This is what you get when I listen to Hilary Duff. MORE STORIES.

I should shoot myself..but you'd be very sad because you'd never know how any of my stories ended. Ahahaha.

--(1)--

It felt like I'd only slept for moments before I felt a hand on my shoulder, gently shaking me awake.

I opened my eyes to a room I didn't recognize; white walled, dark and cluttered instead of royal blue and sporting a shine Mr. Clean would envy. These sheets didn't smell like my sheets; neither did the pillow, come to think of it. I sat up, wrinkling my nose slightly at the thought of pillows that didn't smell right; blearily my eyes followed the hand on my shoulder to an arm to a torso to a face.

"Rise and shine, hon," comes my aunt's voice from the mouth my eyes are focused on. The words and the mouth movements are out of sync for a moment, but then when I focus everything's okay.

Well, not okay. Definitely not okay.

The first day of school all over again; just the thought of it makes me shudder, much less actually having to go through it a second time this year. Moving itself was hell; uprooting my life, saying goodbye to all of my closest friends and going to live five thousand miles away because my dad has the nerve to fucking die.

When I say it like that it sounds horrible, I know; but the guy was a cheapass drunk who was never home most of the time, and when he was he only yelled and caused fights. But still, despite this all, my mother couldn't stand to 'live with all the painful memories' of her shitty now-ex-husband. So we moved. From Maine.

To California.

A bit of a major move, but my brother Brendan and I were staying with Aunt Zelda until Mom came over, which would be in approximately a month. Some thirty-odd days, and then we were moving from Aunt Zelda's (admittedly) very nice home into some lame-ass excuse for an apartment.

Which kind of was going to suck even more than living here, in my opinion.

"Look, Spence, I know you don't want to go to school today, but Bren's even going to drive you and everything and...you have to face the music sometime, honey." Aunt Zelda's voice was reassuring, but not assuring enough; as she sat down on my bed, folding her slim frame onto the end, I got up. Telling me Brendan was going to drive me to school wasn't exactly landmark news; besides, he had to drive our two cousins there as well. And I'd rather not walk, thanks very much.

"I'd rather not face anything at all," I croak, my voice laced with early-morning venom. I don't mean to sound so snappish and I feel bad on the inside as I see Zelda wince just a bit, but I can't help it. I'm hating myself for not chaining my legs to my door back home and refusing to move until someone either cut my legs off or let me stay in Maine.

Five thousand miles.

"I know that, hon, but just get ready. For me?" Zelda pleads, and I can't turn her down when she sounds so much like Mom.

"Fine," I snap again, and Zelda stands with a smile on her face. She knows she's won. And she's fucking gloating. "I'll get ready. I'll even come down when I'm done, how 'bout that?"

"That'd be great, Spence," Zelda says, smiling warmly and closing my door after she leaves.

Jesus Christ. I punch my pillow angrily and go to my closet, tearing the outfit I'd picked out last night (carefully) from the hanger and shedding yesterday's clothes. The outfit gets tossed on the bed while I go to the adjoining bathroom and turn on the water for my shower. California does not agree with me.

My shower only lasts a few minutes before I'm done, drying quickly and not bothering to towel my hair before I slip into my clothes (though I end up drying it afterwards because I can't have it dripping all over the place while I put in my contacts). The only reason I check in the mirror is to make sure nothing is backwards or inside out; not to preen, and I do not check myself out before I grab the ridiculously heavy backpack containing my school shit from the floor and heading out onto the landing.

Downstairs my brother, Brendan, is already waiting. He looks relaxed and well ready for today; as he should be. Brendan flew over to this hellhole a month ago, being the one who was 'better equipped for the transition' out of the two of us (a nice way of saying I threw a fit and screamed and raved until he decided he would leave first). He was only a month older than me, so he was in my classes; at least I'd have one person I knew. I say knew because he sure as hell wasn't going to be seen with me, even if I was his own flesh and blood.

