Author's Note: Thank you to all of my reviewers. Here's the next part.

In my opinion, school doesn't start early enough. Not that I'm interested in being there any longer than I have to, or that I like getting up earlier. It's not even that I don't like being at home, well, not really. I just keep thinking that if maybe if it started two hours before it does now, it wouldn't feel like such an enormous waste of my day. A day that I could spend doing . well, I guess I don't know precisely. But that's not the point.

The point is that the sooner I get there, the sooner I'm allowed to leave. Once I'm there, though, I don't really care about that whole "early" crap- actually, I tend to go for more of a "better late than never" creed. Lunch outside and lunch detention for too many between-class tardies is still school either way. So I figure that if they stick me in it once a month because I don't feel like making it to my physics class "en punto", there isn't any reason to get a hernia. Afterall, lunch detention generally doesn't include a lecture on the velocity of a bullet.

Unfortunately, neither the school nor my sister shares my opinion.

"Annah, you can't just skip half of class because you don't feel like walking across campus!" she begins, and I can tell she's preparing to fight this one.

"Obviously, I can."

"They're docking your science grade!"

"So? What am I going to be, a chemist?"


"I'm telling you! Who cares? Tiffany--"



"If you don't do well in school, Aunt Maggie will make you go back to live with her." We both pause, and then Tiffany continues with her edge. "She gets all of these papers before I do. You know she does."

"So? I'll go back and live with her, then." I'm callous, but I don't mean this part. My aunt has four boys and a three-bedroom home in Arizona. End of that discussion. I pleaded for months before she would allow me to move out to California to be with, my sister Tiffany and her fiancé, Rob. Because she still technically has custody of me, the school mails all of my grades to my aunt-she reads them and then sends everything to my sister.

Tiffany, evidently with all of this in mind, gives me a skeptical look, "Do you really want to go back?"

I sigh, frustrated, "Well, no. But still, who cares about a stupid science grade? I already told you, I'm not going to be a chemist, or a physicist, or a-"

"Okay, I get it, I get it. Be a truck driver, or a ballet dancer, or an artist, or whatever." She rolls her eyes at me. "But you still have to have the grade to stay here."

"Yeah, yeah . I know . I will."

She gives me a serious look, "Then do. Before your next grade report comes out, preferably. Aunt Maggie sent me a two-page letter with all of this, you know. One more toe out of line and I no longer have any say in your fate. Neither of us will." She pauses. "I don't want you to have to leave any more than you want to go."

"I know."

She drops the stack of papers that are my grades in front of me onto the kitchen/dining room table and picks up her purse.

"I have to go to the grocery store and then to pick up Rob-"

"God, how long does it take to fix a car?"

"Too long. I'll see you in a few hours, okay? Get some homework done, or something." She glances into the mirror, runs her hands through the smooth, nut-brown coiffure of hers that I have been envious of my entire life, and leaves.

I don't look at the papers on the table. I don't want to know and I keep hoping that if I act like it long enough, I eventually won't care. Instead, I make my way through my sister's two-bedroom apartment to my room.

It's Sunday evening, and the late afternoon sunlight filters dimly through my window blinds. It highlights the countless drawings and artworks I have pinned to my walls in glowing strips and, for a moment, the angled darkness keeps the horrors of my clothes-strewn floor at bay.

The savanna landscape is still on my desk from yesterday-that and a few empty cracker packages, old homework papers, and my art box. A picture of a castle I drew four years ago hangs thumb-tacked above it.

I study it, allowing my rough stubs of nails to trace its childish lines restlessly before I look up again around my room.

I've been living with my sister for four years now-ever since I was in the eighth grade. She's been engaged to Rob for almost that long, and we've been living with him for the past year and a half. They've been waiting to be settled before they formally get married. The date is set for next month, actually.

My real parents -our real parents- left when I was two and my sister was twelve. I don't remember them at all and Tiffany won't really talk about it. The truth is, I'm sort of scared to ask. Ever since they left we've been bouncing between relatives- that is until my sister went off to college and eventually got her own place. We moved to this apartment after Rob moved it, and I like it. It's nicer-bigger. And I have my own room, as opposed to sharing with Tiffany.

My backpack is in the corner on the other side of my desk and, after my recent "discussion" with Tiffany, I suppose I should probably start my weekend homework. Considering it is Sunday night . . . even though this is easily 3 hours before I would have thought of it on my own.

I reluctantly clear a spot on my desk, which is harder than it sounds. Papers get shoved everywhere in the process and I'm afraid some of those crackers may now be rather permanently ground into the carpet. But whatever.

Three hours and too many history facts later, I stop. My sister isn't home yet, but she and Rob go out to dinner on their own sometimes, so I'm not worried.

Because of my relative lack of sleep last night, staying up with Aimy and Rachel, I realize how tired I am. I could stock up on caffeine (we are never without Cola, both Tiffany and I are completely addicted to it) but I decide not to. It's going on ten now anyway and I don't really have anything to stay awake for. Considering the cable bill last month, TV is pretty out.

At first, I don't know what has woken me up. I lie with my eyes open, staring at my dark ceiling, when something taps my window sharply. I start and then sit up. A few moments pass and it happens again. I realize that I am trembling slightly and chastise myself. When the tap comes again, I swing my legs carefully out of bed and cross my room to my window, which is on the other side of my desk. I have a second-story view of the side-yard to our community backyard. I peer through the blinds and, dimly lit, I see Rob, another stone in his hand, ready to throw. On the ground is my sister.