Chapter One

Kaitlin and I are sitting in my room, staring blankly at the television. Some lame MTV reality show is on the screen, and Kaitlin's completely absorbed. I honestly don't blame her, some scripted reality show is way better than our reality. Our stale, boring selves reside in Los Angeles, California, some place that shouldn't be boring, but it is to me.

"This is so real," Kaitlin sighs as she clutches the remote to her chest. "Wouldn't it be fun to be on television?"

I roll my green eyes. People with green eyes are often defined as striking, dangerous, and gorgeous. Blue eyes are the sweet, sensitive ones. And brown means that the certain person has a good head on their shoulders. I'm not striking, dangerous, or gorgeous, I just have normal green eyes because I am a normal, boring person.

A comercial for Old Navy appears. Kaitlin's chocolate eyes unglue from the television and stare at me for a long time. I become annoyed.

"What?"

"Nothing," Kaitlin says. "I guess I should get going. My parents and I are going to Pizza Hut."

"Okay," I reply. I didn't give her a goodbye hug because I'm not sad to see her go. Hanging around Kaitlin is really lame. "I'll see you tomorrow at school."

She picks up her purse and leaves.

Several minutes later, the phone rings.

"Moira!" my mom yells us the stairs. "It's Thomas!"

Thomas Wakener is my boyfriend. We got together at the beginning of the year when Kaitlin's boyfriend, Ray, told her that Thomas liked me. He was nice and average so I agreed to go out with him, even though there was zero sparks. Every Friday I sit through a mindless double date that consits of dinner and a movie. Dinner is always pizza or Chinese. The movie is always the new release. To be honest, Thomas bores me to tears.

I pick up the phone. "Hello?"

"Hi, Moira." Thomas's voice is hard to hear, so I turn the volume up on the phone.

"Hi, Thomas." I don't call Thomas 'Tommy' because that'd be too quirky for our lifestyle. God forbid nicknames.

"What are you doing?" he askes like he's actually interested.

I open up a bottle of clear nail polish. "I'm about to paint my nails."

"Oh."

There is a moment of silence as Thomas waits for me to ask what he's doing. Our conversations are always like this.

"What are you doing?"

"My Spanish homework," he says. "Do you want to come over and help me?"

"I was actually looking forward to spending the night alone," I say. "And I'm pretty tired." There's no point in lying and saying I was busy. Thomas knows me too well.

"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow at school." He hangs up, and I put the phone back in the cradle and begin on my first nail.

-

-

-

Things weren't always like this. A lot of things used to be fun and had meaning. Middle school was all about boys, and make-up, and gossip, and I hate to admit that I found that amusing. I met Kaitlin in the fifth grade, and we'd always talk details and ponder things aloud. My ballroom dancing class had a point, and I used to love twirling around against a stranger and then bust out the Tango.

And then something happened.

Chatting about mascara transformed from entertaining to yawn-worthy. I wanted to skip my dance classes. I felt so utterly bored with myself, and it seemed that everything and everyone I knew had come along with me.

For dinner, my mom makes salad, porkchops, mashed potatoes, and green beans. We have this dinner at least twice a week. Other favorites are spaghetti, salmon, and burgers. That's it.

My little brother, Benjamin, says grace. He has no idea what he's saying, and he just babbles on about random things he's thankful for, such as winning the school spelling bee. My mom says it's rude to interrupt someone speaking to God, so we just sit there for five minutes until he says, 'Amen.'

"Amen," we all chime. My dad reaches for the salad, my mom for the pork chops, I take the green beans, and Benjamin grabs the mashed potatoes. We all dump a little on our plates before passing it to the next person, clockwise.

"So," Dad says. "Days?"

'Days' is something we have to do at every dinner. The youngest, Bejamin, starts first and tells us every little detail about what happened through the course of his day. I'm next, followed by my mom, and then my dad.

Benjamin takes a bite of his lightly-coated ranch salad and chews thoughtfully for a moment. "When I got to school, Miss Blume told me that she liked my report about the space shuttles and how I used so much detail. Then I hang my coat up. Next, I walk into class and see Teddy-"

Blah, blah, blah. I sigh heavily and crunch loudly on an ice cube. Benjamin stops talking, and my mom and dad look at me like they can't believe I just ruined the flow of Benjamin's story.

"Sorry," I mutter, trying to drown out my screaming thoughts with a sip of iced tea. When it's my turn, I barely notice until Benjamin tells me I'm spacing. I tell them every single thinig about my day, not even leaving out when I took my restroom breaks.

"Well," Dad says when it's finally his turn. "We're finally getting new neighbors. I thought old Mrs. Sipowitz would never sell the place, but finally a couple from Miami bought it. A couple and their teenage son. I learned this straight from Mrs. Sipowitz when we had lunch today."

My mom doesn't look fazed at the fact that Dad has spent the afternoon with another woman. Mrs. Sipowitz is 80-years-old, but it wouldn't of mattered if she was a 20-year-old blonde babe. Cheating is not something that happens in our family. It just doesn't.

"When are they moving in?" Benjamin asks.

"This evening," Dad says. "That's what Mrs. Sipowitz told me."

We finish dinner with minimal talking, and afterwards, me and Mom put the dishes in the dishwasher while the guys play poker. When she tells us that she baked an apple pie for dessert, I fake a stomach ache and retreat to my room.

My room's not anything special. It has a four-poster bed with a simple green comforter, a media center, a desk, and a desser. That's it. There's no poster for the baddest rock group or a glossy celebrity. There's no funky lights or rugs. Simple. Boring.

I flop down on my bed face-first. Normally at this time, I would begin my homework, starting with the hardest and wrapping up with the simple stuff. But today I don't. I leave it in my backpack where it's been ever since I got home from school. Instead, I stay down face-first, wondering if I could die like this from lack of air.

