

“Don't interrupt me! I'll sort everything out so just listen.”

“Worried? Why would you be worried?!” Jasmine couldn't stop herself from yelling. How could Dahlia doubt her without even hearing her out? Rage filled her to the brim, as she took a step towards Dahlia.

“Jasmine…” Onyx broke his silence, trying to warn her to stop. He had always hated it the most when arguments happened.

Before Jasmine could even turn to look at him, a glass vase came hurtling towards her. Instinctually she dodged, not noticing the rug underneath her as she slipped and fell backwards, hitting her head on the table with a sickening crack.

Jasmine's body fell to the floor, eerily still. Crimson blood pooling beneath her head, like a halo. A bloody twisted halo. Flowers that were once bright and beautiful, now dyed red and glimmering glass pieces scattered around her.

Dahlia's eyes widened, as she dashed to Jasmine's still body. She was still breathing, thankfully. But then…what would happen to her? If Jasmine woke up and blamed Dahlia her life would go down the drain. Everything she worked for. She had so much to live for. It was then when Dahlia came up with a plan.

“Is she alive?” Aster tentatively asked, scared to step closer.

Onyx and Runa were in the corner of the treehouse, Runa as pale as a ghost and Onyx trembling, looking off to the side.

“No.” The lie almost got stuck in her throat, as she forced it out. “She's not breathing.”

“What do we do? What do we do?” Runa kept repeating, tears welling up in her eyes.

Onyx couldn't even bring himself to speak, mouth as dry as cotton.

“Runa! Onyx!” Dahlia sharply spoke. “Snap out of it damn it! We need to do something or we'll all get in trouble.”

“Do something?” Aster's voice came out strangled.

“We need to make it look like an accident. As if she simply fell out of the tree.”

“Dahlia. I can't do this.” Runa sobbed tears falling down her face like a waterfall.

“You need to. We all need to. Do you want all of our lives to be over? We have to carry on living. It's what Jasmine would've wanted. Now hurry up and help me!”

Aster was the first to move. He knew deep down that Dahlia was right, as much as it pained him to admit. They couldn't waste their entire lives.

Onyx followed, silent as ever. Dahlia placed a single hand on his shoulder, trying to calm him down.

“Runa? Aren't you going to join us all?” Dahlia spoke expectantly.

Wiping her tear streaked face Runa nodded walking to where Jasmine laid.

“Okay. Everyone take a limb and we'll drop her down the side of the tree.” Dahlia said.

They all took ahold of a limb each before dropping Jasmine's lifeless body down the side of the tree. Though the tree was shorter than the rest of the trees in the woods, no one could survive a fall from up here. Her body lay on the grass, limbs outstretched. They couldn't see much from up here but they were sure it looked convincing enough.

“We need to get our stories correct. No discrepancies.” Onyx finally found his voice. “We need to clean up in here too.”

“Guys, what about the police? We need to call them and tell them that she fell. Otherwise it'll make us look suspicious.” Aster added on.

“Runa. Call the police, you're the most convincing out of us all. Plus you're already crying, they'll never suspect a thing.” Dahlia spoke, a commanding tone laced her voice. This wasn't a request but something Runa had to do.

Wordlessly Runa nodded, pulling out her phone.

“What do you think she wanted to tell us?” Onyx murmured. “Think it's got anything to do with what's in her bag?”

“Possibly.” Aster replied, pulling the bag off the table and unzipping it. There was only one thing in there.

A brochure for a school in another city.