"Oh, sorry," some guy said to me as he knocked into me on his way down the hall, glancing away to laugh and grin at some joke his friend had said.

"Oh, I didn't even see you there! Are you alright?" said some teacher with a slight bit of concern when I tripped down three steps on my way to lunch.

"Hey, watch it!" said some preppy girl when she knocked me to the ground. She just looked at me with an annoyed frown on her face before she turned around and flipped open her cell phone to talk to her equally preppy friend about the latest gossip.

It wasn't the first day of school for me, Ari Sanders, but I felt lost and confused all the same. Hunched over my tall pile of textbooks and binders, face hidden by a huge pair of black glasses and nondescript muddy hair, I might as well not have been there at all. Everyone ignored me, or didn't even know that I existed. I barely spoke to anyone, including my friends. Even the teachers forgot that I existed once in a while.

I trudged through the halls with my heavy pile of books, a blank look on my face. I didn't look at people as they walked by me, and they didn't look back at me either. The only thing my eyes made contact with were the numerous posters on the walls, advertising the many after school clubs the schools offered.

Or I just looked at my shoes.

I managed to navigate the halls of school relatively easily, making it to my next class with a record low of bumps or stumbles. I drifted slowly into the room, head down and shoulders rounded. My hands were crossed protectively over my books, which I held to my chest.

As I sat down in a chair at the back of the room, I glanced at the mostly empty classroom. The few people that had gotten there early had forsaken their chairs and were sitting on top of the desks, cracking jokes and laughing wildly. I stared at them wistfully for a minute or two before I remembered where I was, and quickly looked down. The first tears pricked the corners of my eyes, but I brushed them angrily away. I wouldn't be that weak.

I spied Toby Beckett and Amy Miller, the hot jock and the equally hot volleyball star, sitting on each other in a chair near the window and kissing passionately in the sunlight. My heart gave a slight shudder before my gaze dropped down again to the graffiti-covered desk, and I was lost to the world once again.

The rest of the class filtered in through the door in the next three minutes, sitting down and laughing with their friends as they exchanged stories about their angsty high school dramas. I just took out my homework from my bag in silence, opening my textbook to the page I had left off at as I started reading the next page.

I looked up mutely as the teacher called out my name to mark me present for attendance, raising my hand quietly and letting it drop just as silently. The teacher didn't even look up.

"So, class," she started after she was done calling out names, "when we left off last class we were debating the how the protagonist's life was affected by his actions. Let's begin with a discussion…"

I set my mountain of books down at a lunch table in the corner closest to the exit. There was no one else sitting there except for Rochelle McAdams, the lunch table resident gossip-girl. I usually made sure not to sit anywhere near her, unless I wanted to prepare myself for a tirade of nonsensical news about "what happened at yesterday's party" and "did you hear about how Kenny hooked up with Nadia?" But that day, for once, she was quiet.

I picked out a book from my pile and opened it, hunching over it so I could read it better. It was an English book, something modern the teacher had assigned in hopes that the class would actually pay attention to her lessons. "Perhaps you can relate to the message the author is trying to send to his audience," she had said, something I doubted the moment I saw the determinedly bad-boy face of the young author on the back flap. Maybe the jocks and druggies can relate, I thought, but not me.

I glanced at the title for the first time: Lackadaisies.

Other people that I knew started setting their things down next to me, chatting with each other about their day and how much school sucked, but I didn't bother joining in, and they didn't ask me. Instead, I kept my nose immersed in my book, lost to the world again.

I got off the bus, glancing at but not really seeing the trees that lined my short, suburban, street. I sensed more than saw the bus drive away to the next stop. Shouldering my backpack, I spent my walk home examining the cracks in the pavement.

As I turned a bend in the road, the sound of a revving engine reached my ears. I looked up suddenly, startled to see a huge truck parked in front of the neighbor's house. "Starckley and Sons Movers," I murmered, reading the bold black letters painted on the side of the large vehicle. I was shocked and surprised to see the moving van. I hadn't heard anything about a move from the neighbors, a fact that was surprising in such a small neighborhood.

