Chapter 1:

Describe your life in one sentence.

I stared at the general command printed in bold black letter on the whiteboard. My first thought was that the question, like most of the questions we were given each day for journal, was a large waste of my time and mental capabilities. I glanced around the large, airy room containing small, uncomfortable desks and large, obnoxious pupils. My teacher stood at his desk, probably reveling in the fact he could make adolescent teenagers on the brink of adulthood describe their self-absorbed lives in only one sentence. Of course, other students were dutifully penning down some kind of sentence to describe their lives. I sighed and rolled my eyes, chewing on the tip of my pen in hopes that ingesting it would help in writing a measly little sentence.

My English teacher was a demented nerd. That didn't help my situation any, or even offer a flicker of any imaginational spark, but the fact that I had thought it helped make me feel better. Perhaps I was procrastinating the answer with ignorance.

How in the world was I supposed to sum my life up in only one sentence? In all actuality, my life would take a novel, but I hated writing anything longer than a page. Thus I sat in an English honors class. The contradiction hadn't fazed me thus far.

The question continued to stare at me. And so I wrote the first thought occurrence that flashed through my brain when I thought about my meager existence:

My life is a variable sequence of unorthodox and hazardous situations contorted coincidentally together to create the purgatory that is my life.

I liked to use big words, especially with a generation that enjoyed using "like" about fifteen times in the same sentence. Whether or not my life truly was like that would be a debatable topic, only because no one would understand what it meant and would need the aid of a dictionary. My teacher, Mr. Stilts, was one who would not. He would see right through my choice of large meaningless words, but I didn't care. In my estimations, I had greater problems to deal with.

My grandmother living across the hall who enjoyed listening to music from people who died years ago, and my twin brothers were just a few of those problems. Not to mention my parents who liked to talk about their latest surgery at the dinner table. It gave a great mental image while eating, believe me. And Mr. Stilts was going to get mad at me for saying my life was a purgatory. He had no idea.

"Remember, I don't want any run-on sentences, please." There were a few groans at this reminder and I had to smile. I may not have understood the question at first, but I wasn't dumb enough to try a run-on in an English class. Most of the 'apt pupils' were pulling out their various forms of white-out and re-writing their carefully thought out lives.

Without caring who was done, Mr. Stilts began calling on random students to read their answers. For some reason I seemed to be a favorite to call on. Mr. Stilts had a cruel way of picking favorites. I cringed. Half the class would think my answer was "totally cool", while the better witted half would nod and think in subtle contemplation, though in all actuality, wouldn't understand what in the world I had just said. Mr. Stilts would quirk his eyebrow above his thick-rimmed glasses and give that "you could have done better" look. It was a typical look that everyone knew. I was so concentrated on my comical mental image – at least to me it was comical – that I didn't hear my name called.

"Miss Schwepler." My name on his tongue, or on anyone's tongue, made it sound worse.

I strongly disliked my last name, another thing I was cursed with by my parents. I mean, who invented last names anyway? And why did some people get normal last names like Thompson and Holmes while I was stuck with one that sounded like a brand name of Ginger Ale?

My head shot up immediately. I didn't need to know from the snickering who had been called. With a slight roll of the eyes I repeated my answer aloud from my seat in the back. My mental image unfolded in front of me and I almost laughed. Mr. Stilts frowned slightly while offering a few words of encouragement I didn't pay attention to. He then turned to the rest of the class.

"This wasn't a question to be taken lightly, class." he said and glanced in my general direction. "It was a thought-provoker," As though anyone in this class would know what that means, I thought, "and by some of your answers, you took it seriously. Now comes your monthly project." Groans filled the room.

Secretly I enjoyed monthly projects. They gave me an excuse to be in my room for over two hours instead of having "family bonding time" with, joy of all joys, my blessed family. Last month had been a study on the life of a poet. We could choose any one we wanted, and most of the no-brainers decided on Shakespeare. Not that I didn't like Shakespeare, it's just everyone had chosen to write about him. Thus I decided on some morbid poet whose name I forget, but he was good. That could have been because half of his poems seemed to run with my usual depressing theme. But, I had earned an A from the project while the rest of the brainless were tossed B's and C's. Some thought-provoker.

"For the next month a half we'll be studying a topic as a class and then writing a final essay on it. I've copied a series of poems and short stories that we will analyze and then critique. I'll give you a hint: we'll be looking at the Greek mythological god Eros, and learning a little about Cupid. Anyone care to guess what it topic is?"

