Authors Note: Hey you! Thanks for clicking on my story, I hope you stay around a little while :)

So yeah, hope you enjoy. And review. Pretty please. Any feedback would be very greatly appreciated.

"…Coming up next we'll be talking to sex expert Linda Wells! Find out: Is your lover faking it? Stay tuned to 96.7 F –"

Talia reached blindly for her alarm clock radio, her face planted firmly in her pillow. When she finally got a hold of it, she brought her fist down on top of it over and over until it stopped making any kind of noise.

Then she pulled her comforter over her head and squeezed her eyes shut, but it was no use. She was officially awake.

She groaned, yanked the comforter off her and headed to the bathroom for a shower.

Afterward she got dressed and flipped on the TV in the living room to check the weather before making her way to the kitchen. She winced against the bright sunlight that seared through the window above the sink.

She opened the pantry to consider her breakfast choices. The house was quiet except for the sounds of the weather channel floating in from the living room. The place always seemed to be quiet because her foster father Alan worked the nightshift so his sleeping and wakeful hours were the reverse of hers. Talia was basically okay with this setup. They hardly saw each other but when they did they were courteous enough. Talia never really had a connection with Alan. The only time they had said more than two words at a time to each other had been back before Alan's wife Diane died.

After Diane died of a stroke six months earlier, Alan, who hadn't been that talkative in the first place, completely shut down. Talia tried not to even look him in the eyes if she could help it because of the absolute emptiness she saw there. He barely even seemed to be alive. He just worked, ate and slept, devoid of emotion.

Pushing the thought out of her mind, she reached for a box of cereal, and then stopped suddenly, remembering what day it was.

She walked over to the calendar above the stove to make sure. Yep. May 5th. It was her birthday.

Talia shook her head in amazement. She'd actually forgotten that today was her birthday. She could not believe it. She usually did a countdown almost a month in advance, blabbing to anyone who would listen that is was this many days until her birthday.

She went back over to the pantry and spotted some carrot muffins near the back. She pulled them out, setting the plastic container on the counter. After some searching she found an unopened can of vanilla icing. Talia decided to make herself a cupcake as a makeshift birthday breakfast. Or two cupcakes. Or…three. As she took a bite out of the first one she sighed, remembering her diet plan. Thinking back she realized that Snickers bar yesterday had already destroyed her epic five day long commitment to healthy eating. She shrugged and continued eating her almost sickeningly sweet icing smothered treat.

Last year, when she turned seventeen, she had woken up to find Diane hard at work making a giant breakfast with four kinds of pancakes, eggs and bacon.

"Well, I wasn't sure what kind you liked so I made regular, chocolate chip, blueberry and banana," Talia remembered Diane saying sheepishly. At the time Talia had only been there a month, and she already liked Diane the best out of all the foster guardians she'd ever had. The back of her throat started to itch and she blinked hard to stave off tears. While she tried to compose herself she saw her remaining two cupcakes on the counter start shaking all of a sudden. She started to back up but was too late. The cupcakes exploded violently all over her shirt.

Talia stared down at the obliterated cupcakes with a tired expression. She was way beyond feeling the slightest bit surprised when things like that occurred. Having gone through seven foster homes in eleven years due to her little 'problem,' she honestly could not bother trying to explain it anymore, even to herself. When Talia was around, weird shit just happened.

She cleaned up the mess and then went back to her room to change, figuring she should probably wear something nicer than a ratty old hoodie anyway since it was her birthday and all. She tried on three shirts ultimately deciding that she looked atrocious in all of them. Finally she just went with another hoodie, a much less hobo-ish looking one. It was a pinkish orange coral that she decided looked okay with her French latte complexion. She frowned at herself in the mirror. One of the many downsides of being an orphan since before she could remember was definitely the fact that she didn't have the slightest idea who her parents were or where they were from. Her birth certificate had declared her 'African-American,' but that obviously wasn't all considering her hazel eyes and her medium brown irritatingly frizzy hair that she barely tamed with a flat iron. Also it was pretty annoying since people were forever asking her what 'background' she was and she'd always get some pretty strange looks when she answered that she had no idea.

Talia scolded herself for wasting so much time just looking in the mirror. She grabbed her backpack and headed for the door. Just as she stepped out the door she saw her regular bus leaving and cursed under her breath. She knew the next bus wouldn't come for at least another half hour so she had no choice but to walk the twenty minutes to school and arrive ten minutes after first period started.

So far, Talia wasn't seeing any differences between being seventeen and eighteen. She still spaced out in the mornings, moving at a ridiculously slow pace that resulted in her being late for school. Stuff still exploded randomly in her presence. She tried to shake her crappy attitude, but she got the distinct feeling that it was going to be a very long day.

When she made it to class her history teacher stared daggers at her as usual. She mumbled a feeble apology and took a seat. The morning passed so slowly, Talia would have thought time was standing still if she hadn't been watching the minute hand inch its way around the clock on the wall. When history actually ended she drudged her way to English and tried to imagine, she was somewhere else, anywhere else. After another agonizingly dull hour and a half, the bell rang for lunch.

One more month, Talia reminded herself. One more month and high school will be over. For. Ever.

She made her way to the cafeteria, unable to contain a slightly deranged smile. Because she'd finally be able to get her hands on that cheese panzarotti she'd been craving all morning and…she'd see Bennett.

Yep, Bennett. She tried to arrange her face in a less crazed expression, mostly succeeding. Bennett Davidson, her best friend, well more accurately only friend, since most kids were more than a bit freaked by the amount of things that blew up in her general vicinity. Bennett Davidson, the guy she'd been lusting after since the first moment she saw him a year earlier.

