A/N #1: This is the sequel to 'Internally Yours'. If you haven't read 'Internally Yours', get out of this story, find 'Internally Yours', read it, and then come back.

A/N #2: For the rest of you... welcome back! I look forward to embarking on this journey with you. I'm so excited!
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Buzzzzzzz!

Anastasia Chase jolted, then moaned lightly, as her husband's alarm clock, which was on his bedside table, went off at 6:55 a.m. on a particular Monday morning. She hadn't expected the alarm to go off, as it hadn't done so on a weekday morning in the past three months or so, and then, with a slight sigh, she suddenly remembered why it was now going off.

It was the first day of a new school year in the Glasgow, Scotland school district, and since her husband Will was a choir teacher, it was the first day of another year of employment for him. That also meant that it was the first day of a new school year for the two oldest children they had and the first day of school, period, for their youngest child.

This was all well and good, but since Stacey had decided to take the week off from her own job so that she would have some alone time to herself while her family was at work and school, she wasn't exactly happy to hear that blasted alarm of her husband's going off and disturbing her sleep. It was loud and aggravating... and it always took her husband at least two minutes to turn off the alarm if no one tried to wake him up and make him do so.

Letting out a sigh, she sat up straight in bed before looking down at her husband, who was still sleeping peacefully despite the fact that his alarm was blaring mere inches away from his ears. It was then that she decided that it must be nice to be a forty-six-year-old married man, for it meant being able to sleep through what was most likely the most annoying alarm in all the world.

"Will," she said rather loudly so that she might have a chance of being heard over the alarm, reaching down and beginning to try and rouse her husband out of his slumber by shaking his shoulder. "Will, wake up. Your alarm's going off; it's time to get up and get ready for work."

It took a moment, but William Chase finally moved, adjusting his position and letting out a great, loud yawn. Then he stretched and sighed, rubbing his eyes before opening them and looking up at the woman sitting before him.

As he briefly woke himself up and gathered his thoughts, he simply looked at her, but then he let out an "Oh" and sat up alongside her, reaching over and turning off his alarm.

"Morning," he mumbled, rubbing his eyes again as he turned and looked at Stacey with a tired smile. "My alarm woke you up, huh?"

"Yes," she groaned, letting out a sigh and shaking her head. "I don't understand how you can sleep through that thing. I really think we ought to get a new alarm."

"Oh, no," he replied with a shake of his own head, his smile getting a little wider this time. "It's nice and loud. It wakes me up."

"No, it doesn't! You sleep right through it and only get up when you hear me practically yell at you and feel me shake you. The alarm wakes me up."

"Well, it's really for both of us, isn't it?" he murmured, smiling at her again before seeing that she looked rather miffed. Then he leaned forward, pressing a light kiss to her lips. "But all right. If you want me to get an alarm clock with a quieter alarm that we can put on your side because you're always the one who wakes up to alarms, I'll do that. Right now, though, I have to get ready for work."

"Yeah," she agreed, letting out a quiet sigh as she removed the covers from both of them and began moving out of the bed. "And I guess I'll get up and make sure the kids are awake, getting ready and everything."

"You don't have to do that if you don't want. You can go back to sleep and let them sleep a little while longer... and when I get out of the shower, I'll go and wake them all up. After all, part of the reason you're having this mini-vacation is because you've been so tired out lately from work and need more sleep."

It was true. Stacey, who worked as a counselor for girls who had been sexually abused by relatives, had been clocking in some major overtime hours for the past month or so in order to try and be a little more efficient at her job than she had recently been. She was seriously dedicated to what she did for a living, having been through sexual abuse herself and knowing that girls who were abused in that manner needed all the help they could get, but those overtime hours had, indeed, nearly completely worn her out.

"Oh, there's no use in my trying to go back to sleep," she replied, waving it away as she continued getting out of bed. "That alarm freaked me out because I wasn't really expecting it... I forgot that it was the beginning of a new school year, so I thought everyone was sleeping in today. But no. And since you'll be busy trying to get yourself ready, you probably won't have time to wake up the kids and make breakfast for yourself and the kids, and since I'm not going to work and don't have to worry about getting myself ready, I'll do both of those."

"And here I was, thinking I only kept you around because you're beautiful," he said in a joking tone, smiling and kissing her again as he, too, moved out of bed. "Thanks, love."

