Walking into a Life called Cliché
the March Hare

Chapter One
...Welcome to the cliché...

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"First day of school… Brand new neighborhood, brand new school, brand new campus, brand new cliques, brand new arrogant ass-headed people…" she trailed off, grumbling as she walked out of her room checking her hair in the hall mirror as she passed, sticking her tongue out at her practically perfect reflection. Muttering to herself once more she started down the stairs and stepped into the kitchen, proclaiming her hatred for mass amounts of people. "God I hate people. Why was I even made a human if I can't stand the rest of my race!?"

"Why is it this morning?" Her mother asked from the fridge.

"Do I even need a reason?" she joked. Her mother popped out of the fridge with a jar of peanut butter in one hand and a jar of jam in the other.

"Oh of course you don't need a reason. You can hate whatever you want, whenever you want and need no reason at all."

She swung her arm out to her left, catching the young man entering the kitchen square in the chest. "Aha! Gotcha smelly-head!" she crowed, glancing over her shoulder at her brother. "And I concur with your previous statement completely. It's good to know I've got you on my side Love."

"Of course you were going to get me Sherice, the doorframe is only yea big," he said shoving her playfully out of the way and ignoring her last comment. "And you're a freak. I just wanted you to know that. Do you need a ride this morning?" He grabbed the plate from his mother and sat down.

"Oh no brother of mine, I'll be taking the bus with Laurel this morning." she caught his raised eyebrow. "The girl across the road love, how many times have I told you this?" she threw up her arms in frustration.

"Probably a ton, but you know I never listen. Plus it's not my fault that I was working this summer and therefore didn't meet people." He stuck his tongue out at me, covered in chewed toast.

"Ew Geoff! Gross! You just ruined your whole look!"

"Like anyone is going to know that I showed my food to you this morning. Unless I do it all day it's not going to, like, affect, like, my outfit. Like duh!" Geoff laughed at his own girly voice.

She accepted the next plate from her mother; peanut butter and jelly toast, just as her father came bustling in. "Honey don't you have to leave for work soon?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, but don't worry about that. I'll have plenty of time. I can't not make the first day of school lunch now can I?" She turned back to the fridge, pulling out some fruit and placing it in the nondescript brown paper bags on the counter. Tradition in the Bailey household was home-made lunches on the first day of school.

"Well just make sure you aren't late," he warned. He was always worried about others being on time. "Excited my children?" he asked as he helped himself from the cereal cupboard.

"Oh happy day, yes!" Sherice dripped icily.

"Oh so I'll take that as a whole truckload of acceptance," he said, getting a bowl and becoming completely focused on his cereal.

The one and only thing that she could claim unhappiness over was the fact that her parents never delved deeper than the first layer. They were caring, and in every way great but they had raised them to be able to look out for themselves and ever since the age where they could make they own choices they had been left to do just that.

She quickly shoved her toast into her mouth and then gulped down her glass of orange juice, jumping up to put her stuff in the sink, grabbing Geoff's empty plate on the way.

"Ok, I'm off then," he said pushing his chair back as everything clanged into the sink. "Sure you don't need a ride Sweets?" he asked lightly tossing his messenger bag over his shoulder.

"Sure you want to wear that in public Love?" Sherice shot back, eyes shimmering with laughter.

Geoff looked mock shocked at her comment and then down at himself. In reality she could find nothing wrong with his outfit, he was wearing a fitted black T-shirt with two white handprints on the front, and a white shoe print on the back, a gift from sister to brother for a birthday, beige cargo shorts hung just right on his hips, and a dark baseball cap sat on his head, covering his medium length, dark curls. This was the way they worked, teasing one another into pleasant laughter. "You look hot my brother," she snorted.

"Meh," he shrugged, "I am pretty hot." He winked at her over his shoulder as he headed for the door.

"LUNCH!" My mother's shout made her jump and Geoff quickly and sheepishly popped back in to the kitchen.

