Senior year was supposed to be a breeze, a smooth glide to the freedom finish line. It was not supposed to be grueling homework and endless activities piled high on college applications and scholarship essays and job interviews. Was there really a point in trying so hard this last year? Everyone seemed to assert the importance of senior year, but Taylen was tired. Her feet scuffled along the concrete, her energetic gait reduced to a bemused shuffle, her awareness lost in her thoughts.

She kicked a clump of dirt dispassionately, a small plant bouncing along the sidewalk, its roots dangling feebly over the soil. A sigh. She clenched her fists, responsibilities bombarding her brain. Inside her head, she whimpered, pouting childishly, wanting somehow to have something other than work. Home was work. School was work. Where was the substance?

It is rubbish, she thought, her back aching under the weight of her backpack. There was too much, simply too much going on right now. If only I could escape, she thought, run away from home and go live in a hut in the middle of the woods. I'd eat nuts and berries if I got hungry, and there would be a fresh stream if I was thirsty. Why, oh why isn't that reality?

What was reality? They say high school prepares you for college and college prepares you for the real world, but what is the real world? Is there some mystic barrier that lifts on graduation day? What about those who've begun working and then go back for their masters? Are they stuck in the middle of both worlds? Does being in the middle cancel out existence?

She glanced up, blinking against the sun's reflection on the blue street sign.

"Huntington?" She questioned, glancing back down the street.

"Fuck." She sighed.

She'd missed her street again. That was fifteen minutes out of her way, fifteen minutes she'd lost that could've been for homework before she had to head back to school for clubs. She would have to give up her lunch now.

"How did they do this to me?" She muttered under her breath. She felt sick. 'All you have to do is take three AP classes and you can get out extra early. And then, if you want to get out even earlier than that, you can take zero hour. You'll have time for so many more activities to put on your résumé. That's what colleges are looking for nowadays. It's not just SAT and ACT scores anymore. They want well rounded individuals who they know will be successful in the real world.'

There was that real world again.

She finally came up to her house, the screen door leting out a horrid screech as she pulled it forward. Dad had said he was going to fix that.

"Taylen?" Miriam's voice carried through the house, nails on a chalk board at the moment; a throb started up at Taylen's temple. "Where have you been? I called you a million times, and you didn't answer?"

"Sorry, I missed the street."

"Again, Taylen? This is the third time this week. You really need to get your mind out of that fantasy world you're living in, and concentrate on the real things. Colleges won't find your slacking grades attractive. You know that, right?"

Taylen began to descend the stairs.

"Taylen?"

A frustrated sigh sounded from beyond the wall, in the kitchen.

"Yes, ma'am." Taylen said, in the most polite voice she dared muster without being forced to kill herself.

"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" She whispered as she flung her backpack on her bed, but even as fury bubbled up inside her, she knew she didn't mean it.

She sat on her bed, tugging at the contents of her bag to find her economics book. Tightly she wound her fingers over the edges of the textbook and pulled with all her strength. How anything fit in that bag without being completely obliterated she would never know.

Her eyes read and reread the first paragraph of chapter six, once, twice, four times, six times, ten times. She couldn't understand what was going on. What were they talking about? Why couldn't she grasp the concept of the underlined word and it's definition? It was far more than the boredom that plagued the subject of economics and other's money markets. It was more than the indifference she felt to the subject that was supposed to make her so much more aware of the world. It was more than the dislike of her teacher and her annoying way of trying to emphasize what made her get up in the morning. It was more than the expectations placed on the students to enjoy this and make economics the most important priority in life.

Her eyes slowly began to close, her head nodding forward. Her body felt as if it were sinking, a warmth enveloping her, lulling her into a relaxed state. She could have stayed here forever, suspended in this oblivious bliss.

"Taylen!"

Her eyes jerked open, her breath caught in her chest. Her heart palpitated furiously. She cleared her throat, rubbing her eyes.

"Y-Yes?" She said hoarsely.

"Didn't you say you needed me to take you back to school early Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at four," a pause, "for your club meetings?"

"Oh, right."

What is already four? It had just turned two when she had sat down. Wonderful. She would be up late tonight.

The door knob jiggled, the creak of Miriam pushing against the door resonated through the basement.

"Why is your door locked?"

Taylen slipped on her shoes and carefully turned the lock to avoid the clicking sound, wondering why she even bothered.

"No reason. We ready?"

Miriam just nodded.

Oh, no!, Taylen thought, she's going to play this up and get Dad all concerned, like I'm cutting or something, and then lock is coming off my door, isn't it?

The car ride was silent, Miriam stewing up her thoughts and assumed notions. Taylen looked out the window, blinking her eyes to clear the sleepy fog.

A massive brown school came into view as they rounded the corner, a cylindrical center, topped with what looked like an aluminum cone hat. Silently she joked to herself. Now that must have been a last minute budget issue.

'Superintendent: Oh, god, we won't be able to raise enough money to get the entryway's roof finished!

Architect: No worries, we'll just stick an aluminum hat over it. I'll be fine.

Superintendent: Aluminum hat? I am not doubting your abilities, but I'm not sure that'll work. Our reputation rests with our school's appearance.

Architect: If anything this will boost your reputation. Parents will think Diversity! How many other school districts would use the same technology as Laos rice farmers. It will be fantastic.

Superintendent: Well, if that is the case…'

Miriam pulled up at the glass front paneled entrance. They were a few minutes early, and the bell hadn't rung quiet yet.

"Do you want me to pick you up when you're done?" Miriam asked, tentatively poking the pervasive silence.

"You don't have to."

What Taylen should have said was yes. 'Yes, I need to go and start homework as soon as possible', or 'Yes, that would be great'. But, she didn't.

"Are you sure? It's not a problem." Her eyes were pleading for some sort of acceptance, some sort of acknowledgement that Taylen didn't hate her.

"Ok."

"Ok? So you'll call?"

"Yeah," Taylen said softly as she stepped out of the car.

"Ok," Miriam seemed partially satisfied, "Have fun."