"Mmm-hmm," she murmured, rising to her feet and pulling a nearby robe over herself. She then headed for the bedroom door as he made his way to the nearby bathroom, and they both opened and closed the doors they wanted to use for access to their next destinations at the same time.

After standing in the hallway outside their bedroom door and regarding the three bedroom doors before her for a brief moment, she decided that she had best go through the middle door first, for that was the door to the bedroom of their first child. This child, a girl of nearly-sixteen named Alex, was practically impossible to get out of bed in the morning, so it was best to rouse her first so that she would at least have a decent shot of preparing herself for the day ahead in such a manner that she wouldn't be late to her first day as a Secondary 5 student.

Taking a somewhat deep breath, Stacey walked over to Alex's bedroom door, opening it and stepping inside the bedroom. Across the room was a bed, and in that bed, completely covered by the comforter, was the lump that was her firstborn child.

"Alex," she said in a rather soft voice, making her way across the bedroom and to the bed. She placed a hand atop what she knew to be Alex's head. "Alex, it's time to wake up. First day of Secondary 5 today... you don't wanna be late. And your father can't be late, either, so start waking yourself up."

A light groan came from underneath the comforter.

"Okay, that means you've started waking up. Your father's going to come in and check and you, make sure you're up and about, once he's showered and dressed in just a little bit. You probably ought to be up before he's in here."

And with this, Stacey turned on her heel and exited Alex's bedroom, closing the door behind her as she did, before entering the bedroom door to her right. This bedroom belonged to Chance, the couple's secondborn child and their only son. Chance was starting his first day as a Primary 5 student this day.

"Ch-Ch-Ch," Stacey addressed Chance by his nickname, which had been given to him as a result of his full name being Chance Chastain Chase, as she strolled into his bedroom, where he was still lying in bed. She sat down on the edge of his bed and ruffled his hair a bit. "Wake up!"

Upon hearing his mother say this, Chance stirred slightly before opening his eyes, which were the same color as Will's, and looking at her with them.

"Hi, Mummy!" he exclaimed in an enthusiastic tone that made it seem like he hadn't been asleep mere moments earlier, sitting up straight in bed and immediately giving his mother a great big hug. "It's time for school again, isn't it?"

"Yeah," she agreed with a smile as she hugged him back. "You must be excited, huh? You're getting so close to the end of primary school."

"I know!" He then pulled away from her and almost immediately jumped out of bed. "I'm going to start getting ready. Are you taking me today?"

"I don't know. I'm not going to work, so maybe your father's going to take you and your sisters. We'll talk about it at breakfast... you just get ready while I wake up Lizzie and start breakfast, all right?"

"Okay," he replied, walking over to his nearby dresser and beginning to shuffle through it as he tried to determine what he should wear on his first day of a new school year.

She observed him for a moment, feeling amused at the complete enthusiasm on his face, before turning and exiting his bedroom. It was then that she entered the third and final bedroom, which was the bedroom of Elizabeth, the couple's five-year-old-daughter, who was beginning her very first day of school.

When she opened Elizabeth's bedroom, she found that, across the room and in her bed, Elizabeth was sound asleep in a rather funny position. She was curled up into the smallest ball possible, and she was lying across the bed, and since she was taller than the bed was wide, even curled up, her head was hanging off the edge of the bed.

"Oh, Lizzie!" she chuckled, squatting down in front of her youngest child's bed and lightly stroking Lizzie's soft golden-blonde hair for a moment. She then pressed a kiss to Lizzie's hair. "Come on, sweetie. It's time to get ready for your very first day of school!"

For several moments following, Lizzie was completely still except for the slight up-and-down motion of her chest and she breathed in and out, but then she stirred and let out a little tired noise as she rubbed her eyes. Then she sat up straight in bed and looked at the woman from whom she'd gotten her entire appearance.

"Mummy, my neck hurts," she whined sleepily.

"I'm not surprised," Stacey replied, and though she did her best to sound sympathetic, the smile on her face indicated that she wasn't quite as sympathetic as she was trying to sound. "You slept funny again... your head was hanging off the edge of the bed, so you had your neck at an angle all night long."

"It hurts."

"It'll feel better once you've stretched it a little bit and gotten up and moving," Stacey reassured her youngest, patting one of Lizzie's covered legs. "It's time to start getting ready for school. Aren't you excited to be starting school today?"