"Heh… knew that I forgot something. See ya mom. You both look beautiful," he said to both sister and mother and they both scoffed at him. He kissed his mother's cheek and Sherice did the same, grabbing her lunch and kissing her dad as Geoff headed into the hallway.

She heaved her backpack onto her shoulder as Geoff slipped on his shoes and opened the door. "Oh, well hello!" he said. Sherice looked up, cracking her head off the corner of the mirror above where she was crouching to tie her shoes.

"Ow. Ow. Oh OUCH! Will someone care that I'm hurt! Sheesh, there's a reason that I'm still writhing here, but does anyone care? Does anyone care that poor little Sherice is injured? Does anyone care that she could be bleeding profusely from her skull which could lead to brain damage or, gasp, even death! Dum dum dum!" Her rant was cut off as she was abruptly pulled upwards and realized that on their front stoop Laurel was struggling vainly not to laugh.

"Jeeze Sweets, you've gained at least a ton since breakfast."

Sherice shoved him out the door. "I like school supplies, what can I say?" she joked as she pulled the door closed behind her. They walked in silence towards the driveway until she realized why they were silent. "Oh! Riiiight! So, Laurel this is Geoff. Geoff this is Laurel. Geoff is my brother by the way. I kind of lied when I said that we sent him to Gula-bula-crazy-land to do the rainbow dance on the graves of our ancestors so that we would live long and prosper."

"Yeah, well I kind of figured that one out," she said giggling. Laurel was a giggly girl, and it was part of her disarming charm. "Nice to meet you Geoff." She stuck her hand out and Geoff eyed it before grinning boyishly and surprising her with a hug.

When he let her go she was giggling again. "Yeah, you two are a whole lot alike."

"So are you two girls sure that you don't need a ride?" Geoff was throwing his bag into the back seat of his junk-box.

"No. I need a ride. I hate the bus." Laurel looked at Sherice for confirmation.

"No bus? But what about the atmosphere? What about meeting new people? What about playing Forrest Gump Jr. and talking to the bus driver? What about spitballs, and paper airplanes and-"

"Get in the car Sweets!" Geoff yelled from inside over the grinding start of the car.

Laurel stuck her head out the passenger side window. "Shotgun," she said sweetly.

Sherice made a face at her as she got in. "Geoff it smells like man-sweat and dirt back here. Didn't you ever wash your Park Uniform?" she began to cough dramatically, waving her hands in front of her face.

"Oh zip it! It only smells like dirt, and that's because, well…. Okay, okay it does smell, but it's foot-sweat and mud and it's not my fault. I lost my boots somewhere back there." He shot her a sheepish look as he started down the road.

"Are you serious!?" she gaped at him. "You lost your boots!? That's like a big deal! It's not like you have tiny feet, they're mammoth! How could you lose your boots? And they smell. It smells like frogs and swamp scum, why didn't you just follow your nose! Ugh!" She pulled her knees up to her chin, and pulled her backpack closer to her side trying to take up as little space as possible.

"Sherice stop being stupid." Geoff had his eyes on the road but she could tell he was getting frustrated, and a little embarrassed. "It's not like I didn't scour the car. I looked forever and I can't find them anywhere."

"Geoff, I really don't think I can believe you. I mean look at all the junk back here. I don't even know what half this stuff is or where it came from! Anything could be hidden in this…death-trap! AH!! I think it's moving!" she plastered her body against the rear door and smushed her face against the window, making faces at some younger kids on the street. Then she noticed a sliver of red amongst the junk. "Hey! Look what I found," she said digging through the pile of trash beside her. "My red belt! How did this get in here?" A horrible thought entered her mind. "Ew Geoff! Why do you have my belt in here? What did you do with it? Are you part of some weird red-belt needing cult sex club!? Geoff!" she whined.

Geoff's hands tightened on the steering wheel as his neck got steadily redder and Laurel continued to gasp for air, trying very hard to not laugh out loud.