The neighbor's in question, Mr. and Mrs. Malone, were outside on their lawn, conducting a small army of men dressed in gray uniforms who were all carrying various bits of boxes and furniture out of the house and into the truck.

"No, no, no!" cried Mrs. Malone to a scandalized workman. "Put the folding screens on top of the bookcase, not the other way around! Do you know how much those things are worth?"

The man walked off in a huff as she and her husband turned to survey the rest of their possessions, alert and alive and simply glowing at their new beginning. Mrs. Malone caught sight of me, and waved me over with a smile.

"Hello, Ari, darling!" she said brightly once I had walked over.

"H-hello," I said softly, not sure what to do. The Malone's were nice enough, but interactions between my family and theirs usually went through my mother. They were a young couple, and they didn't have any children.

She smiled down at me. "Isn't this exciting?" she said with a small clap. "It was so sudden, I almost can't believe we're leaving! Oh, it's so sad we have to leave this lovely street behind!"

I smiled and nodded.

"Oh, Ari, be a dear and give this to your mother for me when she gets home from work. I'm afraid we'll be gone by then, and I didn't even get to say goodbye!" She handed me a rather heavy, misshaped box at her feet. "Oh, and dear, this is for you!" She gave me a smaller box. I tried to give her a small smile and thank her, but the boxes were threatening to tip out of my hands. Instead, I kept my head down and directed my concentration towards steadying the precarious packages. When I looked up, Mrs. Malone was already beaming down at me. "Chin up, Ari! Don't drop them now, dear, they're delicate."

I nodded and assured her that I would be careful, smiling shyly at her.

Suddenly, as I watched in shock and horror, a single tear dripped down over her cheek. "Oh, sweet child, I'm going to miss you and your mother! You were always so good to us!" And, just as suddenly, she reached out and pulled me along with the boxes I was holding into a huge hug. Startled, not sure what to do, I just stood there for a moment, frozen, gripping the boxes tightly as I felt my heart rate rise.

And then, just as suddenly, she released me, sending me on my way home. I stood still for a moment, motionless on the curb, absorbing the quick moment into my memories. I watched Mr. and Mrs. Malone, watched a ray of sunshine illuminating the grassy mound where they stood together, ready to face whatever might happen with smiling faces and perseverance. For some reason I felt so small, so shrunken and insignificant when I looked at the Malones. Standing in the shadows under a tree, sneaking glances at the light that was just out of my reach, that was where I belonged.

Shaking my head slightly to clear it, I walked past the Malones to the house next door. The name Sanders was clearly blocked into the mailbox where I checked the mail before heading to the front door and letting myself in. The house was dark because of the closed drapes and blinds, but I didn't bother opening them to let in some sun. I stood in the shadows for some time, eyes closed, absorbing the peace of darkness.

After some time, I heard the sound of a revving engine drive away from the house next door, turning right at the end of the street and heading off to the highway.

I let my heavy backpack fall off my shoulders, sighing as the weight disappeared. I put the boxes on a stool. Pouring myself a glass of milk from the fridge, I opened my backpack and pulled out another bit of homework that I had yet to finish. Sipping milk in the dim light, I slowly pulled myself out of the real world and trained all my focus into my textbook, ignoring the overbearing silence that was slowly caging me in.

I heard the front door open about two hours later, not bothering to look up as my mother walked down the hall into the kitchen with a tight, weary face and her briefcase. I heard the clink of her keys as they hit the sleek and polished countertop. The sound registered dimly in my subconscious, but I didn't react. I kept my head down, eyes focused on my textbook as my mind wandered in a dreamland.

"Hello, Ari," my mother said as a way of greeting, her back turned to me while she poured herself a glass of water.

"Mmm," I replied. I didn't look up, deciding it a better use of energy to not move at all.

She didn't reply. I heard the fridge open, the tap of a glass on the countertop, and the swish of some milk as it was poured into the glass. She sipped it quietly, looking at the countertop. It was dark granite, so dark that I could see my mother's reflection, silhouetted against the fading light. She was wearing a dark, neat suit. Her hair was done up neatly, not elaborately, but with a certain rigidity that matched her expression. I couldn't make out her eyes in the granite, but I knew she wasn't looking at me.

