Ariana knew that she was different the moment she walked into Taylor-Johnson High. Everything here was so bizarre. The kids seemed to segregate into groups, sitting in various areas of the halls. Some looked like they had just stepped out of a magazine, perfectly groomed, wearing bright colors, in all the right fashions. Others were so different, they had on dark, baggy clothes and everyone, even the boys, wore black lipstick and huge earrings. And God separated the light from the darkness, calling the darkness night and the light day, Ariana thought.

Everyone looked up from their conversation and time seemed to stand still. Somehow the blue dress that she had tried on five times last night just didn't fit in here…she might have had two heads from the looks she was getting. And I suppose the shoes are out of place as well? Her new sandals weren't too flashy. They had a small heel and a neat arrangement of straps that Ariana thought very pretty. She had decided to wear her hair down. The strawberry-blonde layers cascaded around her face and all the way down her back. All the muscles in her stomach knotted up. She told herself it was just paranoia brought on by a bad case of nerves. Yes, that had to be it, just nerves. So with her head held high, she squared her shoulders and walked into the office.

The office walls were plain white and the carpet was a generic tan color. Plain, normal, safe. "May I help you?" asked the receptionist. It was the first day of school and she already sounded tired. But Ariana could see warmth in her eyes and smoothness in her voice that helped to ease the tension in her shoulders. Ariana looked down at the nameplate on the desk: Ms. Daily. That was one she'd never heard before. Ms. Daily had a kind face, the face you might find on a dear aunt.

You are always with me, Father. Saying that silent prayer to find her voice, she took a deep breath. "Yes, my name's Ariana Evans. I was told to see Mrs. Smith when I got here so that I could get my schedule straightened out?"

"Yes, back behind me, it's the second door on the right."

"Thank you." Ariana gave the woman a genuine smile and followed her directions to another office. It was a very comfortable office, unlike most of the rest of the school. The light brown carpet was kept very clean and the walls were painted a very warm burgundy color. The sun filtered in through big windows behind her desk, lighting the room, making the various lamps seem merely for decoration. The desk was neatly kept, with a few pictures of Mrs. Smith's family. Ariana's eyes set on a picture of a little boy holding up a fish. Picking it up her mind wandered to when her won father had gone fishing with her and her brother. She remembered the giggle fit she had whenever she caught a particularly wriggley fish. Sunny moments in her life when she had her daddy all to herself and she was truly a daddy's girl. Those moments were short-lived, weren't they, Lord? She could not keep the contempt from her thoughts. She pushed those thoughts away with a stiff smile.

"Miss Evans, is it?"

Ariana jumped at the sound of the voice behind her. Turning, she met the gaze of a very stout looking woman. A few inches shorter than Ariana, she had black hair and very dark skin. And very stern, blue eyes, Ariana noticed. She could tell that this woman sat very comfortably on her throne of position at this school. "Yes," Ariana looked down at the picture she was holding and blushed. She set it back where it had been and extended her hand. "I'm Ariana Evans, nice to meet you Mrs.—"

"Smith. I will be your principal here at TJ High." Mrs. Smith had a very strong handshake for a woman of her stature, a woman of the world. She walked around behind her desk in strides that ate at the ground. "Have a seat Miss Evans and we can get this schedule of yours sorted out." Ariana sat with a little discomfort. She groaned inwardly. Five minutes into this school and already on bad terms with the principal. Nice going Evans.

"I hope you don't mind me look at your pictures…is that your son?"

Mrs. Smith gave a weak smile, not very pleased in the change of subject. "That's quite alright. Yes, that's my son Wesley. He turns ten next week."

"Oh, that's nice, tell him I said Happy Birthday."

"I will. Now, on to business."

It took a good twenty minutes for her schedule to be put to rights. It was her senior year and the classes kept getting harder. She planned to have quite a bit of time on her hands so she thought to changing some of her electives to academics. She was new to town just yet and didn't have anything social planned for a while. She didn't think she was up to it anyway. Clutching the tiny piece of paper in her hands, Ariana walked out of the office thinking of how she would ever find her way. Not even thinking where she was going, she ran into something solid. Losing her balance, she braced herself on a wall. Hands came around her waist to steady her. "Are you alright?"

Ariana looked into those golden brown eyes and whatever she was going to say just decided to mix up in her brain. C'mon heart, don't fail me now! She had to shake her head to get it clear enough to speak. "Y-yes, I am so sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going I…" I can't speak!

He could see her struggle. "That's ok." He still had his hand on her waist and she was very aware of that all of the sudden. Her pulse quickened and she took a step back. His hands fell away, leaving her skin cold at their passing. His skin was the same golden brown of his eyes and he wore a white T-shirt under a letterman jacket that fit well on his strong, broad shoulders. Her eyes passed over his thick brown hair. Every part of him seemed to have been chiseled from stone. "No harm done?" he asked with a smile.

"Yes…no…I-umm," she was stammering. That smile, I swear! Pull yourself together Evans. She laughed at her foolish ego. She could feel his gaze on her. "No harm done, I guess." Ariana looked herself up and down. Her hands were empty. The piece of paper from her hands was now at her feet. She bent her knees discretely to pick it up.