Hey, guess what? This is the first serious non-one shot that I've put on FictionPress!

There's a bit of a story behind this, actually. I first wrote it when I was twelve years old, re-wrote it a little every few months when I was thirteen, lost the file in a hard drive crash when I was fourteen, completely re-wrote it from memory the summer I turned fifteen, and have gone back and touched it up at least four times a year since then. Every time I read it over, I like it a little bit more, which is saying a lot considering I wrote it so long ago. So, here it is for your viewing pleasure, no matter how prepubescent and cheesy it is. It's working pretty well for Stephanie Meyer, right? (insert rim shot)

I'll post a new chapter every two or three days, I think. I wanted to try doing a new one every week, but things seem to move pretty fast in this section, and I want to attract as many people as I can. Especially since there are only five chapters in total.

A side note to people who know me in real life: I swear I named these characters before that whole mess happened, and to the best of my knowledge, none of this really happened to me or anybody that I know

I should start this story in English class the other day, but that wouldn't be the real beginning. In a way, this story started in third grade, just like a lot of other things did for me. It was the start of a new decade, and a new millennium for that matter. It was also the beginning of my mother's new job position, which took her all over the country on business. That job was the reason my father--who was not, is not, and will never be capable of cooking anything that requires more than defrosting in a microwave--started dragging me down the block to The Eggshell for dinner whenever my mother wasn't there. I'd been uneasy around that restaurant for all of my life until that year. In my eight-year-old mind, I'd taken the name to mean that only eggs were served there. The name had actually been inspired by the name of the town in The Great Gatsby, which was the original owner's favorite book. His grandson took it over in 1995, and seizing the opportunity to be ironic, removed eggs from the menu.

A neighbor and friend of my parents', Anna Cuck, was a waitress at The Eggshell. I'd known from eavesdropping that she'd recently divorced her husband, leading her son, Kyle, to become quite the mama's boy. As a consequence, he was always at the restaurant, too, usually just sitting in an empty booth with a glass of Sprite and watching as everyone else ate. One day, he had a friend with him.

"He's from the family that moved into O'Donnel's house," Ms. Cuck had said to my father when Kyle and the boy had disappeared into the formal dining room. As she and my father fell into a conversation, the boys had returned and appeared to be playing some sort of pirate game with two butter knives. I watched them for a while, and when I turned around to order my dinner, one of the knives hit my head.

Ms. Cuck scolded her son and took the knives to get washed while my father went outside to answer his vibrating cell phone. The boys approached me, and the one who had apparently lived in the O'Donnel's house said, "I didn't do that on purpose. It just flew out of my hand."

Normally I was very shy, but I guess my mood wasn't particularly good that day, because I said back to him, "Why were you playing that stupid game, anyway?"

The boy narrowed his eyes at me and said, "Only a girl would think it was stupid."

For reasons that I will never quite understand, that one sentence made the two of us inseparable throughout elementary school. Eric Delgrasso and I spent uncountable afternoons together, laying in my yard just talking and laughing and watching the clouds go by. Kyle would join us when The Eggshell was too crowded, and on Saturday nights so would Eric's mother. Mrs. Delgrasso was obsessed with ghosts and spirits, and when we expressed an interest as well, we started hopping the fence that separated my backyard from the Jewish cemetery and performing séances. For years we did this, becoming less and less afraid of the graveyard, until at one point the experience became soothing.

Of all the days between that evening at The Eggshell and that day in English class, the one that sticks out the most was the July afternoon when Eric and I had snuck into the elementary school playground and climbed the monkey bars. We were both twelve at the time, so the distance from top to bottom was relatively short, but I had a phobia of falling at the time and the jump down felt to me like a jump off the Empire State Building. Eric decided the best way to get me down was if someone had offered support from the bottom. So he jumped down and extended his hands. As I grabbed them, he said to me, "Just relax, you'll be fine."

Suddenly, Eric was not the same boy he was before we were touching. I felt extremely dizzy and uncomfortable, but somehow managed to jump off the monkey bars anyway. Still holding onto my hands, he said, "See? You're fine."