"How was your day?" she asked me.

"Fine," I replied. There was a moment of silence. My mother didn't break it. It was so quiet in that moment that I could almost hear my pulse hammering away in my throat. The words of the book I was reading seemed not to penetrate my brain. I swallowed nervously, and broke the silence. "The neighbors moved today," I said, my voice not completely steady.

"Did they," my mother said. I could tell by her tone that she wasn't listening.

I tried to reply with a "yes" but my voice stuck in my throat, and nothing came out.

After a minute or so of more silence, I heard my mother take her briefcase and the newspaper and head up the stairs. She didn't say another word to me, and I didn't try saying anything either.

I hadn't looked up from my book since she had come home.

I did my homework in silence. When it got dark, I got up to turn on the kitchen light. Then I sat back down, and immersed myself in my books again. I didn't look up when my mom came down for her dinner and nightly TV show. I didn't say a word when she went back up and locked herself up in her study again.

It was dark when I finally finished. I looked up, stretching and massaging my neck, and saw the time. Nine-thirty, I thought. Mom is probably asleep. Quietly, I packed my school bag for the next day and put it next to the door, near my shoes. On the other side of the door, in the shadows, I saw my mom's black briefcase. Staring at it for a moment, I shook my head to clear it and started up the stairs.

Before I took a step up, though, something caught my eye. I looked into the shadows, puzzled. Something irregularly shaped broke the usual straight-lined cleanliness of the house. Turning on the hallway lights, I look at the two boxes sitting on the short kitchen stool. I had forgotten about the Malones' presents.

I looked at the boxes, both of them somewhat dented, and then looked up the stairs. One of those boxes was for my mother, but I knew she wouldn't bother opening it. I put the larger box on the dark kitchen counter. Opening it, sifting through the packing, I pulled out a rather large and bright vase. It was antique, painted a bright green with darker leaves and light-colored flowers lining the edges. It was like something out of a Greek myth, lovely, but it looked so out of place against the hard, dark granite counter. Putting it back in the box, I left it inside the metal-framed side-table, where it wouldn't be opened or touched.

The smaller box I opened carefully, hearing a slight clink from inside. The box itself was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Inside it was another small white box with indiscernible golden writing on it. I opened its lid and pushed aside the tissue paper. Lifted out the contents slowly, I took in the present.

It was an amulet, shaped like the sun. The weathered face etched into the rustic gold center smiled at me mysteriously, it's eyes closed and content. I fingered the sun pendant's rays, my hands slipping over the fine black cord threaded though one of them. They were smooth and comforting against my hand. I hesitated for a moment, and then slipped the cord over my head. The metal rested coolly against my chest. I turned around to look in the hall mirror.

My face looked back at me, half in the light and half in the shadows. The pendant glinted in the half-light, just visible behind my shirt. The face in the sun smiled its mysterious smile at me, and I found myself smiling, too, my eyes glinting with a gold light as my face folded into an uncommon happy expression. It was almost like a transformation. The girl in the mirror was not me, but some beautiful, radiant, dark and mysterious fairy, blazing with golden light.

And then, suddenly, she was gone, and all that was left was my face, half hidden in the shadows. I stared at my reflection in the mirror for some time, searching for something that refused to come out again. I looked down at the sun-shaped amulet, fingering it softly. It had warmed up against my skin. It wasn't the most beautiful pendant I had ever seen in my life, or the most elaborate. It didn't even look new. It was just ordinary.

Still, even though it was so unremarkable, I left it hanging there against my collarbone. Its weight was like an anchor to the possibilities I had seen in the mirror. It had only been one small moment, but there had been something there, something that seemed both terrible and beautiful all at once. Deep in my heart, I knew that was what I wanted. To feel that exhilaration and confidence, always and forever.

As I turned off the lights and headed up the stairs, I found myself fingering the little sun's rays again. I could almost hear Mrs. Malone, smiling down at me as she said brightly, "Chin up, girl!" I found myself thinking as I went to sleep, thinking about little golden suns and the Malones, and the big bold SOLD sign in the yard next door.