Brendan is a pretty jockboy, cream complexioned, blue-eyed, black-haired and slender in a muscular, defined way, with thick eyelashes and the high cheekbones girls would kill for and a strong jawline. He radiates a sort of cool confidence and arrogance practically leaks from every pore of his body.

I'm almost the complete opposite; gray-eyed, just plain unhealthy-looking where he was elegantly pale, blond and skinny and not in the muscular way, either. I don't look confident or cool, either; I'm just skittish and mean and just as catty as a girl when I need to be. So naturally we wouldn't hang out, the two of us; the awkward freak and the social butterfly. No way.

As I cross the kitchen and stand across the island table from him and he straightens up from his book, dorky glasses framing his eyes, you can see the few resemblances that mark us as siblings.

One: we have both have incredibly shitty eyesight.

Two: We're both incredibly short. As in, short short; I'm five-three and he's five-four. At sixteen, that kind of height deficit becomes really noticeable.

"Are you going to eat?" He asks in that God-knows-I-don't-really-care-but-I'll-ask-anyway tone he uses so often on me. I roll my eyes and reply in my what-do-you-think? tone, "What do you think?"

"Well, then you're in for a long fucking wait," Bren snaps at me, and I note one more similarity: we both are incredibly short-tempered in the morning. "'Cause Keegan and Shea have yet to get their asses downstairs so we can leave–" He shouts the last part at the ceiling, to which I raise an eyebrow. That's my brother, screaming at the cousins I haven't really met yet. Sounds like they get along great.

"I'm coming!" Footsteps like thunder cascade down the steps and a few seconds after, someone hurtles into the kitchen. "Jesus, Brendan, I think you even woke Shea up and she sleeps like a fuckin' ox!"

Since this is obviously not Shea, I take this boy to be Keegan. Again, you can see the family resemblance through one quality at a time; the first is that, again, he's short. Five-five, I'd guess, taller than both Brendan and I by only about an inch; black-haired like Zelda, who's black-haired like my mom, with yellow and blue streaks piercing the dark strands above his green eyes. He oozes playfulness and good humor like Brendan drips confidence, and I can see why they might not get along.

"Thank you, Keegan," my brother responds crabbily, "for actually coming downstairs on time this morning."

"No problem–who's he?" Keegan bounces–not walks, bounces–over to see and gets in my face, searching my eyes for, well, I'm not sure what. I lean back, the slightest of sneers pulling at my lip.

"My brother," Bren says, glancing over at us. Keegan stops and backs up, obviously comparing and contrasting the two of us as Brendan comes to my side. "Kee, this is Spencer–Spence, this is Keegan."

"I can so clearly see the family resemblance," Keegan says sarcastically, putting his hands on his hips. Brendan shrugs, glancing at me.

"Not everybody can be as good-looking as me," he says casually, raising an eyebrow at me. I scowl–I hate the fact that I look more like my father than my mother. Brendan is almost an exact copy of her, and I get stuck with that bastard's genes. Figures that'd be the only thing he ever gave me–he always liked Brendan better, anyway.

"Fuck you," I spit at him, and give him The Look. You know, The Look–the one that makes people generally kind of slink away in terror, piss themselves, that sort of thing. "You're just as damn short as I am."

"Hey, hey, kids, let's not start that this early in the morning." Zelda breezes into the kitchen, ever the peacemaker already. "Save it for after you get home." she winks at us and busies herself in the cabinets.

Keegan gives me a once-over and then nods. "Nice to meet you, Spence," he says good-naturedly. "Hopefully Brennie-kins hasn't ruined your first day already. I'll show you around the city and the school, since obviously he'll be too busy with his jock friends and Shea'll be occupied flirting with anything that moves."