"I think so," Lizzie replied vaguely, rubbing her eyes again and giving that sleepy smile which she'd inherited entirely from Will. "Will my teacher be nice?"

"I'm sure she will. You met her last week, remember? She seemed like a nice lady, didn't she?"

"Yeah. Will I be really smart?"

"You're already really smart, baby. You're going to do great... and you'll make lots of new friends, too. You'll love school." Stacey patted Lizzie's leg once again. "So now it's time to get up. Get into your outfit that we bought you the other day and fix your hair any way you want to... and then come down for breakfast."

"Okay," Lizzie said with a sigh, moving herself out of bed as Stacey rose to her feet, turned on the light, and left her daughter to prepare herself for the day ahead.

Her job of waking up the children (or, at least, waking them up as best she could, in Alex's case) now done, it was time for her to prepare a good first-day-of-school breakfast for her family. She therefore walked down the nearby staircase and into the kitchen, where she began to prepare breakfast for herself and everyone else in the house.

After several minutes during which Will had finished his shower and begun dressing himself, the familiar smell of Stacey cooking breakfast drifted into the bedroom they shared, and Will's mouth watered as he let out a contented sigh. The breakfast which he would soon eat, he was sure, would be the best part of this day for him.

But now, he then knew as he let out a sigh that was rather dissatisfied, he had to begin dealing with what would surely be worst part of his day - Alex's behavior.

In the days before Alex had become a teenager, she and Will had been practically inseparable - Will had, without question, been her parent of choice; if she'd had to choose between going shopping with Stacey and staying at home for several hours and watching some movie with Will in the course of Stacey's absence, she had always chosen to remain with Will. As a result of Will's being her favorite parent, she hadn't been too keen to listen to what Stacey had to say to her and generally hadn't done what her mother instructed her to do. Whenever Will had come home from some kind of outing, Stacey had complained of Alex's disobedience, while Alex had complained that her mother was just too bossy for her liking - "If only she were as nice as you, Daddy!"

Unfortunately, this hadn't been meant to last forever. After Alex had turned thirteen, her father had become the antagonistic parent, for he'd seemed to be the one who most disagreed with her on every aspect of her social life - her choice of friends, places she wanted to go, activities in which she wanted to partake... everything. Will had therefore become the parent that Alex was most inclined to disobey, while Stacey had become the parent of choice - but not by much, for Alex had quickly discovered that Stacey was inclined to agree with Will on most everything father and daughter were conflicted on. This had remained true over the past year, resulting in a lot of discord between the couple and their oldest child, which caused Alex to frequently have a dour, disagreeable attitude whenever she had to deal with her parents. Such was especially the case whenever she had to get up and go somewhere, such as school, in the morning - she was almost always late in getting to wherever she was meant to go, and Will was the one who was most affected by this during the school year, for he drove her to school every morning because he taught at the school she attended. This meant that, normally, he was the one who most dealt with having to force Alex out of bed.

"Alex, I hope you're up and getting ready!" he called out in a loud enough voice to ensure that Alex would hear him across the hallway as he finished getting dressed by pulling on his shoes, rising to his feet and making his way to Alex's bedroom door. He knocked on the door a couple of times. "I'm coming in."

He then opened the bedroom door and discovered, without much surprise, that Alex was still hidden underneath the comforter. He let out a sigh, bracing himself for the challenge and striding across the bedroom to his daughter's bed.

"Hello in there!" he said, patting the lump that was Alex. "Time to get up. Come on."

Alex groaned. "No."

"Yes," he imitated her, grabbing the side of her mattress and tugging it back and forth, which was generally what he did to start fully waking her up. "Get out of bed. I can't be late."

"Stop!" she whined as he continued tugging on the mattress, which disturbed her half-slumber. "I don't even have to go to school anymore, you know. I wasn't required to go anymore after finishing this past year."

"Well, you decided that you were to going to go to school this year - and no one made forced you into making that decision; you made it yourself. Your mother and I told you that you could quit going to school if you got a job and you instead decided that you'd keep going to school. And since you've already registered, you have to go all year. If you don't want to go next year, you don't have to. But this year isn't an option anymore."

"I don't wanna go."

"Too bad," he replied decidedly, yanking the comforter off her and fully uncovering her, which caused her to whimper and groan as she kept her eyes squeezed tightly shut. "You're going this year and that's final. And you know I can't be late, so you need to get up and get moving now."

