Hey, I'm updating. I'd like to make one of those petty threats to people who alert stories without reviewing about not updating often or something if I don't get reviews, because it's a bit weird to get twice as many alertings as reviews and makes me wonder what's going on (perhaps you realize this will be terrible and wish to have front-row seats?), but as is pretty obvious, I don't update much either way, so it'd be like telling you to review for protection against being eaten by rogue elephants, only more ridiculous.

But it is theoretically possible reviewing will make me update more, because I have a lot of problems with the whole high school fic concept and think I'm doing a terrible job, and any advice on how to unterrible it for future chapters should make writing those a lot easier. I can't really promise it, though. I can promise that I'm going to be generally working on stories more, so hopefully the next update will come sooner.


The first day of school was the first day of school, and while I was a bit jittery with the transition, I wasn't as obsessed with it as before. After ten years worth of first days, it had finally sunk in that they really weren't as big a deal as everyone acted. The nice teachers would act a little harsher than they did the rest of the year, and the mean ones a little less, and everyone would be trying to get their bearings. If you weren't sure of something, you could generally be sure no one else was and just follow the herd around until they hit a teacher or a paper announcement that explained it. Sometimes you could even skip the first part. When I entered the front doors there was a huge mass of people blocking one wall, and automatically I found myself there.

I made it all the way to the front before I discovered what everyone wanted to find out, which was homeroom lists. The school was supposed to have mailed it to everyone, but it was haphazard and a lot of people didn't get it. I had, this year, but took a moment to find the paper titled with the homeroom number they'd given me and checked to see my name was there before slithering back through the crowd.

Like I said earlier, we're bigger than the tiny places around us, which is to say, not very. Our school's also big on tracking kids, and for years they'd been arranging homerooms around that as well as the usual first letter of your last name. As a result, not only would you run into the same people in most of your classes, but you'd probably be with them for homeroom as well. It made for yet another time where, when in doubt, you could just follow the biggest pack of people you recognized and you'd probably end up in the right place.

I got there early, so I could take a seat in the back where I'd be a safe distance from the teacher if they turned out to be a hardliner and had a good view of everyone else. The last couple years I'd met up with Rose first, but she was no longer around to meet up with.

Jenna, a girl I knew but had never been close to, sidled over. "Hey," she said. "There's a new kid."

"Oh?" I said absently. "Who?"

She paused, trying to think of how to pronounce what she'd read. "Some weird name, Bren-something. I didn't have time to really read it with everyone jostling about."

Before I could reply, two new kids entered, so close together they slipped through the door side by side.

One was a blond boy, the other a red-haired girl. Both were light-skinned, though the girl looked a bit sickly while the boy had plump, pinkish skin. They looked related, although not very. They settled into seats side by side in the corner.

"You guys!" Jenna said immediately. "Is your name, uh, Brendant?"

The boy looked up, seeming startled. After a second, he said, "No. I'm Matt, and this is Crystal."

"Oh." Then she realized: "Wait, are you sure you're in the right place? I didn't see your name on the lists."

The boy, Matt, spoke again. "Our older brother had to talk to the principal, apparently they'd lost our enrollment papers. There was probably no time to update the homeroom lists." The girl was sitting with her head lowered, looking nervous.

"Cool. Three new kids."

"Three?"

There was a sudden hush. The newest arrival had stepped in.

He looked like he'd just stepped out of a movie. Glossy, coal-black, slightly wavy hair framed perfect ivory skin and breathtakingly beautiful features. Realizing all eyes were on him, he smiled broadly, revealing a set of perfect white teeth. "Hello," he said, in a rich, smooth voice no one his age should fairly have been allowed to have. "My name's Brewelph."

"Weird name," one of the boys in the front said after a second.

I cringed, but he seemed unfazed. "It is," he admitted cheerfully. "It's an old family tradition based on giving kids names that haven't been in fashion since five hundred AD or so, if they ever were. Call me Bre if you like. It's still weird, but at least it's shorter."

It was about then the teacher came in. Pausing a moment to stare, he then seemed to come to his senses and told everyone to take a seat.

Brewelph strode gracefully across the room and slid behind a desk in the row in front of me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that the new girl, Crystal, was staring at him, entranced. Her brother grabbed her arm and said something quietly, and she went back to looking down at her lap.

The rest of homeroom was a short affair, just a matter of listening to a drone of announcements and waiting for the bell.

