Winter nights in Atheton were extremely cold.
Kaylee Hadley was shoved out of home in nothing but thin, flimsy clothes.
She was only thirteen years old, but she was very thin for her age. The biting cold seeped through her clothing and into her bones. It was impossible for her to survive this brutal winter night without shelter.
Freezing, she shivered violently.
Her mother, Josie Hadley, who was standing by the doorway, looked at her in disgust. "Fuck off! I refuse to house an ungrateful daughter like you! How dare you bully your sister?"
Kaylee burst into helpless tears and explained herself in between sobs. "Gemma's the one who took my necklace without permission! It's my most prized possession..."
As Kaylee spoke, she looked at her younger sister Gemma Hadley, who was standing beside Josie, hands akimbo.
Gemma rolled her eyes at Kaylee and slipped the beautiful sapphire necklace into her pocket. "I like this necklace. Why can't I wear it for a few days?"
Josie took Gemma's side. "She's right! Why are you being so selfish? She is your sister. If she wants your necklace, you should've just given it to her. How dare you accuse her of stealing your 'most prized possession'? This is the house of our Hadleys! Everything in this household belongs to every family member. So the necklace is just as much hers as it is yours!"
Kaylee's eyes were bloodshot from crying, a stark contrast to her pale face. "Mom... Aren't I your daughter, too?"
Hearing that, Gemma glared at her and shouted ferociously, "No, you're not! You're just an orphan! My parents adopted you to replace me! Now that I'm back, you don't belong here!"
Indeed, Gemma was the biological daughter of the Hadleys. However, she went missing not long after she was born.
In an effort to cope with their grief, the couple decided to adopt Kaylee, a baby from the orphanage.
And Kaylee's first twelve years with the Hadleys were blissful. They treated her very well, and she was also very popular at school. But everything changed when Gemma was found a year ago.
The Hadleys stopped treating her well. On the contrary, they started beating and scolding her. And when Gemma was enrolled at her school, she gathered a group of students and made them bully Kaylee.
At first, Kaylee didn't understand why their parents treated her and Gemma differently. Now, she had her answer.
Kaylee shook her head in denial. "I... I don't believe it."
Gemma snorted complacently. "Mom, tell her!"
Josie nodded without hesitation, as if this was all Kaylee's fault. "Kaylee, you're not my daughter!"
Gemma cracked a smug smile. "Did you hear that? You don't belong here. Fuck off!"
Gemma always resented Kaylee because she got all the love and care that should've been hers, enjoying life as the daughter of an affluent family. She also hated Kaylee because she was excellent in school, had many friends, and was so beautiful!
Kaylee was just thirteen years old, yet while everyone around her was gaining weight and breaking out, Kaylee had blossomed into a beautiful young girl. Whenever Gemma saw her pretty face and perfect figure, she'd seethe with jealousy.
So Gemma was hell-bent on ruining Kaylee's life. She'd speak ill of Kaylee in front of their parents so that they'd grow to hate Kaylee, eventually driving her out of their home.
After shooting Kaylee one last glare, Gemma pulled her mother into the house and slammed the door shut.
Kaylee was left outside, alone in the cold.
Her pale face was stained with tears. The cold wind lashed at her ruthlessly, making her shiver uncontrollably.
She shouted at the closed door, "Mom, please—"
But before she could get another word out, a glass was thrown out from the window on the second floor, smashing at her feet.
Kaylee jumped backwards in shock. Realizing that she really wasn't welcome here, she had no choice but to wander the streets listlessly.
The Hadleys had gradually been starving her over the past few days, which was why she was so thin. She painstakingly kept on walking despite feeling weak, dizzy, and cold.
All of a sudden, Kaylee saw a passer-by tossing a burger away onto the road. Her eyes lit up. She rushed towards the thrown burger, fearing that it'd be snatched by someone else. However, before she could reach for the burger, a luxury car suddenly turned into the street from the corner.
Startled, Kaylee quickly jumped out of the way. Then there came the deafening screech of the car's brakes.
Caught off-guard, Kaylee wasn't able to balance herself. She fell on the cold, hard ground, grazing her hands and knees. The shooting pain made her gasp sharply.
But what really broke her spirit was the sight of the crushed burger underneath the car's tire.
The driver of the luxury car wasn't expecting that someone would suddenly rush towards the road.
When he saw that the person he almost hit was just a miserable-looking teenage girl, he cursed at her angrily. "Get out of the fucking way, you beggar!"
The car didn't really hit her, but Kaylee was in so much pain that she couldn't move for a long time. Exasperated, the driver got back in his car and drove around her.
Misfortune never came alone.
Lying on the ground weakly, Kaylee didn't have the strength to even stand up.
The snow kept falling on her frail body, and soon, she was buried in it.
Nine years later.
"Kaylee, you're so lucky to marry into the Stephens family. Stop being so ungrateful!"
In a pristine wedding dress, Kaylee was looking at herself in the mirror in the dressing room when a sharp voice broke the silence.
Josie barged in and looked at her up and down with a frown.
Hearing her scolding, Kaylee could only chuckle dryly.
The Stephens family was one of the most powerful families in Atheton. There was an arrangement between the Hadleys and the Stephens; originally, Gemma was supposed to marry Elijah Stephens, the second son of the Stephens family.
But everyone in Atheton knew that Elijah was a naughty playboy. No one in their right mind would want to marry a man like him.
Gemma was no exception. She refused to marry him.
However, the Hadleys didn't dare to call off their agreement with the Stephens, so they had no choice but to find Kaylee, their adopted daughter that had been driven out many years ago, and make her replace Gemma as the bride.