I glared at my book of "Greatest Poems from the Dead". It was love. I knew it. Of all the topics of this world and the man had to choose love! Love, I thought almost bitterly. I hated the word. Whoever invented it was living in a room of padded walls. With that I cringed and my whole train of thought twisted in utter agony. Love was such a pernicious word. It brought things like children, thought darkly. Whoever had said children were the best part of marriage was on meds. Among children were soap operas, and Shakespeare and western songs and the list could've gone on if I'd had the time.

A boy answered it correctly and the class was a mix of funny looks and excited squeals accompanied with clapping. I felt like dry heaving. How could anyone in their right mind want to look deeper into love? They would have to be of the 'normal' people…or poets. Not to put a damper on those poets who are depressing and believe we are the product of fate and society. I seemed to be one of them. Never in my life had I ever been able to write romance. I believed love to be a waste of time to pursue when it would – or should – come to you by a twist of something akin to fate. My mother believed that I would join a convent in Siberia when I'd first said this, but she got married at nineteen so I can't exactly blame her. Over the past couple years she seemed to accept my dark cynical view of the annoying explosion of hormones.

My thoughts returned once more to what Mr. Stilts had to say – "…don't want you flaking out on this project. It's going to be worth forty percent of your project grade for this year. If you put it off until the last minute, I'll know and will mark you accordingly." Ah, the all-knowing English teacher strikes a mighty blow, "…and I'll also need an explanation of your essay – why you feel the way you do about it. If you don't like this topic, please tell me why you think this way."

The bell rang and I sighed as I shoved pens into my case and my binder into my mixed up backpack. It had a million patches and pins on it – "hardly recognizable" were the words my mother used. My favorite class had just turned into my most-hated, unless it gave me a new view of it, which I highly doubted. New perspectives were always welcomed in my mind; unless they were so utterly unconvincing that only a three-year-old would agree with it. I shoved the rest of my books into my bag except for my "Greatest Poems from the Dead" book and headed to my locker.

I believe my teachers, parents, and my principal had a special meeting when they planned for my locker. Instead of the normal place just down the hall or close to the office, my locker was the farthest away from everyone, and right beside the Student Counselor's office. My principal, when questioned, smiled at me and laughed – then he disappeared back into his office. I didn't understand the man, nor did anyone else, but I didn't exactly mind being exiled from the rest of the hallway. At least I didn't have to deal with people who found it enjoyable to lean against random lockers and block everyone from their paraphernalia. Only new people would be assigned next to me, and I was sure I could easily ignore them, or cause them to move due to my utterly sweet nature. You would think that I have no friends, I thought wryly, shoving books into my locker's messy innards.

"Bray-den!" My stomach roiled, and I winced at the sing-song-y voice of my sister, April. She was older than me by one year and ever since I had been born we'd hated each other.

I turned slightly, noticed her bright pink sweater that ended below her shoulders, and went back to my locker, pretending that it was more interesting than the ditz standing next to me. "You wish to speak to me in public? Wouldn't that ruin your precious reputation?" It would have to be for a good reason or she wouldn't have been there.

"I just wanted you to tell mom and dad that I'll be at the library until five or six because I have a math study meeting thing."

I turned to study her with a blank stare. Her flawless face was completely…smiling. I laughed – my sister wouldn't study if her blond head depended on it. I swear, when she popped out, she had a tube of lip gloss and comb stuck to her hands. Either there was a cute geek she was crushing on, or she was going elsewhere. I guessed the latter.

"Sure, but if dad asks where you are and doesn't believe my first excuse, I might have to make one up – like intelligent aliens mistook you for their long-lost dog." The last excuse she'd made up was "We weren't necking, mom, he was whispering me a secret!" I had no doubt that her next one would be just as undeniably convincing. Guys seemed to like her low I.Q., however – among other things, which I would never understand.

She smiled a glossy-lipped smile worse than a Barbie figurine and left the way she'd come. I made a disgusted face and headed for another mundane class of Math Honors. This produces a real "geek" image for me, doesn't it?

I was sort of a geek; however there were severe differences between me and what you would call a geek. If you had the guts to call me such a name I wouldn't take offense, although I would have advised you to lock your windows. Worse names had been whispered and thrown at me from the safety of the hallway, none of which I will repeat. "Brayden the Geek Girl" will suffice. It wasn't that I was smart; I just grasped the normal concepts better than the rest of the vapid plebeians who cared more about that one pimple on their forehead.

The rest of my day seemed to drag on as it usually did. English seemed to have dampened my day completely, along with my usual self-dosage of euphoria. My greeting when I got home was no help either.

"Brayden, guess what? Colton likes a girl who wears Barney underwear and picks her nose!" my brother, Devon chimed brightly from the kitchen table where he sat eating cookies. Apparently the whole cookies and milk trend was dead.