"Sherice I swear in the name of everything holy if you don't shut up, I am going to kick you out of this car, and then leave you and then come back and put you in the trunk!"

"Nooo!" she wailed. "Not the trunk! I think Kitty is in there don't put me back there with Kitty! His soul will seek his revenge on me!"

Laurel snorted from the front seat. "Kitty?" she asked between gasps of air. "Who's Kitty?"

"Kitty is- was," she corrected herself solemnly "The insane, bare-tailed, cataract eyed squirrel that lived in our tree and who had been hit by trucks over and over and yet… never ceased to die." she trailed off in a ponderous voice. "Oh my god! What if he's still alive but just buried in all the junk in the trunk!?"

"What we gonna do with all that junk? All that junk up in my trunk?" Geoff piped up. That sent us all into another fit of laughter that lasted all the way to school.

Falling hysterically out of the car, before it stopped rolling, she inhaled deeply and wiped the tears of laughter from her face. She was brushing off her pants when Geoff joined her, slinging an arm around her shoulder. She looked up into his dark brown eyes and sighed, wrapping her arms around his waist and hugging him tightly. "You look great," he whispered into her hair. "It'll be all good." He pulled her closer and placed a light kiss on her forehead. "This is what we all needed."

Sherice sighed, grateful for his attempt of lightening her load.

"We're back," Laurel said walking up beside her and linking arms.

Sherice grinned. "Yeah but now we're seniors." They started to walk towards the doors. Geoff hummed obliviously beside her. "Hey goofball, it's your turn," she whispered elbowing his ribs.

"What? My turn for what?"

"But now we're seniors," she prompted.

"Ooooh, I get it. Ok here goes, and we're gonna rule the school, ah ha ha ha!"

"Whoo!" she shouted jumping crazily on to his back. "Who's bed have your boots been under?" she sang loudly as we entered the courtyard at the back of the school, drawing concealed looks from the closest kids.

"Right, well okay girls, seeing as how I have been thoroughly embarrassed already, I am off. I've got this little club-"

"I knew it! I knew it! It's a sex club. Dammit Geoff, you need help. Come on Laurel, this guy's a freak!" she flung her hair over her shoulder and nose in the air arm linked with Laurel's walked off in the opposite direction. "See you later Love!" she shouted back over her shoulder. She heard him laugh as he went off.

"We're just leaving him?" Laurel asked.

Sherice had dropped her act and was trying to avoid all the cracks between the stones at her feet. "Hmm? Oh no, he has Park friends. That's the 'club' he was talking about. He's just a goof, a goof we will undoubtedly have to see later."

She followed Laurel from the corner of her eye as she continued to avoid the cracks in the cobblestones.

"Um Sher? What are you doing?"

She didn't look for the voice until she had leapt successfully onto the grass beside the path. "Aha! Success! What was that?" Sherice looked straight into the face of a Mr. Che Guevara. "AH! Oh, hello James." She lifted her head a little higher and finally saw the right match for the voice. Red hair, sticking up erratically every which way, and ice blue eyes in long face that matched a gangly body.

"I just wanted to know what you were doing," he asked shrugging his shoulders and grinning.

She walked her fingers over Che's face, "I was avoiding the cracks," she said simply, flicking his chin and pushing on his nose. "Beep!"

He laughed his deep laugh. "You do realize that the paths are cobblestone and are therefore very…cracky?"

"Oh yeah, that's what makes it fun. So how was your last week of break?" she asked, flopping down on the grass and slipping out of her backpack.

"Oh it was a little here and a little there. It wasn't that bad, how about yours?"

"It was rockin'! I bought my school supplies." She gestured towards her backpack and James nudged it with his foot.

"Holy cow its heavy!" He crouched down and unzipped it. "Um Sher, you realize this is full of non-school books right? And um… Swedish Berries? This is your school supplies?"