"Hmph," she grunted, grabbing her pillow and pulling it over her head - her way of ignoring him.

Upon seeing her do this, he knew that it was time to go to his next method of making her get out of bed. He therefore grabbed both of her ankles and began tugging, pulling her out of bed.

"No!" she exclaimed as loudly as she could in the morning, grabbing the rails of her bedpost in order to prevent herself from getting pulled out of bed. "Let go of me!"

"Not until you get out of bed," he replied, continuing to tug on her, and she moaned and continued to resist. "Get up."

"No."

"Now, Alexandra Leigh," he growled. "That's not a request."

"No!"

Sighing frustratedly, he released his hold on her ankles and threw his hands up in the air. "Fine. But if you're not up and ready to leave by the time I'm ready to walk out the door, you're going to have to find another way to get to school - and you will be going to school, so don't think you'll be getting a pass to miss it if you don't leave when I do."

She said and did nothing in response, instead rather tentatively loosening her hold on the rails of her bedpost while her head remained underneath the pillow.

After a moment, he shook his head and walked out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him and making his way down the stairs and into the kitchen, where Stacey had just finished cooking breakfast and was now placing food onto five different plates.

"Hey," she greeted him with a smile when he'd come to her side, holding out a plate that had been filled with food and kissing him lightly on the lips. "Did you get her up?"

"Of course not. She's still in bed... but she'll be getting up pretty soon. You may have to end up taking her, though; I don't know if she'll be ready to leave by the time I am." He paused briefly. "And who's taking Chance and Lizzie?"

"I am. Taking them is out of your way."

"Well, it's out of your way, too - for this week, at least, because you're not going to work."

"It's fine," she replied in a rather dismissive tone, shaking her head. "You need to be at work on time."

"We'll see if that happens, I suppose," he muttered rather darkly, throwing a glare towards the stairs to signify that he was currently irritated with Alex. "But I do promise you this, Stacey - if she's not ready when I am, I'm leaving her here."

"Fine by me. I'll just take her if you don't."

"Okay," he murmured, glaring at the stairs once more before making his way to the dining room table, where he sat down and proceeded to eat his breakfast, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper as he did.

"Breakfast!" Stacey then called out in the direction of the staircase, addressing the three members of the Chase family who were still upstairs, getting themselves ready for the school day - or, probably in Alex's case, halfway sleeping. "And Alex, guess what? If you're not up in time to eat this and get out the door in time, you won't be eating it - you'll have to get something else for yourself and I'll be eating it when I get home."

Upon this being said, the two younger Chase children came down the stairs, through the kitchen, and into the dining room, where they greeted their father with delight. Seeing Will for the first time in the morning was always an exciting occurrence for them.

"Hey, kiddos!" he said to them, setting down his newspaper and giving them hugs and kisses as they hugged and kissed him back. "Excited for the first day of school?"

The two children nodded fervently, and Chance inquired, "Daddy, are you going to take me to school today?"

"Not today, buddy. Another day I will, but not today."

"Are you going to pick us up from school?" Lizzie inquired.

"No, honey. I'll still be at work when you get out of school... and since your ma's not working all this week, she'll be dropping you off and picking you up every day. But I'll tell you something cool we'll do tonight, Lizzie - when Alex and I get home and it's time for dinner, we'll go out somewhere and eat. And since it's your first day of school ever, you can pick where we go. How's that?"

"Cool!" Chance and Lizzie exclaimed in unison, looking thrilled at the prospect of getting to eat at a restaurant - it didn't happen often simply because neither Stacey nor Will had frequently eaten out while they'd been children, and they felt that their children should be raised the same way, as they believed it would cause the children to be more appreciative of eating a home-cooked meal with the family.

"All right. Now sit down and eat your breakfast, all right?"

At this, Chance and Lizzie seated themselves next to Will at the table, Chance at his left and Lizzie at his right, while Stacey placed their plates of breakfast and glasses of milk and orange juice in front of them before sitting down herself. Then the four began eating heartily, not making much conversation because they kept their mouths so full.

Will was the first one done, and he rose to his feet, glancing at his watch as he placed his plate, coffee mug, and silverware in the sink. He then informed Stacey, "I'll be leaving in just a little bit. The faculty meeting starts at 8:00, and I wanna be there five minutes early, so I need to leave in about ten minutes or so."

