"Were you using my blow dryer again?" Jen asked, standing in the doorway of my room, blow dryer in one hand, the other placed on her hip.

"Yes, because I have so much hair to work with," I said sarcastically, running my hand through all five inches of hair that was on my head. "Why don't you ask your sister, the only other person in this house who has hair longer than yours."

"She has her own, why would she use mine?" Jen didn't believe me, I could tell from the look on her face. That you're-a-liar-Kael-and-I-know-it face.

"I don't know. I do know, however, that I didn't use it. So stop giving me that look."

Jen let out a heavy breath, "Whatever, I don't even care anymore." She left my room, leaving me in a relative amount of silence again. I turned back to my homework, trying to finish up the last of my weekend assignments with enough time to still relax for a little bit. Weekend homework, just another one of life's cruel jokes.

Before I could even get to the next problem in my math assignment though, another person came barreling through the door, collapsing onto my bed with a loud thunk, some of her books dropping to the floor in the process. She buried her head in my pillow in an overdramatic flourish, limbs splayed across my bed.

"Hello Natalie, is there something I can help you with?" I mused, smirking slightly as I looked at my books.

"Math is hard!" She moaned into my pillow.

"I know, but it's a mandatory part of our compulsory education," I teased slightly, still half focusing on my own assignment in front of me.

"Still, will you help me?" My sister asked in a slightly whiny voice, turning her head to the side to look at me.

"Of course, what problem are you on?"

"…the first one," she said sheepishly. Natalie leaned over the side of my bed to grab all her books, almost falling to the floor in the process. I gathered my own books and papers off my desk and went to sit next to her, looking over at her blank paper.

"What were you doing in class on Friday when we had all that time for homework?" Our teacher usually had the lesson finished within the first fifteen minutes of class, leaving the next thirty-five for homework. Normally that would be plenty of time for me to complete the assignment, but Friday I had been occupied with Mason Hill.

Mason Hill was amazing.

"Thinking about other things more important than my trig homework," Natalie said airily.

That probably meant she was contemplating the next move her club would take in their fight against the government. Natalie was very… one with the earth. She ran this club on campus called Green Children and its whole goal was fighting for environmental rights.

They planted a lot of trees.

Either which way, I was still twelve problems ahead of my sister, so I set my own paper aside and turned my full attention to Natalie.

We worked steadily through the problems, me carefully explaining everything three times and Natalie forgetting most things the second I said them. We had almost reached the problem I had been working on before I set my homework aside when we were interrupted.

"How come you guys are studying without me?!" Jen asked in an accusatory tone from the doorway to my bedroom.

"Stop being paranoid Jen, we weren't doing anything." Natalie stuck out her tongue at Jen and went back to her paper, roughly erasing a few lines.

"It looks like you guys are doing math homework together. Am I wrong?"

"No, Natalie came and asked for my help so that's what I'm doing, helping her." Jen never asked questions, she just jumped to her nearest conclusion and never thought to get an explanation out of anyone.

"Well, what if I needed help? Ever think of that?"

"Do you need help?" I asked in a tired voice, already bored with this stupid game. I wished sometimes I could be more like Natalie, she was oblivious to Jen's outbursts… and most other things. Natalie was just in her own world a large part of the time, either way though, I think she was stressed a lot less than I was. Something to be learned, I suppose.

"As a matter of fact I do! Kael, you know I suck at math and it's not for lack of trying. Natalie gets it, she's just lazy." Jen pointed a finger at her sister and looked back at me, a slightly hurt expression crossing her face.

"Fine, we'll meet you downstairs in the living room so we can all study math. My room isn't big enough to hold all of us." More like I just didn't want everyone in my space.

Jen didn't say anything, just stomped off in the direction of her room. I uncrossed my legs and stood up, reaching my arms out to stretch after sitting in the same position for so long. "Come on Natalie, if Jen beats us downstairs we'll never hear the end of it."

"Okay," Natalie said in an airy voice, lightly hopping off my bed and gathering up her books. I did the same and followed her out of my room and downstairs. We spread everything out on the coffee table and sat down, my mind trying to focus once more. Jen clambered down the stairs and joined us, her books taking up the rest of the empty space on the table.

"What problem are you on?" I asked in a neutral tone, years of experience dictating how I had to deal with Jen in this kind of situation.

After one of her outbursts where she had been proven to be in the wrong, it was important to never point that out to her. The best course of action was just to pretend that she hadn't jumped to conclusions, again, and move on with things. Using the situation as an example that she should ask questions more was just asking for another teenage tantrum from Jen.

Then the only thing that would coax her out of a locked bedroom were Oreos and the promise of a shopping trip.

"Fifteen."