"Did I just hear Swedish Berries!?"

"Oof! Ow, hey Jake," she mumbled from beneath his arm.

"Can I have Swedish Berries?" he asked innocently.

"Maybe if you get off me," she mumbled again.

"Okay!" He rolled off of her and started to rummage through her bag.

"Hey girls!" Walking towards her were a leggy African American and a short haired brunette, they flopped onto the ground beside Laurel and Sherice.

"Whatcha reading Laurel?" the brunette asked.

"Hmm, oh I'm just finishing up some summer reading."

"I've got tons more leisure reading if you want to borrow some. It's all in the backpack." Sherice said, savoring the sweetness of the Swedish Berries.

"Hey James! Man how's it going?" One of a passing group of guys shouted.

"Practice tonight, don't forget," another shouted.

"Yeah, sure thing. What kind of role model would your captain be if he didn't show up for the first practice of the year? Wait up there guys." He turned to the comfortable group at his feet, "Well girls I'm going to run. Doesn't look like Dave'll be showing up this morning so I'll see you girls in homeroom." He winked at them and then went to join the group of guys, joking and laughing loudly.

"I'm not a girl James! Stop trying to get me to change my gender! I'll never sleep with you!" Jake shouted the last part at a retreating, chuckling back.

"James never told be he was the captain of anything. What is it, the debate club?" Sherice asked. Jake snorted beside her, reaching for another handful of sweets.

"I'm the captain of the debate club thank you very much. And the English club, and the-" he was cut off by the brunette.

"Basketball," she said.

"Are you joking me Shauna? He's captain of the basketball team?"

"Nope, he's pretty much our star player too." She looked after him as he roughhoused with one of the guys with a dreamy look in her eyes.

"Hey Ben, want any of these?" Jake waved the bag in front of Bernice's face.

The leggy girl looked down her nose at the chubby blonde boy with glasses spread-eagled on the ground below her. "You do realize that it's like 8:30 in the morning and you're already eating sugar right? You know what that means..." she trailed off smiling widely.

"It means give Ben sugar too! Come on, at least they taste better than coffee, but amazingly they do the same thing!" Jake grinned at her and she took a couple and then flopped on her back beside him, tucking herself inside his arm.

Sherice laughed at their odd dynamic and then scanned the courtyard, realizing suddenly the intense mixture of her group of friends. Seeing it within her group she noticed it within the others, everyone was milling around everywhere, saying hello to everyone and she felt a weight lift off her shoulders that she hadn't known was there.

Along with the predictability of similar people grouping together was also the unpredictability of who knew who. Neighbors said hello to neighbors, childhood friends still acknowledged one another, classmates smiled at each other. Sherice mentally shook her head, laughing at herself for thinking that she was walking into cliché when obviously this was something more.

She caught a familiar head of hair hidden under a dark baseball cap making its way past her and smiled. Geoff caught her eye and dropped a bow as one of his friends shouted a hello to Jake and Laurel, Geoff followed with a salute as he passed. Sherice giggled unattractively at his insane antics as she turned her attention back to the people near her.

Ben was gaping open-mouthed after Geoff and Shauna had redirected the gaze that Sherice had thought was reserved solely for James onto Geoff's back. "Who was that?" she asked breathlessly. She thought she heard Laurel give a snort from beside her.

"Who? Oh, that ugly hunk of rotting carrion that just passed? Meh, who knows," she shrugged laughing as they gaped at her.

"Ugly?" Ben choked out. "That man was anything but ugly! My word!"

"Hey! What about me? I gave you Swedish Berries!" Jake whined from the ground.

"Oh you'll always be my favorite but I mean, who doesn't like a bit of eye-candy, especially when it walks innocently by?" She laughed but made herself comfortable against Jake once more.

They didn't sit still for long. The bell rang shortly after and they all headed off to their respective homerooms.

"So how was your day girls?" Geoff asked as he came up to where Laurel and Sherice were leaning against the car waiting for him.