My grandmother sat there as well, doing a crossword in a book, one of many. Colton ran into the room in outrage and smacked Devon across the head. At this, Devon smacked him back. This went back and forth for awhile, their bright blonde hair flying at each smack. When God had created siblings, I believe they were meant to come out in the form of one screaming human being, not two. One pain was enough, especially if they happened to be six and three quarter years younger. Somehow, He made a mistake with me, however. Thus Colton and Devon popped out screaming and wailing at the same time after almost two days of labor to terrorize my life until I was old enough to run away. I still didn't believe my parents when they said someday we'd be friends. It wasn't humanly possible for me to become friends with animals, unless I was suddenly given the capabilities of Doctor Dolittle.

"Ow! I'm telling, you pig face!" Devon yelled after about the third smack.

"At least I'm not as ugly as you!" Colton bit back, failing to realize they were identical twins.

My grandmother looked up from her crossword, a frown puckering her mouth. "Kids, be clean and creative with your words," she said as though her voice were stern.

Colton sighed and paused, obviously thinking of something creative and clean. "You human piece of excrement floating in saliva-filled sewage!"

Grandma nodded and went back to her crossword.

I blinked at the whole scene that had just gone on. Sometimes I had to remind myself that I was adopted just appease my doubts. Call it self-denial if you wish. Sad to say, it was only half of my family. The other half was picking apart people's bodies, quite interesting to put it literally.

"How was your day, Puke Eyes?" Devon asked after he'd given up in finding a good name for his twin, his blue eyes gleaming.

I glared at him. My eyes were turquoise, but they were a strange version of turquoise. This immediately was defined as puke-colored as soon as the twins reached the age where their vocabulary consisted of anything unsanitary. Hence my fabulous nickname.

"About as great as the day you were born," I replied, stealing a cookie from him and retreating to my room two floors up.

The house was divided into four floors. There was a basement, main floor, second floor, and third floor. I lived in what would have been the attic, but my parents had decided to make me into an everyday Cinderella. The room was fully finished and comfortable, and far enough away from the zoo downstairs that I could enjoy peace and quiet, for the most part. At times it didn't seem far enough away from the chaos that often ensued.

You might have already figured something out about my brothers and sister. Besides the fact I'm the only "normal" one, we're all alphabetically named, in order by when we were born: April, Brayden, Colton, and Devon. Maybe my parents were morbidly cruel, maybe they were addicted to Sesame Street, or maybe they needed a way of remembering who their kids were; either way, I thought it was strange. That and the fact I was cursed with a boy's name. What kind of girl is named Brayden? My theory was that parents expected a boy and when they found out it wasn't true they didn't feel like coming up with a normal girl's name like normal people. Of course, I could have come out with some oddly sadistic name like Bertha or Betty or Baby Cakes so I guess I should be counting my blessings. In any case, my name stood.

Brayden Anne Schwepler – the 'Anne' was an excuse for feminine taste – whose last name could be a brand of ginger ale and whose eyes looked like puke. I glanced in my mirror for a minute and was reminded by my small ego that they were indeed turquoise. My body was still stuck in third grade, thin and stringy, but still only five foot one and a quarter inches. Short black hair that was longer in front and short in back hung in front of my face, possibly to hide the eyes, while my complexion was clear and slightly olive. I was surprised that the mirror didn't shatter into a million pieces at the sight of me. Who in the world had puke/turquoise eyes? Was it something my mother had eaten – perhaps her own cooking? Had my parents genetically engineered me to have puke/turquoise eyes to coincide with my weird name and shoe size, which happened to be three and a half? I shrugged at my self-absorbed thought and, instead of pressing play on my CD player, pressed the button that turned on the radio.

I hated the radio. Whoever had invented the stupid thing was probably frowning at its uses. Music all day with a billion stations and all anyone got in our town was pop music and Britney Spears' new single: "I'm A Slut and I Can Cry If I Want To". I didn't think any of her fans would kill me for that comment due to its truthfulness. In any case I turned it off after a few short, disgusted seconds, and put on a band called Stutterfly. Having and liking bands that no one knew of were way better than any Britney Spears single. It gave me a chance to see people's faces screw up in concentration as they went through the Top 40 and attempted to place the band, creating my amusement for the day.

My homework was finished in less than an hour and I settled against my crazy mismatch of pillows to write a poem – morbid and depressing, of course. I'd never been able to not write something morbid and depressing. Perhaps this was because of the fact that I'd seen "Schindler's List" before I was five or that I was naturally cynically sarcastic, if that was something one inherited naturally. My notebook was getting full – I'd have to buy a new one. My hand began to write about a serial killer's spirit that came to my town and lived next door in a spindly, run-down old house. Not like that was true, but it could've happened in such a small town as mine.