In the hallway, Brewelph headed off with two other boys, the three of them talking like they were already close friends. As the rest headed off, Crystal and Mike exchanged a few more words, then Mike headed off down the hall. She stared down at the sheet with her schedule clutched in her hand, then looked up to see me.

"Um..." she said. "I have Art now. Do you know where...?"

"Sure, I'll take you," I said. "I've got that too."

She smiled and came over to walk next to me. She had a slightly clumsy step, and none of the vibrancy of a stereotypical fiery redhead, but seemed friendly enough. She wasn't wearing anything particularly interesting, just loose jeans and a plain heavy blue sweater, with a bit of green around her wrists and neck where the shirt underneath was visible. I could also see the chain of a necklace there just above the shirt's neck before it ducked under the cloth, and I wondered if she was wearing a small cross or Star of David.

"So when did you guys move here?" I asked her.

She paused to think and then said, "We moved a couple months back."

"A while before that Brewelph guy, then," I mused aloud. "You know, my friend Rose and I saw them move in. It was kind of weird, I guess they were in a huge rush since they were doing it in the middle of the night. And moving into a mansion, too, like some kind of vampire."

"Vampire?"

"Well, you know, moving in in the dead of night into a mansion, with a bunch of bulky wooden furniture that's all wrapped up that you keep shouting at the workers not to drop."

"Because it's really their coffin," Crystal finished. "Did you see that too?"

"I'm pretty sure it was all dressers and stuff. Plus," I admitted, the detail bothering me in retrospect, "the dad was shouting like that for everything - chairs, vases, you name it. If that's how he was about regular furniture, he'd have lost it completely if they were handling his coffin."

"Or the other way around," Crystal said after a moment. "If he wanted them to be careful without singling the coffin out, he'd have to yell about everything else too. Hiding in plain sight."

"Ooh, I hadn't thought of that." I laughed. It made for amusing imaginary gossip, though perhaps Brewelph wouldn't have seen it that way.

The art teacher seemed good-natured, although one never could be sure in the first few days. We sat together at one of the tables and listened to an overlong description of the course before we were allowed to begin our drawings.

The room was a big one, with huge windows on one wall. Huge windows were a staple of our high school architecture, though most of them had needed to be covered over again by slabs of the same whitewashed spaghettilike blocks used in the ceiling to keep the temperature somewhere above freezing in the winter. It reminded me of the Roman houses we'd learned about in history class, mostly the part about how the Romans had insisted on building the same sprawling open-centered impossible to heat places even when they were stationed in Britain. The architect of our high school had presumably been a fan of this sort of thinking. Though at least the teacher had been able to give an explanation for the Roman's open center room, which was more than anyone had managed for the massive courtyard in the center of the school beyond making sure students had plenty of exercise trying to get to class on time.

This room, at least, was on the ground floor and was ringed by heaters. I picked a spot near the door to the kiln, one of the rare areas where you could rely on a stable temperature and few drafts.

Most of the space was taken up by a huge table in the center of the room covered in bottles and books and the fake plaster fruit that's always used in still life drawings. There had been a similar jumble last year.

Just like last year, first class involved trying to draw the mass without looking at the page. Just like last year, what resulted on my paper was a long squiggle with occasional loops and a few lines tossed on top at random. Crystal's was a lot neater, prompting a frown from the teacher. "I know it's hard not to look down, but don't," he said, then put another piece of paper on top of her hand. "It doesn't matter what it looks like."

Her next few tries were messier, though still far better than any of mine. I was relieved when we finally switched to real drawing halfway through the class. There's only so much failure a person can take, and being praised by the teacher for the degree of chaotic, unidentifiable jumble I produced was not really helping matters. I wasn't really any better at regular drawing, but at least I could erase my mistakes then.

I was expecting Crystal to be good at this too, but she was actually pretty mediocre, drawing the shapes crudely and missing a lot of the detail. I didn't do much better, barely finishing one corner of the drawing before class was over thanks to my continual erasing. I was quite good at knowing what I was looking at, and at knowing what my drawing should look like. It was only the part about getting it onto paper that eluded me.

Her next class turned out to be Spanish, which I didn't share, but no one would care if I was late to a class on the first day of school and she didn't even know where the language wing of the school was.

"You should probably get a spot near the heater," I advised. "It's not so bad right now but there's a lot of trouble heating the building in the winter and the rooms can get cold, especially this section." It was on the northwest side, and spent a lot of time facing into the wind and not the sun.

"Really?" she said. "That's okay though, I don't really mind the temperature." She said goodbye and stepped through the door into the classroom. I headed off in what I thought was the direction of my Math class.