JILL WAS NOT WELL liked in her school. It wasn't that she was disliked, it was more that she didn't really have many good friends. Jill was not involved in extracurricular activities, not that she was busy, it was more that the activities offered by her school didn't interest her, and she didn't ever go to parties, not so much that she didn't like celebrating, it was more that alcohol and pop music didn't really seem like much of a good time to Jill.

Of course, just because Jill didn't have many good friends, it didn't mean she was unpopular. The social structure of her very small high school was unusual, and popularity was relative. There were so few people in the school; it was impossible to really have an "in" crowd. After all, everyone knew everyone else, and everyone had a small circle of close friends besides those acquaintances they talked to but didn't share personal information with. If there was an in-crowd, it was impossible to know which crowd that was.

Angellica was one of those girls who Jill would consider one of her close friends. Jill didn't open up much with people- mostly because she didn't have any secrets and she didn't have many problems. Angellica, on the other hand, was a very secretive person who kept to herself. She made small talk with Jill when they had classes together, and Jill felt a sort of connection with this girl- neither of them shared deep, personal secrets with others, and neither had a "best friend."

Jill couldn't be sure if Angellica felt the same connection- she'd never really mentioned it, for fear that Angellica would think the idea was weird. However, Jill did consider Angellica to be a good friend, and she was sure that Angellica considered her to be one of her own good friends.

"Jill, are you done with your assignment?" her English teacher asked, interrupting her reverie. Jill nodded- she'd finished reading her selection long ago. The teacher made a face, obviously not pleased with the idea that Jill hadn't been doing anything wrong, and said, "Well, I'm sure you have something better to do than stare into space. Get something to work on."

The fact of the matter was, Jill didn't have anything else to work on, so she pulled a book out from under her desk, and began to read it. The book was very boring, and it had been written by one of Jill's least favorite authors- Charles Dickens. It was hard to concentrate on what she read, and she finally gave up when other people in the room began to talk to each other.

Because the teacher wasn't yelling at them, Jill decided that it was all right with him to socialize. She put her book away and peeked at Angellica, who was sitting next to her. She was busily writing something- maybe it was homework. It could also be a story- sometimes Angellica let Jill read the stories she wrote. Curiously, Jill read the paper, figuring that if it was something personal, Angellica wouldn't be writing it in school.

"Pfi gorvuyk ggsty, se liirpupfi zarbud sehtlon. Morendtor, pyargpfi apfi jubel bodu, se seintreaupfuajz gehtka nio shlep telyo," the paper read. Jill didn't recognize any of the gibberish, and she asked, "Is that Spanish homework?" Since she didn't take Spanish, it made sense that Jill wouldn't recognize the language.

Angellica's head shot up, as if she'd forgotten anyone was with her. She saw Jill, and said, "Oh, it's just a story I'm writing. I, uh, sort of made up my own language, and I thought it would be cool to write something that only I would understand."

Jill snorted. "You made up your own language?" she asked, quickly deciding that Angellica had far more free time than she needed. "And you actually know enough of it to write stories in it without looking anything up?" she continued, finding this more shocking than the fact that Angellica had created a language. "What's it called, Angellish?"

"Actually . . . . Well, I haven't thought of a name for my language yet, Angellish is as good as any," Angellica replied.

Julie pointed to the passage she'd just read. "What does that say?" she asked, underlining the words with a pencil. Angellica quickly erased the marks, and Jill momentarily regretted not asking Angellica if she minded.

"It says, 'I am very afraid, and I know much can go wrong. However, I know there is no other choice, and I will follow through with our plan." Angellica read, not even pausing to think about what the words really meant. Jill wondered if maybe Angellica was just writing gibberish and making this up.

"What's your story about?" she asked. Even if Angellica had made up the meanings for the words, she was still intrigued by the story. Angellica always wrote great, descriptive stories, and Jill loved having the opportunity to read them, even though Angellica usually didn't let her finish them.

Angellica made a face. "I don't really like to talk about my stories before they're done," she admitted. She glanced at the clock, and Jill did so as well, and saw that there were only about twenty seconds left of class. Angellica began to gather her books, and said, "I'll let you read it once it's done." A second later, the bell rang, and Jill hurriedly left the room, hoping to get out of the parking lot before her crazy classmates began their daily drag races.

ANGELLICA HAD CHANGED QUICKLY, seeing no reason to stay behind and socialize with the other cheerleaders. She wasn't particularly interested in knowing the current gossip about dates, and she had far better things to worry about than rumors.

She was still nervous when the coach arrived and began practice. The coach yelled at her, telling her that she was a half-second behind on the cheers, and that her movements weren't sharp. Angellica did her best to smile and pretend everything was OK, because she knew that she couldn't share her problems with anyone else, and she didn't want anyone to try to make her talk about her problems.

The coach was obviously becoming irritated with the way Angellica was performing, but she said nothing. "Let's work on stunts," she said, and had the cheerleaders set up in their usual formation. Being the smallest and lightest cheerleader, Angellica was the flyer- or the one who was lifted into the air. Laura and Stacy supported Angellica's feet, while Brittany steadied her from behind.

The stunt was executed perfectly, as the cheerleaders had been working on it for a while. Once Angellica was in the air, however, the coach suggested they add something new. Instead of letting her back on the ground again like they usually did, the coach suggested that they hold her in the air as long as they could, then throw her in the air and catch her. While Angellica wasn't sure about how well such a thing could be done, especially if this was the first time they attempted it, she was sure that the coach wouldn't listen to her worries after such a bad practice, so she said nothing.

Stacy's arms were already shaking while they held her in the air, but she didn't say anything either, not wanting to appear weak in front of her friends. When the time came to throw Angellica, Laura and Brittany threw her high into the air, and Stacy tried, but instead, she dropped Angellica's foot.

Angellica immediately fell in Stacy's direction, and while the others rushed in to catch her, they were unable to stop Angellica's head from hitting the hard gym floor, and everything went dark.