A loud "Hey!" greeted his last comment, and a black-haired, green-eyed girl came stumbling down the stairs, looking glamorously unready for the day. "Hey," she repeated again, glaring at Keegan when she'd regained her balance. "Asshole, I don't flirt with everyone–hey, there. You must be Spencer, right?" Her focus bounced from Keegan to me and I could see what he meant by 'anything that moves'.

"Yeah," I say, trying not to let my irritation seep into my voice. But hell, she doesn't seem like she'd be that offended by it.

"Well, that's..." she eyes me up and down, and I'm vaguely revolted. I'm her damned cousin; she knows that, and she's still checking my skinny, ugly self out. She has no shame! "..nice."

"Sure, okay," I say, trying to back out of the conversation by turning to Brendan. He just looks amused; I imagine the same thing happened to him when he got here. Fucking funny when it's not happening to you, I bet.

"Anyway, like I said, I'll be your guide. Y'know, introduce you to the right people, keep you away from the stoners, make sure you get to your classes on time, get the right rumors spread. I'm good like that." Keegan grins, nodding emphatically.

"Sounds like fun," I say dully, backing up to lean against the island. "Today should be...great."

"Because your first days are always great, aren't they..." I twist my torso a bit to look at Brendan, who's almost trying to look immersed in his book.

"You wearing your goggles today, Brennie?" My voice comes out in a disinterested sneer, just the way I'd wanted it to. Brendan looks up and the barest hint of a blush bites at his cheeks. I snicker to myself.

Hells yeah, I'm a bitch.

The goggle remark, though, wasn't that much of an exaggeration; his glasses (and mine, too, but I wasn't wearing them so that didn't count) were thick as hell, more like miniature magnifying glasses attached to wires than lenses. Although he definitely looked better in his glasses than I did in mine; damn my mother for getting the exact same pair for both of us. I couldn't do anything about it, though, because I had neither the money nor the motivation to get a new pair. I only really wore them when I was sick (and I couldn't wear my contacts) or when I didn't have my contacts in (when I didn't have to go anywhere).

"Yeah, I am," he replied promptly. Damn. I'd thought that would've put him just a little bit more off balance...but this was Brendan, and he was perfect. Of course. "Didn't have time to put contacts in today."

I didn't point out that he'd gotten down here probably twenty minutes before I even got in the shower, just rolled my eyes in faux belief. He wore a red hoodie–his favorite color, the violent, temperamental bastard–the sleeves pushed back to his elbows, and jeans that were at least dark gray, if not some odd shade of off-black. Somehow he'd pulled it all together to create a casually stylish outfit, and if my estimate was right that took about half an hour. Maybe more if he hadn't picked out the clothes the night before.

Those were two things I was better than Brendan at: thinking ahead, and getting dressed quickly. My outfit, set out last night, consisted of jeans and a dark green shirt under a black jacket. It was cold outside, and I had thought ahead. Aunt Zelda, though, had made sure Brendan wore that today–he hadn't known, she told me in the car ride from the airport, so when we reached the house she went to give him the hoodie before I went to bed–and he liked to pretend like he didn't forget things.

"So, Bren, have you thought about that party yet?" Aunt Zelda asks, changing the subject.

Brendan shrugs, assuming his 'responsible-mature-teenager' air, and says, "Yeah. I think it'd be a good idea–and it would give Spence a chance to meet some new people, too."

"Oh, wonderful!" Clearly Zelda has been pushing for this party thing; whatever the hell it is. "Spencer, I haven't told you yet! We're hosting a party after school today so you can socialize! Doesn't that sound like fun?"

I may be a horrible person but still I don't have the heart to shoot down the excitement in her eyes. "Sure," I say in a weak attempt at levity. Brendan hides a smirk in his book and I glare at him out of the corner of my eye. He's going to get it. "Is Brendan going to help you set up for it?"

I see Brendan's eyes narrow and his head jerk up from his book. Oh, I'm good.

Zelda nods, smiling at Brendan. "I'm sure he will," she said. "It'll only take three hours at most if he does, and Brendan's just ever so helpful, aren't you?"