Reichton. It sounded like something you sneezed. A population of almost fifty thousand and everyone knew that Mrs. Kramer was better than any old tabloid. In fact, the town bingo palace was the busiest, thriving business out of everything. This fact alone could have destroyed my will to live, but there were a few places where teens could hang out without the prying eyes of old people. My candy store was one of them. Another, more "mature" place was in small, old basement below an office building. It was called The Fridge and had a coffee bar and a Poet's Night. I swore I would die before going there to sip legal addictive stimulants and listen to people who talked about butterflies. This wasn't me being negative; I'd actually experienced it, thankfully only once.

As the song changed to the next one I could vaguely hear my grandma's old Beatles song from her room across the hall. My constant serenade throughout the night – the only way she could sleep. Elvis and the Beatles were her favorites. If they really had lived in a yellow submarine, I wished they'd stayed there and died from lack of oxygen. It would have saved my life less pain. I already lived with weird parents who called each other Boo and Bunny. You'd have thought they should've belonged to some Yacht club for stuffy millionaires.

"Hey, Puke-head! There's some guy selling chocolates at the door! Can we buy some?" Devon yelled from two floors down. I wished I could remind him that his voice was too high-pitched to yell, but I considered myself more mature than that.

Calmly I opened my door and went down the three sets of stairs where he stood, swinging on the banister. My eyebrow rose slightly. It was a sister trademark. All sisters could give the eyebrow. "Who let you open the door?"

Devon shrugged, unable to stay in one place for less than one second. "I want candy, and so does Colton!"

I observed his slightly chubby face, "Believe me, that's the last thing you need. You'll become some acne face when you reach Junior High and people will call you weird names."

"Like you?" He liked to hit my sore spots and then grin about it. Junior High hadn't been my most favorite three years of hell. "C'mon! The guy's waiting!" The corners of his mouth were still encrusted with chocolate from his cookies.

With a sigh I opened the front door wider than its two-inch space and was met with the most bizarre sight known to man, or at least, to me.

Picture a classic garage-band-type boy with black hair tipped royal blue in a skater-ish 'slightly messy, but gelled' look, black pants, and a black shirt that said something about some metal band from the seventies. Next to him was a little boy with round doe eyes and dark brown hair in scout uniform holding a box, and wearing a timidly curious face. The two were so completely opposite, they reminded me of Abbot and Costello.

"Sorry, kids. Halloween is still about five months away," my face was disbelieving but still unlaughing. "How much for your candy?"

The punk smiled slightly in that 'that-was-sort-of-funny-but-I'm-humoring-you-because-I'm-more-mature' way and looked down at the little boy as though to encourage him. The little boy, in turn, looked up at me. Did I look psychic? Or perhaps there was a pamphlet with all the prices on my forehead. He still smiled up at me shyly, maybe hoping I could read it on his face where he had written in white Magic Marker.

"Three bucks," the punk informed me finally.

Devon spoke before I could. "Whoa! Three bucks for a dumb ol' candy bar? I could buy a Pokemon card for that!" And with that simple statement he went back inside to terrorize Colton. I almost pulled him back so he could apologize but he slipped out of my finger reach. Great, he had left me to clean up his disastrous hit-and-run with words.

The little boy looked ready to tear up and that little pang of guilt became slightly bigger. I detested emotion. My stupid little brother really had a handle on his words – probably from me. I looked down at him once more and rolled my eyes. "I'll buy one," I said, hoping to smooth things out. I didn't want some punk blue-haired bloke stalking me because I didn't buy a candy bar from his brother, or whatever he was.

Suddenly the almost-waterfall stopped and the little boy rubbed his runny nose on his sleeve. That act alone almost brought me to say no again, and I stifled the urge to visibly grimace. Little boys could be so gross, and the sad thing is they never grew out of that stage, they just hid it better. The punk, however, deterred me from this.

"Hold on." I paid them, and took the chocolate without touching the youngster's grimy fingers, and shut the door, hoping to sneak the bar to my room safely.

Colton and Devon were playing Super Mario on their N64 and wouldn't have noticed me if I'd yelled "Fire!" Brainless generation they were becoming. Pretty soon the government would be forced to issue subliminal messages into the games so at least they'd be capable of some knowledgeable thought. I watched Colton's mushroom dude bash some caterpillar thing a few times before it made a 'bang' noise and flew into coins. The boys simultaneously turned to each other and grinned before staring back at the screen. What was the point of video games again? I wondered.

I decided not to let my brain get sucked in from mindless contemplation over a feebleminded game and went back to my room. Perhaps the chocolate bar in my hand would be the inspiration to the next poem written by the great poetic genius of…Brayden.