"That's fine, hon. Let Alex know, and if she's still not ready when you need to leave, I'll take her."

"Oh, Mummy!" Chance suddenly exclaimed, abruptly looking up at his mother. "We forgot to get food to pack for our lunches when we went grocery shopping... and you said you'd pack lunch for us today!"

"You're right!" Stacey breathed, biting her lip for a moment. "I'll tell you what, then - we'll go to the grocery store really quick and find a cold prepackaged lunch that you can take in a paper bag, just like we were going to do with the food we meant to buy. And I'll write you each a note, like I was going to, and put it in there. How's that?"

"Okay," Chance replied, nodding in agreement.

"Good. Then hurry up and finish your breakfast, brush your teeth, and get your stuff together while I throw on some clothes. Lizzie, you, too - hurry up." Stacey then rose, placing her plate, glasses, and silverware in the sink alongside Will's dishes.

"Change of plans, Will," she then addressed her husband as she caught him at the staircase. "I promised Ch-Ch-Ch and Lizzie that I'd pack lunch for them today, but I completely forgot about buying the right kind of food when we last went grocery shopping. So I told them that I'd run them to the store and find them something pre-made that they could put in a bag and eat it at lunch... which means I'm not going to have time to take Alex. So if she's not ready when you are, she's going to have to use her own devices to get to school."

"Shit," he muttered under his breath as they made their way upstairs together. When they reached the top of the staircase and were heading down the hall to their bedroom, he turned his head in the direction of Alex's bedroom door. "Alex, if you're not ready to leave when I am, you're going to have to walk to school! So you'd better get going - I'm leaving in ten minutes!"

After making this announcement, he and his wife began making a mad rush to prepare to leave in their bedroom - brushing their teeth, getting themselves dressed (in Stacey's case), and gathering all the things they needed in order to leave.

Eight minutes later, the two were once again together as they went out of the bedroom and down the stairs, where they found Chance and Lizzie preparing themselves to leave by grabbing their backpacks, supplies, and the brown paper bags in which they'd put the lunches that Stacey was going to buy for them at the store.

"I need paper," Stacey then muttered to herself, making her way into the nearby kitchen.

Before she had a chance to, however, Will grabbed her arm. "No, do that in a second - I'm leaving now."

"Okay," she replied, giving him a somewhat rushed kiss. "Have a good day. I love you and I'll see you when you and Alex get home."

"Love you, too." He then squatted down in front of his two younger children. "I'm leaving, midgets. Have great days at school. Make sure you be good for your ma today whenever you're with her, all right? Because if I hear that you were bad, we won't be going out for dinner. Now give me kisses."

Chance and Lizzie did as they'd been instructed and gave their father great big hugs and kisses, squeaking "I love you"s and "We promise we'll be good"s before he rose to his feet.

"Alexandra Leigh, I'm leaving!" he called out, making his way to the back door, which led to the garage where his and his wife's cars were parked. He unlocked and opened the door. "Have fun walking yourself to school!"

And then, without another word, he walked out the door, closing it behind him and making his way into the garage, where he climbed inside his red BMW One-Series Coupé and started it. He then opened the garage door, pulling out of the garage as he did.

Back inside the house, Stacey was in the process of writing her notes to Chance and Lizzie. She was in the middle of writing Chance's note when she suddenly heard thundering footsteps coming down the stairs and into the kitchen. Alex then appeared, fully dressed with her new backpack slung over her shoulder.

"Where's Dad?" she inquired of her mother.

"He left," Stacey replied, giving her oldest child a brief glance of acknowledgment. "Didn't you hear him say he was leaving? He gave you a ten-minute warning and then told you he was leaving as he walked out the door. If you hurry, you can probably catch him before he reaches the end of the street."

"Oh -!" Alex exclaimed, and then, without another word to either her mother or her siblings, she ran out the front door, slamming it behind her and frantically running down the street. She could see Will's car several hundred feet away, getting ever closer to the end of the street, and she tried desperately to catch up.

"Dad!" she then screeched. "Dad, stop the car! Stop!"

At this last, Will apparently heard her, for the car came to a halt. Breathing a sigh that was half out of relief, half out of irritation, she continued running towards the car until she reached it, opening the passenger-side door and climbing inside.

