Determined to keep what's left of her shattered family together, Kiara gets emancipated. With the help of family they never knew they had, can Kiara finally heal from her past, or will her inner demons cause her to lose everyone she loves?
Trigger warning: This book contains strong elements of child abuse as well as themes of sexual abuse.
After years of abuse at the hands of her stepfather, 16-year-old Kiara finally fights back…
It is Kiara’s birthday and despite her objections, her mom, Cindy, is making her attend school. She pulls her red hair back into a ponytail. Her emerald green eyes shine with the hurt and anger she tries so hard to hide from everyone.
When she arrives at school, Kiara’s crush, Dakota, is standing out front.. At her locker, Kiara finds her best friend, Morgan, has decorated it.
Cindy picks Kiara up after school wearing sunglasses.They get into an argument over Patrick, Kiara’s step-father and her younger twin siblings’ father. When they get home, Patrick is passed out drunk on the couch. Kiara heads to her bedroom.
Later that night, Kiara hears fighting coming from her mom’s bedroom. She grabs a baseball bat and heads to the bedroom where Patrick is punching Cindy in the face. When he advances on Kiara, she swings the baseball bat at both his kneecaps causing him to collapse on the floor. Kiara helps her mother to the living room couch before getting her an icepack from the kitchen.
She leaves her mother alone and goes down the street to Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein’s house to call 911 and get the twins only to be told that a call has already been placed and cops are on their way. When Kiara and the twins arrive back home, Officers Huchtenson and Thompson are just pulling in the driveway. Officer Huchtenson puts the kids in the back of his car while Officer Thompson heads inside the house.
Two detectives are called in to support the situation.. One is Detective Angelo and the other unnamed. Detective Angelo gets the kids out of the car and tells them their mother has died. Kiara pulls Maddy and Charlie close and holds them while they cry, stuffing her emotions like she always does.
Kiara calls Morgan using one of the officer’s phones, then goes to talk to Detective Angelo. Morgan arrives with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Berkman. Kiara is told she and her siblings will go into state custody. They go back to Officer Hutchenson’s car to wait for DFPS to show up.
Andrea, a supervisor for DFPS shows up and takes the kids to the hospital to be examined, then takes them to meet Jake and Trish, their foster parents. Kiara keeps the twins close, while watching Jake and Trish closely. After a short meeting, the kids go to Kiara’s new room and go to bed.
The next afternoon, Tamara, the DFPS worker assigned to their case is at Jake and Trish’s house. She informs Kiara that she has found her father, a man named Bryan. She’s also found an aunt. A meeting over supper has been arranged. At supper, Bryan, Kiara’s father, tells her his plans for her which does not sit well with her. She refuses to leave the twins and Morgan.
A day or two passes. During the night, Kiara is awoken by a scream and rushes to Maddy’s room who is curled up on the bed. She tells Kiara that someone was pounding on the window. Jake and Trish walk in just as Maddy says this. Jake disappears then rushes by with a gun in hand.
The next morning at school, Kiara brushes off a confused Dakota. During class, she writes him a note and tells him about her mother being murdered over the weekend and admits that she likes him. He takes her in his arms and hugs her. They begin dating. They spend their lunch period looking at cars for Kiara.
Kiara’s dad, Bryan, picks her up from school and takes her to get her license then car shopping. Carla, the kids’ aunt, calls from the funeral home and says the funeral home is about to close and they need to get there. Bryan and Kiara leave the dealership and head to the funeral home where they plan her mother's funeral.
The funeral is held four days later. Patrick’s sister, Eve, shows up in the parking lot. Kiara confronts her and tells her to get lost. Mr. Berkman, who is a retired police officer, intervenes and gets Eve to drive off. The kids’ stand outside the sanctuary and greet everyone, then head in to find their seats. Mr. Zimmerman, the funeral director, introduces Kiara and the twins. The three of them sing One Sweet Day. Then Kiara sings I’ll be Missing You. When the songs finish, she gives the eulogy. Mr. Zimmerman comes back up and says a few words, ending the funeral.
At the gravesite, Carla tells Kiara that their grandparents want to meet them for supper in downtown Austin. Kiara begs Morgan to come with. Kiara has never driven downtown, so Dakota offers to drive.
When they arrive, Carla’s parents aren’t there yet so they are seated and place their drink orders. Jason and Elyria, Carla’s parents, enter fifteen minutes late. Elyria is wearing way too much make-up and has her nose up in the air. She is very prim and proper, not a hair out of place or a wrinkle anywhere on her. Jason is more laid back. Elyria is very rude to the kids. Kiara has Morgan take the twins’ to the car and she proceeds to tell Jason and Elyria off. She runs out of the room, crying. Dakota follows her. When they get outside, he takes her in his arms and lets her cry on his shoulder. When she tries to apologize, he puts his fingers to her lips and kisses her for the first time.