"We're only on twelve. Do you want to wait for us to catch up or just go ahead?"

"I'll wait."

"Okay. Natalie, do you get problem twelve?" I asked, turning to my other sister.

"I think so. Let me see if I can get it." She bent her head over the page, long reddish brown hair pooling on the table. I solved the problem quickly on my own and then looked at Jen's page to compare answers.

"Okay!" Natalie said in a happy voice, pushing her homework towards me so I could look at it. Once I saw she had it right I gave her paper back and we went through the rest of the homework. Together, we were able to finish our weekend assignments with some degree of speed and ease. As it was whenever all three of us were together, I had to act as a monitor between Jen and Natalie.

Natalie had the habit of saying tiny comments to Jen that didn't sound that mean, but always set Jen off none the less. Even after thirteen years of living with them, I still wasn't sure if Natalie realized what she was doing. I had never seen her be intentionally malicious towards anyone, but you'd think she would've figured it out by now.

After homework was dinner, my mom made some casserole thing that vaguely resembled real food, but I couldn't really tell. She liked to experiment in the kitchen, although I wish she'd just stick to the basics.

"Can I be excused?" I asked, my face feeling hot, the temperature of the dining room seeming to have gone up twenty degrees. My throat felt a little scratchy, but I assumed it was just because of the food. I think there were nuts in this thing, it should be sent to a lab for an accurate breakdown.

"You barely touched your dinner though!" My mom protested as she sat down at the table.

"I'm really not that hungry," I tried in a more feeble sounding voice, acutely surprised when it came out sounding natural. Jen glared at me as she pretended to eat, while my dad gave me a 'nice job escaping' look. Natalie… well she was actually eating and looked like she was enjoying it. Go figure.

"Well…okay," My mom said, sounding a little crestfallen.

"Thanks." I got up from the table and took my plate into the kitchen, clearing it and placing it in the dishwasher. I wiped my forehead, a light sheen glistening on the back of my hand. Had it been this hot all afternoon? Everything seemed fine until now.

Dad had probably turned the heater up higher than normal, it was the middle of January after all.

I marched slowly up the stairs and bypassed my bedroom, going straight to the bathroom. Closing and locking the door, I crossed the room and turned on the shower. Shedding my clothes and putting them in the hamper, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

My skin looked all flushed and red, as if I'd just finished running or something. I brought a hand up to my face and felt my cheek with the back of my hand, my skin felt like it was on fire. This wasn't good, I couldn't get sick!

Mason Hill was counting on me to be there!

I dragged myself into the shower, quickly going through the motions as I felt myself getting heavier and more sleepy. Part of my mind was fighting against it, telling me I wasn't feeling worse with every passing minute, that my body was in perfect condition.

I was just so tired though, I seemed to be impossibly worn out. My day's activities didn't warrant this kind of exhaustion, but it was here none the less. I turned off the water and stepped out, grabbing a towel from the rack on the wall and drying myself off before wrapping it around my waist. I left the bathroom and walked down the hall, my warm house feeling cold compared to the steamy, humid room I was just in.

Once I reached my bedroom, I closed the door behind me and walked to my dresser, pulling out boxers and some flannel pants to sleep in. I felt so cold inside, like there were ice cubes in my chest that wouldn't melt. I dropped the towel over a chair and climbed into bed, pulling the covers close to my bare skin.

The down comforter and two blankets didn't seem to make a dent though, I still felt so cold inside. At the same time I felt my skin burning on the outside, how could I be both at the same time?

I can't believe I got sick, this was the worst timing ever.

The next morning when I woke up my head felt very strange, my skin still seemed to be on fire and all my limbs felt thirty pounds heavier. It took me a few minutes to fully gain consciousness and realize there was no way I was doing anything that required normal functioning. Very slowly, I got out of bed, taking my comforter with me and wrapping it around my ill body to keep warm.

As warm as I could be with the ice cubes in my chest anyways.

I walked downstairs to find my mom busy putting lunches together and my sisters eating breakfast at the table. They were already dressed and ready, probably having been up for at least an hour.

They got to go to school today.

Mason Hill would be at school today.

I can't believe I wasn't going to school today!

"Sweetie, what's wrong? Don't tell me you just got up?" My mom asked, sparing me a quick once over before turning to bury her head in the refrigerator looking for something.

"I don't feel so good," I said in a sick sounding voice, not even trying this time.

My mom came over and felt my forehead, eyes going wide. "Sit down at the table," she said, leaving the room.

"What's wrong with you?" Jen asked between bites of her cereal.

"Sick," I said, laying my head down on the table. It was too early for me to be up.

"So you're not going to school?"