I try to hold my breath in for a long amount of time. But each time I give up, coughing and panting. I consider taking sleeping pills, but when I check the bathroom for some, there isn't any. I return to my room, defeated.

The phone rings, and I pick it up after the second one.

"Hello?"

"Hi." It's Kaitlin. I already know. "I just got back from Pizza Hut."

"What did you order?"

"Plain cheese. Stephanie ordered pepperoni..."

Shut the hell up. That's what I want to say. But I don't. I sit there on my bed, quiet, while Kaitlin tells me every little detail from her sister spilling her soda to the fly that kept landing on her pizza slice. We exchange a few more words before I tell her that I'm tired and want to rest. I expect her to tell me that it's only six. But she only says okay and hangs up.

I flip on the T.V. and a girl with long, blonde hair is dancing on a subway to her iPod. When I notice that she has bright red streaks in her hair, I get an impulse and slid on my shoes. That's what I needed. A change of color. It'll set me free.

"Where are you going?" Mom asks when I pick up the keys to our Dodge.

"To the drugstore," I say. "For some Tylenol."

"Okay," she says. "Just be careful. It's dark outside."

I want to make her insane and tell her that I'm going to go 150 miles per hour and drive on the wrong side of the road. She'd have a heart attack, and I'll be guilty for the rest of my life. So I keep quiet.

I slide into the driver's seat and slide the key in the ignition. I go crazy by letting my espresso brown hair out of it's ponytail and let the window down to let the California wind whip through my curls. I turn the radio up and sing along to an old Gwen Stefani song at the top of my lungs. People in the next cars over look at me, amused. I just smile and keep singing. This makes me feel unique, even though thousands of other seventeen-year-olds girls are probably doing the exact same thing.

I pull into a Walgreens and glide through the sliding doors. Once I'm in there, I search around for the most exotic-looking salesperson I can find. My eyes settle on a skinny, 20-ish male with a black mohawk and at least ten piercings. I walk up to him.

"I want a change," I say.

He tears his eyes away from the Maxipads he's pricing and looks me up and down. "What kind of change, babe?" he asks with a drawl. It's so obvious that he's gay.

"Something crazy," I reply, looking at a bottle of blue dye. "Something like this." I reach for the bottle and show him.

"You want to ruin your pretty brown hair?" he exclaims. "Why?"

"I'm tired of everything. I just want a change."

He takes a nervous glace at the bottle in my hands. "Well, I personally don't like that shade of blue, even though it's pretty crazy." He surveys the selection of dyes and then picks up a bottle filled with aqua-blue liquid. "Now this," he says, "is extreme."

I have to agree. I could just imagine walking into school with aqua-colored hair. People would die of shock. I liked it.

"I'll take it," I say and then hand him ten bucks in exchange for the dye.

"Just think twice," he advises warily before I leave.

I ignore him.

-

-

-

When I pull into the driveway, I could see that our new neighbors had arrived. There was an obese-looking man arguing with a pencil-thin woman on the porch. Their mode of transportation is a Honda. On the bumper, a kid that looked about my age blows a wave of smoke into the air and takes another drag from his cigarette.

I step out of the car and take another good look at him. He has such a lazy vibe that it was almost a turn-on. He's wearing baggy black jeans, white sneakers, and a red button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up so it exposed his slighty-hairy arms. His black hair was curly and reached the back of his neck, turning up when it hit the coller. I can't see what color his eyes are, but I bet they're dark, just like the rest of him.

He feels me staring at him, so he looks up and makes eye contact. Normally, I would've gave a smile and been on my way, but I continue staring. I challenge him.

He takes a final puff on his cancer-stick, throws it on the driveway, and grounds it out. Then he makes his way for me, never breaking his eyes away from mine.

"Hey," he says when he's inches away. "I just moved here."

"I can see that."

He holds out his hand and I notice a tattoo of a snake around his wrist like a bracelet. I wonder if he has more than one. "Peter," he says.

I shake his hand firmly in reply. "Moira Forrester," I say, hating the sound of my name. It was so noisy.

"Ever been on a ship?" he asks.

I have no idea where this comes from. "Well, I go on dinner cruises with my folks a couple times a year, but..."

"No, no," Peter says, shaking his head. "I mean a ship. Like a pirate ship."

"There's no such thing as pirates," I laugh. "At least, not anymore."

He stands back and points to himself. "You're looking at one."

I start to laugh again, but then realize that he's dead serious. "Um, okay," I say nervously.

Peter pulls another cigarette from his pocket and lights up. "Those are my parents," he says, pointing backwards. "They're arguing about money. Like always."

"Why don't they do that inside?" I ask.

"Good question." Peter turns around. "I'll see you later!"

"Um, okay?" I say again.

Peter manages to get his parents in the house. Then he turns around, waves at me, and disappears inside.

-

-

-

I don't hear it at first, but then it gets too annoying to ignore. It's a tapping noise on my window. I roll over and look at the clock to find it's after midnight.

The tapping resumes. I'm not imagining it. There's someone at my window. I climb out of bed and part the curtains. It's Peter, balancing on a tree branch.

"It's nearly one in the morning!" I hiss, running my fingers through my new hair. After a disaterous attempt to renew myself, I ended up with the same brown hair, only with blaring aqua tips. It looked strange.

"Come away with me," Peter whispers. "Come away with me, and you won't regret it."

I can assume he wants me to join him on a trip to Wal-Mart or something. But from the intense look on his face, I can tell it means something much, much more.

And then he doesn't have to tell me twice. After throwing things into my bag, I climb out of the window with a complete stranger, into the unkown and vanish into the dark, mysterious night.