I was far from fine, but the feeling completely disappeared when we heard the cars crash on the road in front of the school. When we arrived at the scene, we saw that one of the destroyed vehicles belonged to Eric's mother. After that day, nothing was ever the same.

According to my records, my parents never wanted me. That's how I ended up in an orphanage. Everyone else there seemed to have great stories about their birth parents dying in car accidents, or how their birth parents were too young to have children and were forced to give them up. I just wasn't wanted. And I could never understand why. All the kids really liked me, and the nuns always thought I was well-behaved. What did I ever do to my biological parents? What could I have done to them? I was barely ten minutes old when they decided they didn't like me.

None of that whole situation made much sense to me. Weren't parents supposed to love their children? Wasn't there this magical feeling that parents were supposed to get when they looked at that little part of them? That's what I'd heard some of the older kids talking about one night. It seemed plausible enough. So why didn't my parents love me?

The summer I turned eight years old, a very friendly, older couple adopted me. Even back then, I thought they were adorable. They were both in their late thirties, had dirty-blond hair, and they acted like they were joined as one person--finishing each others' sentences and seemingly reading each others' minds instead of asking each other questions. They treated me like their own from the start. I still remember the first thing my new father said to me. More to my new mother than me, I guess, but he said it so it felt like it was directed at me. "Well, isn't she a pretty young lady. Pretty enough to be the picture on a Hallmark card."

He was making fun of my last name, but I absolutely loved it.

That night, my new mother (who told me to call her Mom, but when I said it made me feel uncomfortable that I should call her Rachel) tucked me in and said she'd answer any questions I had. My thoughts were still on the closeness of my new parents' relationship, so the first thing I asked was, "How did you and your husband meet?"

With a smile, Rachel answered, "Mike and I met through a dating service. We had our doubts, but it grew into something so wonderful." She got lost in the moment and began to answer a question that she may have thought I followed up with. "The gentleman at the dating service really was right when he said compatibility was the most important thing in a relationship. And since we found you, we believe it's the most important thing in any relationship. We learned that we all have a lot of similar interests when we first talked to you, Chloe. It was almost just like the dating service."

She didn't know it, but Rachel had answered the question that puzzled me for years with that little moment of rambling. From that moment on, love was something made up for movies and fairy-tales. That revelation changed my life.

As it would turn out, my life would change again come my sophomore year in high school, but before I explain that, I should explain what happened the next afternoon.

I was sitting on my new front porch reading my new book, which was a welcome gift from my new parents. I was just starting a new chapter when I heard a door slam shut from my new neighbor's house. I ignored it and when back to reading, and after a few lines there was a shadow over the page. I looked up and saw a boy about my age standing over me. "Hi," he said. "You want to come over and play basketball?"

"Thanks for asking," I answered, "but I'm not very good."

"That's what everyone says," the boy answered. "I bet you're great."

"You'd lose that bet."

"Wanna bet?"

I dog-eared the page I was reading and shut the book. "Sure. How much?"

"Fifty cents," he said. "If you promise you won't play bad just so you'll win."



I held out my pinky. "Pinky-swear."

We shook, and by the time I was called home for dinner I'd lost by twenty points.

The day after that, I was sitting on my front porch reading again when that same shadow fell over the pages. "I brought you your fifty cents," the boy, who had introduced himself as Kyle, said as he held out two shiny new quarters.

"Keep it," I told him. "I don't want it."


"Really. It was just a silly bet."

We spent a lot of time together that summer, and throughout elementary school. Kyle introduced me to his two best friends from the cul-de-sac, Kate Carter and Eric Delgrasso, and they were really nice to me until we started junior high. Eric's mother died that year, and he and Kate seemed to forget all about me and just want to spend time with Kyle. So my neighbor and I drifted apart, too. In fact, the only time we would see each other outside of school is when I would stop in The Eggshell, which is where his mother worked and where he spent most of his time. That was where we talked, made more silly bets, and did a lot of our homework.

Homework, actually, is what started the whole thing.