Yeah, I'm a bitch.

"Of course, Aunt Zelda. But you know, if Spencer helps clean up afterward we'll get much more done."

But Brendan is one sick, twisted, manipulative motherfucking bastard.

"Yes, that's a splendid idea," Zelda says cheerily, though I don't doubt she knows we're both pissed as hell (or at least I am). "Now you might want to leave–I know it's still a bit early, but you do need to get Spencer started on his first day."

"Oh, yeah," Keegan says, flicking his multicolored hair from his eyes. He flashes me a grin. "We should get going if you want to get your shit sorted–"

"Keegan!" Zelda interrupts, giving him a warning look.

"–out before school. Sorry, Mom," he says, wincing as he apologizes. Shea rolls her eyes and snorts.

"Wow, you're actually getting disciplined!" She says with mock enthusiasm, her eyes flat. Keegan shakes his head at her. "Bet you it's only cause it's Spence's first day here."

"Yes, it is," Zelda replies primly, tossing a set of keys at Brendan. He catches them nimbly and I curse his coordination on the inside. "Now get going–and Brendan, be nice today. You too, Shea."

"Fine, Mom," Shea says flippantly, leaving the kitchen to go to the garage. If my exhaustion-and-depression-fogged memory is accurate, that's down the hallway that leads from the foyer. My guess is proven correct when Brendan takes that same path, throwing a quick goodbye over his shoulder.

Keegan grabs my wrist and pulls me down that hallway before I have time to react, and through an open door (that remains open. I can imagine what my mother would say if she was here: "Were you raised in a barn? No? Then don't leave doors open!" As if that makes any sense at all.) into a garage that I sort of almost remember.

A shiny chocolate-colored car sits in front of me, and Keegan throws open the back door and pulls me in after him. As my knee slams painfully into the corner of the seat, I can tell ours is going to be an abusive relationship. Hurray for me.

"Keegan, sit down," my brother instructs from the front seat, twisting around to see behind him and placing one arm around Shea's seat. I can practically feel her flirty grin and again I am sickened. Brendan is her cousin too, the cow.

I guess Brendan notices because he pauses in his backing out of the garage to direct Shea a disgusted, wide-eyed 'what the hell' look. I revel in the fact that that expression is one of the only ones that make him look relatively unattractive (but then again, I suppose all the girls he knows would still probably say otherwise) and that he's making it right now. Even the smallest of victories thrills me, that's how sad I am.

"Fuck," Brendan murmurs as he puts the car in drive and starts away from the garage.

When he offers no explanation I glance from Keegan, who's raising an eyebrow, to Brendan again and say, "What are you on about?"

"We're doing flag football today in phys ed and hell if it doesn't always turn into tackle," Brendan begins. "I'm going to have to take the glasses off."

"And you can't see shit without them?" I finish, raising an eyebrow. Hah, that's what he gets for trying to be cool (or just being lazy and forgetful). "And you just now realized it?"

"Pretty much," he sighs. "I feel like a dumbass." Finally he admits it.

"You are," I supply helpfully.

By this time Keegan is looking between the two of us, looking slightly freaked out. I raise an eyebrow at him when he starts mouthing things to himself. "What?"

"Are you two–having a civil conversation?" He asks incredulously. I raise an eyebrow–what does he know? I just got here yesterday–he didn't even see me yesterday. Why would that seem so impossible.

"He just called me a dumbass," Brendan points out.

"Okay, then, semi-civil," Keegan amends. "But even the phone calls you two had were basically arguing! I mean, seriously!" Oh. That's how he would know.

"Well, that's because Brendan is a stupid, pretentious, overachieving, obnoxious bastard," I explain simply. Brendan snorts at me in the rearview mirror.

"And Spencer is a whiny, trashy, scrawny little bitch. Does that make sense?"

