When I got up for chores the next morning, Kevin was gone and Catherine seemed excessively happy. I pretended I didn't know Kevin had been there but I think Catherine somehow knew I knew. We went about our chores quietly, barely even looking at each other when we happened to cross paths. I got the feeling that she didn't want her parents to find out because she kept shooting me strange looks every now and then. But I wouldn't tell. I'd decided already that I wasn't going to pay much attention to what she did. There was no reason for her to change her life just because I came along.
I stayed in my room most of the time for the next few days, playing on my computer and listening to CDs I'd borrowed from Catherine, who stayed in her room too, when she wasn't out riding one of her horses. I rode a few times, but never with Catherine. I had a feeling she'd be bitching at me about the way I was riding the whole time. Catherine never said much. The occasional "Hello." or "Good morning." was rare.

On Monday, I woke up not remembering what day it was. I got up and put on my now usual baggy sweat pants and T-shirt and went downstairs. When I got there, Mr. and Mrs. Cortex were waiting for me. "Maria!" Mrs. Cortex said. "Why aren't you dressed? You're going to school today. We need to get you registered and everything! There're a million things to do! We've done you chores, now go, get ready!" I turned around and went back upstairs.
I opened the closet and looked at the mayhem facing me. I say mayhem, because I'd never really paid any attention to my clothes before. How could I have been so blonde? I thought. I'd known since last night I was going to school today. I'd gotten a warning look from Catherine as though she was telling me not to wear anything she hadn't more or less made me get. I decided I wanted to look as controversial as possible
I put on a pair of baggy pants that had chains hanging off every few inches and connecting to the belt loops, a spaghetti-string top with my fish-net shirt under it (leaving my tattoo perfectly visible, and my zip- off boots. I looked at myself in the full-length mirror and grinned. I quickly slapped on some black eye shadow and liner and clipped my phone to my pocket like I was really expecting someone to call. I took one last look at myself in the mirror and went downstairs. Kevin had already picked up Catherine and her parents were waiting for me by the car

The school grounds were very green and well cared for. Sloping laws surrounded a black parking lot, a tall brick building, and a large welcome sign. The student cars were all parked in neat rows. I could hear the beeps as people remotely locked their doors as they walked away. People milled about in all directions. A few kids on skateboards were goofing off near the edge of the grass, jumping over a makeshift rail and pretending to fall. Right in the middle of them, was the boy who had nearly run into Catherine and me outside the shoe store, Cameron.

I grinned and followed Mr. and Mrs. Cortex up the steps and into the building. The inside of the school was just a neatly kept as the grounds around it. As outside, students milled about, a dull buzz of chatter- filled the air. We went into the office, where we were escorted into the principal's office.

The man behind the desk was very fat and very pompous. After gesturing for us to sit, he made a great ordeal of taking out my transferred records and a pen. "Well, Miss. Young." he said. "It is Young, isn't it?"
"Yes." Mrs. Cortex said. "For the moment anyway. As soon as the paperwork goes through, it'll be Cortex."
He looked at me. "What can you tell me about your academic history?"
"Well" I said, thinking back to all the schools I'd been to. "I normally get good marks. I've taken a lot of art classes. Also, I've taken two years of high school English, two years of history, two math, and two science."
He nodded as he looked over my file. "Sounds like you're up to scratch then. I think we'll put you in grade-appropriate classes. Let's see" he checked off boxes on a piece of paper as he spoke. "English, Geometry, Chemistry, American History, Tech, Health, and a couple of study halls I think. Sound alright?" He looked back up at me.
"I guess so." I said. He turned to his computer and a minute later, handed me a printout of my schedule. I looked down the list. Four classes a day, a study hall first thing every morning, and nearly an hour for lunch. The next few days already looked dismal.
I barely listened as the Cortex's and the principal talked and filled out my emergency information and such. I stared out the window, watching longingly as the boy that I now recognized as Cameron jumped over the rail, wishing that I could join him. It'd been so long since I'd been on my skateboard. Out in the halls, a bell rang. The people I'd been watching outside lingered for a moment, but in the end, they all went inside. A few minutes later, I was bidding Mr. and Mrs. Cortex good-bye and watching them leave. Standing there, all alone in the sudden vastness and deafening silence of the lobby, I felt like an abandoned puppy, watching her master's leave her whimpering behind, alone, weak, and helpless.
I looked around, my mind blank as to what to do. I sighed and looked around for someone to talk to; someone to point me toward Geometry, Room 223. A couple of girls, Catherine's crowd by the look of them walked by. At the sight of me, they sped up, talking rapidly in high-pitched whispers. I watched them too, walk away and then headed in the opposite direction.
The corridors seemed never to end. The loudspeakers in the ceiling and on the walls crackled and the principal's voice boomed over throughout. Good morning students and faculty. We need to see Maria Young, Catherine Cortex, and Cameron Ballad in the office please. Students are reminded of the dance on Friday; please sign up your guests from other schools by Thursday. I sighed and turned around and headed back to the office.
I leaned on the edge of the chest-high counter and waited silently. A minute later, Catherine came in and gave me a questioning look. What's going on? she asked.
I shrugged. "No idea." I said. "I haven't even gotten to my first class yet." She leaned beside me and we waited until the announcements had subsided.
The boy, Cameron came in just as the principal set the microphone down and stood beside us. "What's up?" He asked.
Catherine glared at him as though asking how he dared to even consider speaking to her. "No idea." I said to him. "It's my first day so..."
"Miss. Young." The principal said. "Have you gotten to your first class yet?" I shook my head. "I see. Well then, in that case, Mr. Ballad, I believe you have Geometry this period?"
"Yes, Mr. Madison." Cameron said.
"Good. Then, if you will kindly show Miss. Young the way to her first class. You can also show her around the school. I will call the teacher and ask her to excuse you for the period."
"Yes, Sir."
"Go on then." Mr. Madison said, turning to Catherine. "Now, Miss. Cortex I want to talk to you about what happened yesterday...î