"Probably not." Mason Hill…

"Lucky. I hate school." Jen got up from the table, muttering things to herself under her breath as she left the kitchen.

"We'll get your assignments. Drink some tea," Natalie said in a soft voice, leaning down to kiss the top of my head and putting her bowl in the sink.

"Here, put this under your tongue," my mother ordered, walking back into the kitchen and handing me a thermometer. I slid the thermometer into my mouth, hating that weird feeling of having something there that shouldn't be.

After a few seconds it beeped loudly, hurting my ears with its sharp sound. My mom walked over and pulled the thermometer out of my mouth, "102.3. Okay, go back to bed and I'll bring you some food." She patted my back a few times and then gently pushed me out of my chair and towards the stairs.

I moved slowly, my joints achy and body heavy. Finally I reached my bed again, collapsing down on top of it as I pulled my blanket tighter around me, thinking it impossible that my skin could burn this badly when I was so cold inside. I sniffed and rested my head on my pillow, closing my eyes and trying to clear my mind.

A few more hours of sleep would be a welcome escape.

When I woke again, it was because my mom had brought me food for lunch. There was a big bowl of soup and some bread, as well as a glass of water and a few funny looking pills. Before I was allowed to eat, she took my temperature again; it hadn't changed since this morning.

I ate slowly, alternating taking bites with my spoon and ripping the bread to dunk it in the hot liquid. I could tell the soup was from a can; it didn't taste weird or have any extra things in it that shouldn't normally be in a soup, it was good. I loved my mother, just not her cooking.

I thought about my sisters and how lucky they were to be in school right now. I know that sounded weird, but it was true. I didn't miss school unless I had to, which usually meant that I was home sick like this. School could be torturous sometimes, but I still preferred it to having the flu.

Plus I was missing Mason Hill.

Maybe I thought about him a little too much, but I couldn't help it. He was this nerdy, adorable little kid and he didn't even realize how attractive it was. I realized though, and I took full advantage of our time together during math and English. I'd be crazy not to.

I didn't know if Mason Hill was into boys and I knew he didn't know I was into boys, because no one knew that. I did know however, that I greatly looked forward to our daily conversations and those comments that sometimes made it sound like he was flirting and/or hitting on me. I also knew Mason Hill was single and had never seriously dated anyone during our three and a half years in high school. That meant I was allowed to hope.

The relationships he had had were always very secret. The other person never went to our school and he never revealed who they were. His clandestine affairs, that never gave anything away, like the gender, were also enough reason for me to hope.

Someday Mason Hill would be mine.

When I was done eating I set the tray aside and got up slowly to use the restroom. I mentally calculated how many hours I had slept since last night and came up with fourteen hours. That was longer than I had ever slept before, but the sad part was, I still felt tired. How lame was that.

After I was finished in the restroom I wrapped my blanket around myself once more and carried the tray downstairs carefully. Leaving it in the kitchen, I went to the living room, grabbing the remote and falling down on the couch. I turned on the TV and flipped through the channels, trying to find something decent to watch. Finally I had to settle for the cartoon network, every other channel showing soap operas and bad daytime movies.

I ended up watching three consecutive hours of television, something I'd never done before. I never had that much time to watch TV, much less for three hours straight. I guess that's something being sick buys you, lots of TV time.

It was boring though! The cartoons they show nowadays just aren't as good as they used to be. The plots and characters just seem so substandard and unoriginal, but maybe I was just looking at it with a different eye. Most five year olds don't really judge cartoons, they just watch.

Still, I demand better!

"Have you been sitting there all afternoon?" Jen asked from the doorway, having just arrived home from school, Natalie walking through the front door shortly after her.

"Here's your homework Kael, I got it from all your teachers. They said they hope you feel better soon," my sister said in a soft voice, handing me a folder with several pieces of paper in it and then walking out of the room and towards the kitchen.

"You're so lucky you're sick, school sucked today," Jen sighed, collapsing into a chair next to the couch.

"You say that about every school day," I muttered, my voice sounding plugged and broken.

"Well it's true, the sooner I get to college the better!"

"What, college doesn't count as school now?" As far as I knew, college was like high school to the tenth power. Harder classes, bigger books, larger workload and no one there to hold your hand like in high school. I think Jen was just hung up on the relief she'd feel of getting out of high school to realize what college really was.

"College will be better. It has to be," she said in a definite tone, getting out of the chair and running up the stairs, a door slamming a few second later.

I didn't care what Jen said, I still rather be at school than home sick.

...

a/n: okay, i've posted this just kind of to test the waters. chapter two is all done, ill put it up depending on the response i get from this chapter. constructive criticism is always appreciated, please review! and also, if you're confused its okay. more things get explained in the second chapter.