"Well, not really. I mean," Keegan grins as he pauses, looking forward, "Shea is a total whore, and I don't argue with her all the time."

"Motherfucker, shut your mouth," Shea orders affectionately–or maybe not so much–hurling a random pen in Keegan's direction. He grins shamelessly. "Love you too."

"Both of you shut up," Brendan commands, his head jerking oddly as he attempts to glare at them both at the same time. "I don't want to run into people in the school parking lot–FUCK!"

The car jerks forward, hard, and I barely have time to realize I wasn't wearing a fucking seat belt before my head collides with something and everything goes black.

061408–061408–061408–

Everything is still black, I think hazily. My head kind of hurts...what the hell happened?

Oh, yeah. Brendan braked too hard and I went flying into the back of the seat. How funny is that: he tells them to shut up so he doesn't get into an accident, and look at that. He got into an accident.

I giggle to myself at the irony of it all, feeling kind of like I'm just asleep even though I know I'm unconscious. But then again, I can't be conscious if I'm...not conscious, right? Like, I can't think if I'm supposed to be unconscious. Well, that's confusing, isn't it?

From somewhere outside my head, I can vaguely hear someone saying, "He's giggling. Does that mean he's awake?"

"Jesus, Brendan," oh, that's Keegan's voice, "I think you put him in a coma or something."

Oh, that's kinda funny. I can practically see Bren's face now; all concerned and pale and worried. That would be funny if there was the barest chance of it ever happening; he was probably trying to be irritated and play it off right now. Look cool for the spectators and all that jazz.

Wait, spectators? Whoa, what if there were people watching me talk to myself in my head while I'm unconscious-slash-ignoring reality?

That was a little bit too freaky for me to handle. So I opened one eye first, and then the other, and regained my bearings.

I was in a car, Zelda's car. I was leaning against the back of the passenger seat and there was something dark red and shiny staining the khaki leather–pleather–whatever the hell these seats were made of.

Oh, that was blood. Probably my blood, by the looks of it. Fun.

I pulled myself away from the seat slowly, keeping my eyes straight ahead. Maybe if I didn't look off to the sides, the mother of a headache pounding at my skull would go away.

"Spencer," Brendan says from my left, sounding irritated (I knew it) and relieved at the same time. "Are you okay?"

Do I look okay? I'm sure as hell I look like I've just had my head bashed into a seat and subsequently passed out for–hmm, probably not too long if the blood is still trickling down my forehead. I turn my head to the right slowly and look at him; Brendan is outside the car, looking in at me. Just like the fifteen-odd people gathered behind him. God, this is not the best way to make a good first impression.

"Ah–" My voice cracks around the syllable. I clear my throat and try again. "I'm good. How are you?"

He laughs, a short, tense sound, and points at me. "Get out of the car. We have to get you to the nurse's office."

"As long as we're not going to a hospital," I mutter, mostly to myself, because Brendan has turned to say something to someone else. Probably about how his idiot brother is fine and they won't be going to the hospital, thanks, because he's deathly afraid of them. Yes, he is dumb as a brick, thanks for noticing.

The car door on my side opens suddenly and a hand reaches in. It's not Shea's, or Keegan's, and Brendan's on the other side of the car, so I have no idea whose hand it is.

Wary of who's on the other end, I take it and they help me out of the car. I dust my legs off, avoiding eye contact for as long as possible because this is going to be awkward, and stare at my shoes as inconspicuously as possible.

"Hey, are you okay?" The voice is male, I notice, and concerned. Wow, more so than my brother–not that that's any surprise.

"Yeah," I say, still looking at the ground. Oh, how interesting, a rock! Why, hello rock, so very nice to meet you–"

"Spencer, right?" he asks, and it's enough to startle me into looking up. Now I can't look back down, otherwise he'd be offended–dammit.

At least he's not hideously ugly, though; reddish, burnt-orange hair, odd indigo-violet eyes, almost girly-looking. Though I'm not exactly one to talk about girly-looking people, you know.