I followed Cameron out the door. "What happened yesterday?" I asked.
He grinned. "Her and her boyfriend got caught having sex behind the bus garage." He said. "I'm surprised you didn't know. I though you lived with her now. That's what everyone's saying at least."
"I do. But, I don't really talk to her... I stopped in mid-step. "What do you mean everyone's saying?"
"For the last month, Catherine's been telling anyone who'll listen that this really cool girl was coming to stay with her and might be being adopted by her parents. Then, yesterday Catty told everyone that you weren't what Catherine had been telling them about at all that that you were a punked out little wretch that didn't belong with Catherine and her friends at all.
I snorted. "I figured. I met Catty when Catherine's mom took me shopping. She whigged out on me and then they told me she was ...just envious of Catherine and everything she has.
"Sounds about right. You can tell Catty's jealous of Catherine. She doesn't say it, but you can tell by the way she acts.
We started walking again. "How do you know? Do you hang out with them?"
"No." He said. "But I watch them. I have some classes with them. I keep my distance, but I still notice things that a lot of people wouldn't."
"Like what?" I asked.
Like that the chains on your pants are about an inch off from being even, there's a little bump on your shirt that makes it look like you have your belly-button pierced, and you have a tattoo on your left shoulder.
I raised my eyebrow at him. You just happened to notice? Sounds like you were checking me out.
Okay, Maybe I was, but I still notice things. I know that Catherine got a tattoo and wishes she'd gotten it in a different place.
"Oh really?"
Yeah. She was telling her friend Alicia about it in study hall yesterday.
Just how many classes do you have with her anyway?" I asked as we turned into the next corridor.
He thought for a minute. "Th...three, I think. I think she's in my other study hall too, but I never go to that one. Senior privileges, you know."
"I see."
Oh, uh... This is the Geometry room." He said. We stopped at the end of the corridor and peeked into the room, where a small woman was talking animatedly to a class of bored looking students. "What's your next class?"
English 11.î I said, glancing down at my schedule.
"Same here." He said, leading me back down the corridor and into another one. "So..." he said, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. "What do you like to do for fun?"
I laughed. "That's original." I said. "But, I guess if you really want to know, I skateboard, ride horses, and dance."
"Cool." We stopped again. "This is the English room. We're watching a movie in there right now. Or at least I think we are. I haven't been into class in a couple days. What do you have after this?"
I snickered and looked down at the schedule. "Study hall in the cafeteria."
"Ah." He said. "A free period. Study hall in there means that none of the regular study halls have room for you. You don't really have to go in there. You can go pretty much wherever you want during that period. I have a study hall but don't ever go."
"I see." I was running out of things to say.
"Uh huh. Are you going to the dance?" We stopped in the middle of the cafeteria.
"I don't know. I guess I will if I can find a way to get there."
"You can't go with Catherine?"
"I doubt it. I don't think she wants Kevin to meet me. When he picked her up for that party, she hurried him away before I could even really see him."
He laughed. "Maybe she's afraid he'll like you. I mean, at the party, she watched him like a hawk and wouldn't let him more than five feet away."
"You were at the party?"
"Yeah. Not invited you understand, but there just the same."
I giggled. "Crasher." He shrugged.
We walked around a while longer, still talking and joking while he showed me where all my classes were. I found out that I had six classes with Cameron and, at the same time, three with Catherine. I decided that I liked, almost loved Cameron very much. After he showed me where my period eight Health class was, he took me outside, where he showed me what he could do on a skateboard. I couldn't resist showing him up as I jumped perfectly over someone's bike and landed back on his board. The one time I lost my balance, he was there in a flash to catch me. I was shocked when, instead of hitting the hard cement, I landed in his arms and looked up to see his dark eyes looking back at me. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah." I said. "I'll be alright.