Jason comes out and apologizes and tries to make amends with Kiara. She is naturally very skeptical but doesn’t totally brush him off. She agrees to get to know him and give him a chance. But she refuses to have anything to do with his wife.
Saturday morning, Tamara comes over with the news that she’s got a court date for Kiara and her dad to see about him getting custody of her. She begs Tamara to do something because she doesn’t want to be separated from the twins. This is the first time Kiara hears of emancipation. She googles it after Tamara leaves then rushes into the living room to ask Jake, who's a lawyer, for help. He tells her he has a friend who is a judge so he’ll see what he can do.
Trish takes the kids’ shopping. Kiara gets a phone call from their mother’s attorney asking to meet with her a week from Monday. He doesn’t tell her what it’s about over the phone. When they get back to the house, Jake tells Kiara that she’ll have her emancipation hearing in just over a week.
Kiara and Jason meet Mr. Peterman, Cindy’s attorney. He informs Kiara that there are three trust funds for the kids. Three million in Kiara’s, just shy of two million in the twins’. He explains the first installment is payable upon Cindy’s death or when they turn eighteen, the second when they are twenty-one, and the last when they are twenty-five. He also hands her three letters written by their mother in the event of her death.
The next day is Kiara’s emancipation hearing. Jason gets custody of the twins and Kiara is emancipated. She is relieved she’s not going to lose the twins.
They go to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate. Kiara talks to Jason about letting the twins stay with her while he stays in the background. He says he’ll think about it. As they are eating, the hair on the back of Kiara’s neck stands up and she looks across the room to see a guy staring at Maddy and Charlie. When she questions Maddy, Kiara is informed that he is, Mr. Lorenzo, the father of one of Maddie’s classmates. When the twins’ disappear to go play games, Kiara watches Mr. Lorenzo and Dakota follows him into the bathroom. Dakota comes out of the bathroom a few minutes later and tells Kiara that he thinks Mr. Lorenzo was jacking off. Kiara springs into action and gets the twins out of there. They go to an extended stay hotel.
The next day, Kiara gets a call from the twins’ school saying they can’t be found. Kiara calls the Detective from her mother’s case and says that the twins are missing and she thinks she knows who has them. The detective tells her to wait for an officer to call her. Dakota, Morgan, and Dakota’s best friend Art skip class to be with Kiara. Jason meets them at the school. They go to a coffee shop to wait for the phone call. When it comes, she is told that the twins are being taken to Brackenridge Hospital. Kiara gets up and heads to her car , not caring if anyone else is following her. She’s leaving.
The doctor explains that Maddy was very close to being raped and wants to keep her for observation. Charlie has cracked ribs and a fractured wrist and is being kept for observation too. They are in a room together. Kiara spends the two nights they are in the hospital sleeping on a hid-away bed in their room.
The morning of the first night in the hospital, Kiara, Jason, and Dakota go looking at furniture for the house once it’s remodeled. Then it’s time for lunch. During this time, Kiara opens up a little about her past, telling Jason and Dakota about a time when she was ten and Patrick abused her. And then tells them about Patrick raping her. While they are in the hospital, Jason agrees to let Kiara have the twins and he’ll stay in the background.
Kiara takes the twins and Dakota back to the house the three of them grew up in. The twins protest, but Kiara urges them to go in the house anyway. She has Dakota open the door. The food that has been rotting in the refrigerator for the last three weeks overwhelms them. The contractor shows up and uses deodorizer so they can get in the house. Kiara walks him room by room explaining what she wants done. When they get to Cindy’s room, Kiara loses it and breaks down. Dakota catches her before she falls and leads her to her mother’s bed and holds her. The contractor excuses himself and goes to talk to Maddy and Charlie about what they want done in their rooms. When he returns, Kiara has recovered. She tells the contractor what she wants done in her mother’s room, then takes him up the stairs to what used to be her room and explains the changes she wants done there. He does the math, gives her a figure of eighty grand, and they agree he will start work the following week.
The screenplay ends with Kiara, Dakota and the twins sitting down to watch a movie. While Kiara is making popcorn, she gets a text from Morgan saying Eve was killed in prison. As she settles in between Maddy and Dakota on the couch, for the first time ever, she feels like everything will work out and her and the twins are finally safe.