"Yeah," I say when I remember he'd asked me a question. He raises an eye at my late reaction, but doesn't comment. Probably thinks I've got a concussion or something; great. "That's me."

"Nice to meet you, Spencer," he says, smiling. "Although these aren't the best of circumstances, really."

I raise an eyebrow, at a loss for anything to say. This was awkward. "Yeah."

"Well, I'll see you in class," he says, dropping my hand and walking away. I just kind of stare after him dumbly before I realize two things.

The first was that he hadn't told me his name.

The second was that he'd been holding my hand that entire conversation, and there were some twenty people here who'd probably seen that.

Keegan saves me from dying of embarrassment, not commenting on the furious blush staining my cheeks. "Spence!" He crows, grinning as he leaps over the trunk of the car. I shake my head; fresh out of a car accident, and he's jumping around like an idiot. "Nice cut," he whistles when his eyes find the source of the blood above my right eyebrow. I can feel it pulsing and making my head hurt.

"What..happened?" I ask, finally thinking of the event itself. I half-turn away from Keegan and am immediately pissed.

There's not a single scratch on the fender; he hadn't hit anything.

And I had sat in that car for a good three to four minutes, giggling to myself while blood gushed from my fucking head.

I hate Brendan, I really do.

"He didn't even fucking hit anything," I breathe, verbalizing my realization. Keegan winces, nodding.

"Yeah, sorry about that. If it helps, I got fucked over too," he says, pointing to his head. There's a nice bruise on his forehead, already turning colors. "I hit my head against the window, I think."

"Goddamn," I say, looking from the car to Brendan to Keegan and back again. If he doesn't have any bruises I'm sure as hell going to give him one, that's for sure. "Fucking prick."

"He's a dick, I know," Keegan agrees amiably. "Hey, were you talking to a redhead just a few seconds ago?"

"Yeah," I say, frowning a little bit at the memory. He was sort of weird. "He didn't tell me what his name was, but he knew my name."

"Ah," Keegan says, grinning. "The infamous 'You Don't Know Me, But I Know You'. That sounds like him."

"Who is he?" I ask. And then, after a moment, "And how the hell does he know who I am?"

"The equally infamous Lindell," Keegan tells me, grabbing my arm and sliding the strap of my backpack over it. I'm vaguely surprised; I have no idea when the hell he took it back. Casting a glance over my shoulder to see if Brendan needs me for anything (like he ever has), I follow after Keegan as he leads me toward the school.

I haven't actually looked at it yet; now I can see it's a towering mass of red bricks and big windows, laid out over quite a bit of space. I can see how someone could get lost here; however, my fear of hospitals is accompanied by a good sense of direction (honed by escaping from those hellholes every time I had to go), so I'm not too worried.

"Nice, huh?" Keegan says, glancing briefly up at the school before returning his eyes back to the path before him. "He runs with Brendan's crowd."

"His first name is Lindell?" I ask, doubtful. What kind of crackhead would give their kid that kind of name? God, I feel so sorry for him if it is.

"No. His name's actually Colby Reade Lindell," Keegan explains, shrugging. We step up over the curb and go up the sidewalk leading to the entrance. The double doors are painted bright orange, blinding me for a second before Keegan swings them open and we go through. "Technically, it's Colby-Reade Kinnley Lindell–Colby-Reade is one of those hyphenated first name things."

"Wow," I say, more at the fact that Keegan knows the word hyphenated than at Colby-Reade Kinnley Lindell's hyphenated name. Keegan doesn't seem like the brightest bulb in the lampshade, but I haven't known him for very long either.

Keegan quiets down, letting me take in my new school. The hallways of the front office, which is where I'm guessing we're at because I need my schedule, are lit up in golden-yellow iridescent lights. The walls are studded with trophy cases for various sports and academic activities that I don't really care to scrutinize any further, and it smells sort of like old people. Shudder. If there's one thing I'm terrified of on God's green earth, it would be old people.