"Oh it was pretty good. There's this one guy in my English class though, and oh boy is he annoying," she said winking at him as he unlocked the doors

"Oh yeah, I think I know who you're talking about. A tall good-looking guy, curls, black shirt, your brother?"

Laurel smiled as she climbed into the back seat

"Oh yeah, I should've guessed you'd know him. Oh well," she shrugged as she squeezed herself in between the junk in his car. "God Geoff, you're such a pack-rat, and a smelly one at that."

"Hey, zip it you. Kitty's still in the trunk somewhere," he threatened as they pulled out of the parking lot.

Sherice laughed and started a very long, terrifying and hilarious story about Kitty the bare-tailed, cataract-eyed, stumbling-stepped squirrel that kept them in stitches until they reached home.

The first weeks of school passed quickly and uneventfully and a late Friday in September found Sherice sitting on Laurel's veranda with a mug of tea chatting with Ben and waiting for Shauna.

As Ben and Sherice were laughing at the antics of their French teacher Laurel suddenly squealed and leapt over the railing of the veranda. Ben and Sherice looked up and Ben copied Laurel's squeal but took the more graceful way of the stairs onto the lawn.

There, standing in the middle of Laurel's front lawn was the oddest specimen of maleness Sherice had seen in a long time. Clad in a home-made star trooper's uniform that was much too small, complete with Blaster, was a boy so gangly he verged on cartoon-like. Sherice leaned against the post beside the stairs watching the exchange between the girls and the newcomer.

Laurel leaped into his arms wrapping her legs around his waist and Sherice was impressed to see that the newcomer seemed to be able to hold her without any sign of strain even with the differences in size. "Scott! When did you get back? How come you haven't come to see me?" She flipped his helmet off his head and kissed his cheeks as he spun her around.

"Laurel love," he started with a fake accent, "I just got back today and was hijacked into playing the part of 'bad shooty guy' by a thoroughly undeniable girl, and now here I am, my first free moment and I raced here to see you. I didn't even take off my uniform!"

"Don't be a goof. You love that thing," Laurel said hopping down and hugging him once more as he grinned.

"So I take it Dave's back too then?" Ben asked hugging him tightly as Laurel stepped back.

"He sure is. He'll be around soon. He had to be Han Solo, but only in the one where he's boyfriends with Leah, and where Leah doesn't have to kiss Luke. She's a sharp one she is that Kait." He winked at Laurel as he spun Bernice in a circle. "And who is this?" he asked, noticing and making his way towards Sherice.

She jumped the stairs and landed in front of him on the grass, he steadied her lost balance with hands around her waist. "I'm Sherice. I moved in over the summer." She stuck her hand out businesslike and gave a firm nod. He laughed.

Laurel and Ben jumped on either arm and pulled him down to the grass. "We missed you two," Laurel muttered, burying her head in his arm.

"Yeah," Ben said getting comfortable on his chest. "You guys've been gone almost three months. We haven't had anyone to make fun of."

"Care to join us Sherice," he asked laughing at Ben.

"Well I would, but my mom always taught me not to harass strangers," she shrugged grinning.

He laughed genuinely. "Well in that case, I'm Scott. I live in that general direction." He gestured behind him vaguely.

"Oh sorry Sher, this is Scott. He's my very best friend and has been since forever. He was the one on vacation this summer with Dave who will no doubt be around later."

"Oh you're the one who bored me to tears for the larger part of the summer. Laurel never shuts up about you. And since I guess we aren't strangers anymore…" she trailed off and bounced with a war-cry onto his chest.

"Oof, well I love that you're so straightforward," he said, smiling softly and rubbing his stomach. "Make yourself comfortable."

"Don't mind if I do." she settled onto his stomach and the four of us spent the rest of the afternoon and much of the evening on the lawn chatting and listening to the antics of Dave and Scott on vacation.