She went through the food line and got her panzarotti. She spotted him at their usual table near the back of the caf, his sandy blond head bowed, giant headphones on full blast, blocking out the rest of the world. She suddenly got a serious case of déjà vu as she approached the table, remembering them being in the exact same position a year earlier when he'd moved there.

Talia still had no idea what had possessed her to go up to the table and introduce herself. It wasn't like she was shy or anything, it was just that he was so… freaking… hot. She really wondered how no one else seemed to notice this extremely obvious fact. Yeah, he always kept his head down and usually had his hood up so teachers wouldn't yell at him about his headphones, but there was no hiding it. In a sea of normal looking people he stood out like a shining beacon of sexiness. She still couldn't figure out how she'd ever been able to carry on a conversation with him without actually drooling. Maybe it was the fact that, at the time, she'd been in the same position – the new kid – just a few months earlier and she didn't remember anyone going out of their way to be nice to her.

So she'd introduced herself and he'd said hi, they'd started talking, and just like that they were BFF's. Well it wasn't quite that simple since Bennett seemed to be fairly monosyllabic at first. However, she eventually got him to talk in full sentences and then it got to the point where she pretty much couldn't shut him up. Actually, thinking about it, Talia realized he still grunted briefly at basically everyone but her. Overall, she was pretty happy with their situation, although Talia would have preferred to somehow have Bennett drop one of the 'F's' in BFF. It was a distant dream, but one that always remained at the edges of her mind.

She smiled as she reached their table. "Hey, Benny."

He looked up from his food and pulled his headphones down around his neck. "Hey, Tal. What's up?"

"Nothing," she said trying to decide if she should remind him it was her birthday or not. "You?"

"Not much." He gestured at her panzarotti. "You're gonna share, right?" he asked, giving her his best smile, the one that made the golden rings around the center of his dark gray eyes light right up like halos. The one that made Talia feel like she could die perfectly content.

She almost fell for it but then she looked at him with a purposefully blank expression and asked, "Do you have anything to say to me, Bennett?"


Talia sighed inwardly. She knew it was stupid but she felt kind of hurt that he'd forgotten. She'd remembered his birthday in March. She'd even gotten him lunch. Was she getting any free lunches? Apparently not.

"Never mind," she said her voice abnormally high-pitched.

"So can I have some?" he persisted.

"Nope. Get your own."

Bennett snorted incredulously at her. "Jeez, fine."

Talia ate her panzarotti with exaggerated satisfaction just to annoy him. He didn't appear phased and tried to tell to her about a new music store they should check out on the weekend, but she refused to respond with anything other than "hmm," "right" or "whatever."

The lunch bell rang and they stood.

"Okay, see ya later, Tal."

"Right," she mumbled and walked off.

As she headed for Art class she wondered what the hell was wrong with her. It wasn't like she'd even reminded him before the fact. It wasn't that big a deal.

Except that it was.

Talia got through the rest of the day, and after school made her way to the bus stop, where about twenty other kids were waiting. The bus came after a couple of minutes and she found a seat in the back. A second later, Bennett appeared out of nowhere and took a seat next to her.

"Talia, why didn't you wait for me to come by your locker?" he asked.

"Just wanted to get going," she said through gritted teeth.

He glanced sideways at her, looking confused by her furious expression. She turned away and stared out her window as the bus pulled away from the school.

"Hey, Tal."

She sighed irritatedly. "What?" she snapped, as she turned to him again.

"Happy birthday." Talia saw he suddenly was holding a small wrapped gift box. He smiled mischievously as he held it out to her.

A startled gasp escaped her, but she recovered quickly. "Bennett! What the hell, you were just pretending you forgot this whole frigging time?"

He laughed out loud, Talia's stomach twisting a bit at the musical sound. "Did you honestly think I would forget?" He placed the gift in her hands. "Open it, ya goof."

She ripped into the light green wrapping paper. She stared curiously at the white box that was becoming more and more visible underneath. Then she stopped ripping suddenly.

"No. No. This is not what I think it is," she breathed staring down at the box.

Bennett grinned wider. "Hurry up and you'll see."

She finished tearing off the paper and stared at the box disbelievingly. "This is just an iPod box right? There's just like some… chocolate bars or something in here right?"


"You got me an iPod. I…it''s too much. I can't accept this." She shook her head.

"Well there's no way I'm taking it back so you might as well keep it," he said still grinning, holding his hands up.

Talia stared at the box in wonder for a moment longer. "IPod. It's an iPod!!!" she squealed, jumped up from her seat and flung her arms around the boy's neck. She took a deep inhale of his intoxicating clean scent and then came to her senses and detached herself from his arms. "Thank you so so much, holy crap! You did not have to do this, Benny."

"Actually, I kind of did. I got tired of you taking mine hostage for days at a time. What are you waiting for? Open the thing up already, Tal."

She opened the packaging and took out a gleaming ruby red mp3 player. "Ah, oh my God, it's so sexy!"

Bennett laughed again. "Turn it on."

She did what he asked and the first title came up. It was Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box." She looked at the screen. It was the first song out of 5000.

She sucked in a deep breath. She alternated between flipping through song titles and staring incredulously at Bennett. "You put all my favorite songs on it. Even the ones you told me were pure crap and that I should be ashamed for listening to." She swallowed hard as a tight knot formed in her throat. It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for her.

He shifted his gaze away, looking a bit embarrassed. "It was no big deal."

She shook her head. "This is the best birthday ever, seriously."

Bennett looked back up at her, that way too irresistible smile returning. "Talia, it hasn't even started yet."

AN - And... that's the first chapter. Review and I'll tell you what happens next! I think it's a fair trade, don't you?