We get to the front desk, next to a door that so clearly leads into it, and behind the lady sitting at the desk is the rest of the actual office. It looks pretty professional to me; not that I'd know what professional is supposed to look like.

The lady at the front desk is nice when Keegan explains my situation and I introduce myself. She hands me my schedule and gives me a basic outline of which classes are in what building, and when Keegan tells her we need to go back to the nurse's station and get me patched up she expresses some concern and leads us back.

I get my forehead cleaned up and the nurse tells me kindly that there shouldn't be a scar, since it was actually just a scrape, and that just a bandaid will be fine, and that I should let her know if I don't feel well. She gives me one and I thank her before we're on our way again.

I'm starting to think that, minus the car accidents, this school might not be so bad.

--

But of course, that's only until we get to the main building and start going through the hallways. There are still five minutes or so before class is in session, Keegan tells me, and that's why it's so crowded still. As we pass, girls and boys stare openly and hushed conversations break out in my wake. I can't help but feel like my every step is scrutinized; it doesn't help that I can't tell if their reactions are positive or negative, either. The only thing I can do is hold my head kind of high and trail after Keegan, not looking at the whispering groups lounging against the bright blue lockers.

Yet another reason for me to hate being Brendan's brother. I nearly laugh aloud as someone who's just a little too careless with their whispering says, "How is he Brendan's brother? They don't look anything alike?" Damn straight we don't–well, we're both obscenely short, and that's about it.

"This one's your locker, I think," Keegan says, stopping near a group of girls who are suddenly very interested in what he has to say. "What was the number–yeah, it's this one. Right next to mine, how odd."

"Okay," I say, stepping in front of the locker and spinning in my combination. I smirk to myself when it opens on the first try; I'm just fucking good like that.

"Just put your shit in there," Keegan instructs, gesturing to the open locker. I do so, only pausing to put my favorite pen in my pocket (because I'm a nerd, okay, I get it.) before I slam it shut. "Now, we–wait, is this a we thing–" He takes my schedule from me, peering at it until his find my first class. It's a good thing he can, because I sure can't; that thing is nigh impossible to read. "Yes, it is a we thing, you're in my homeroom. We have lit first period, and–oh, hey, you've only got two classes without me. I'm sure we can find someone who has those with you that won't eat you alive though, don't worry."

"...Okay," I say again, because, seriously? What the hell else am I supposed to say to that?

"And now," Keegan says, his backpack having mysteriously disappeared while I was doing my thing with the locker, "we're going to go to homeroom, because my friends are there and they're going to become your friends."

"I really hope they're not all like you," I say honestly, and he just laughs. "I mean this in the best possible way."

"I know you do," Keegan says amicably, grinning widely. "You're in for a surprise."

"I hate surprises," I tell him flatly, following him as he leads me a little further down the hallway.

"Yeah, well, life's a bitch and then you die."

Across the hall, in a break between two sets of lockers, a door with a little '109' labeled above it is sandwiched comfortably. Keegan beelines for that door, so I assume it's this so-called homeroom and follow him without questions.

The room is rather large, actually, bright and airy with two windows on the opposite side of the classroom from the door. The teacher's desk is on my right, complete with chalkboard, and there are multiple desks set in what could have been, at one point, neat rows. To my surprise, I can see there's actually a raised section in the back of the classroom, and in the corner are the people Keegan is heading towards. To me they all look sort of weird and emanate a very Keegan-ish aura–probably why he hangs out with them, I guess.

"My people!" Keegan announces, opening his arms wide. I duck to avoid being murdered and take another look at his friends.

There's a girl with a brunette bob and bright green nail polish, totally decked out in big, clunky jewelry who seems way too excited to see someone new; and another girl with black hair and green eyes who looks pretty sane to me. A boy with spiky black hair and the same green eyes as the second girl, who doesn't look nearly as sane as she does, is looking me over; and the last person there, another boy with blond hair and blue eyes, just seems curious. I guess they don't look all that weird, but hey, looks can be deceiving.

"This is Spencer Shane Orewing, my dear, dear cousin," he says dramatically, making an overzealous hand gesture. How the hell does he know my middle name? Oh, Brendan probably told him; he knows I hate my middle name. "He's come from Maine to share the beauties of California with us! How exciting!"

I roll my eyes at him, but put on my best "I'm-not-going-to-kill-you' face and say, "Hey."

"Spence, this is Jaelynn Amerie Prius, our artistically inclined friend," Keegan says, gesturing grandly to the girl with the bob. Jaelynn waves hi to me, smiling and looking like she's restraining herself from bombarding me with questions. "She will, indeed, hold her questions until I ask if anyone has them. Be warned," he adds in a lower voice, "she talks one hell of a lot."

"Hey!" Jaelynn says, frowning at him. Keegan just waves dismissively and continues.

"This is Delta Roxanne Fairchild, our choirmaster and the peanut butter to my jelly," Keegan says, grinning suggestively at the black-haired girl. Obviously she's used to it; I can tell by the way she just snorts at him before offering me a smile and a 'Hey there.' "She keeps order within our little pack."

"This is the exceptionally hyperactive Hadley Rae Fairchild, Delta's brother, and he doesn't really do anything but jump around and perv on things." The black-haired boy doesn't look put out at all, just grinning at me and wiggling his eyebrows. It doesn't creep me out as much as Shea's elevator eyes did this morning, but it still made me feel just a bit fidgety.

"And this is Finnley Rayce Hackett, who is also musically inclined and is a total bookworm, if I do say so myself," Keegan tells me. Finnley doesn't look bothered, only shooting Keegan a Look that has nothing on my Look. My Look reigns supreme over all those other loser unintimidating Looks.

"Now, do we have any questions?"

"Is your hair real?" Jaelynn asks at once, grinning madly. I'm kind of frightened. "And are you really Brendan's brother? Because he's an ass and you don't seem like you are. What's your favorite color? What month were you born in? Do you have a pet? Do you like Hilary Duff?"

When the torrent of questions stops I take a moment to select my answers and decide to be impressive today. I fire back just as rapidly, "Yes it's real, unfortunately he is my brother, and I know he's a real dickhead. Blue, January, two dogs and a cat, and hell no."

"I am impressed," Hadley says, nodding. "That was pretty neat–dude, I wish I could actually remember stuff like that."

"Good job," Jaelynn says, her grin turning less mad and more disturbingly cheerful. "Now, sit. You've officially been adopted, if nobody has any objections."

"None here," Finnley says, shrugging. Hadley gives me an enthusiastic thumbs up, and since Keegan is obviously okay with me Jaelynn glosses over him and turns to Delta.

Delta smiles warmly. "I like him," she says firmly, looking me over. "We can keep him."

"Yay!" Hadley says, waving his hands in the air. I raise my eyebrows but don't comment, instead choosing to address Jaelynn.

"What do you mean, adopted?" I ask. For some reason I don't really have a problem with this; I guess it's because they seem like nice people, and I do need friends. Plus, I think they seem like fun, too, and I could use a little fun. I haven't had much of that since Dad died and this whole fiasco started.

"You sit with us in class, at lunch, hang out with us, the usual," Jaelynn explains, nodding. "It's tons of fun!"

"Sounds like it," I say, and I smile genuinely for the first time in a while.

Then again, maybe this school won't be so terrible after all.

--(1)--

This school is actually sort of based off of mine...it's hilarious. Our colors are orange and blue, but we're the yellowjackets.

This is just a test run. I'll probably still continue it anyway, but if I don't get that many reviews back I just won't put as much effort into it. So let me know if you like it or not.

Reviews are like oxygen.