"It's nice of you to join me," Will said dryly, observing her as she closed the door and buckled her seatbelt. "You didn't get anything to eat, did you?"

She shook her head silently, her expression suddenly becoming rather sullen.

"Well, there's newly-bought fruit bars and Milk 'n Cereal bars in the glove compartment, like always. Take what you want."

Without a word, she opened the glove compartment and observed the breakfast bars available to her for several moments before grabbing a Honey Nut Cheerios Milk 'n Cereal bar and a mixed berry fruit bar. Closing the glove compartment, she unwrapped the fruit bar and began eating it.

"You're welcome," he muttered under his breath with a sigh, and then he began driving once again, making his way for Hyndland Secondary School, the school where he taught and where the child in the car with him was a student.

After a silent seventeen-minute drive, they pulled into the parking lot of the school and he parked the car in the back, which was faculty-only parking.

"All right," he then said to Alex as the two began climbing out of the car. "You know what to do - when the day's over, come to my office. When I'm done with everything, we'll go home. All right?"

She nodded silently, slinging her backpack over her shoulder and beginning to make her way towards the closest door into the school.

Once he'd gathered everything he needed, he locked the car and caught up to her just as she reached the door. Then he placed a hand on her shoulder and pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

"You may be the most tardy, most irritable teenager I've ever known, Lexie Lou," - this was his special nickname for her, a nickname so special he very rarely used it - "and you drive me crazy most of the time, but I love you anyway. Have a great day."

"Yeah, okay," she murmured, shrugging. "See you after school."

And then she was gone, releasing herself from his hold and making her way to some destination that was unknown to him, in order to join friends that he didn't approve of and complain to them about how much her father annoyed her.

He looked after her for a moment, and then he let out a sigh and proceeded to the library, where the first faculty meeting of the school year would be held in a matter of minutes.

Upon entering the library, he found that most members of the Hyndland faculty had already arrived and taken their seats, drinking coffee and eating bagels while chatting it up with co-workers about their summer vacations. Will got himself a cup of coffee, added some creamer, and made his way to the table of teachers he was closest to.

"Hey, Will!" Janet Cole, an English teacher for Secondary 1 students, greeted him, smiling at him as she rose to her feet and hugged him.

"Hi," Will replied, hugging her back until she chose to pull away. He then extended a hand to Andrew Greer, the school's band director. "Hey there, Drew."

"Good to see you, Will," Drew replied, and the two men shook hands while Will seated himself. "How're Stacey and the kids?"

"Fine. Just to reassure you, Alex has been practicing at least an hour every day." Alex, having inherited her parents' musical inclination, played the flute and did so with the Hyndland Band. "So you won't have any issues trying to get her to play well."

"That's good to hear."

"Where'd you and Stacey go for your anniversary this year, Will?" Aimee Vaughn, the school's orchestra director, inquired.

"San Juan. It was incredible... I think we're going to go there again in a couple of years or so, and when we do, we'll take the kids and let them share in the experience."

"Have you got any pictures?" Don Baker, a Secondary 4 Geography teacher, asked in an intrigued tone. "I'd like to see all the places you went there."

"No, I didn't bring them; I left them at home. I'll bring them sometime soon, though."

As Will then paused and took a breath in order to inquire what had occurred in his co-workers' lives in the course of their summer vacations, the voice of Grant Sutherland, the school's principal, broke through everyone's conversations and echoed through the whole library.

"Ladies and gentlemen, if we could all sit down and settle ourselves, I'd like to start the meeting - I know you all are eager to get into your classrooms and make sure everything's set up for the day, so please."

It took several moments, but then the discussions amongst the staff members ceased, and the library became quiet as Mr. Sutherland, who had remained standing while everyone else had seated themselves (if they hadn't been sitting beforehand), began addressing those who worked for him.

"First off, I'd like to welcome everyone to the new school year. I hope you all had a restful break and that it was long enough so no one's going to act rambunctious or any business such as that. We already get that with the students, now don't we?"

Most of the faculty nodded and chuckled in agreement.

"Yes. Next order of business - the dress code. The students are allowed to wear whatever they wish, but only if it's in dress code. This is the same as it's always been, but for the past two or three years, it's really gotten to be a problem - especially at the beginning and end of the school year. So if you see someone offending the dress code, please tell them they need to find something appropriate to change into. If they have nothing here and they can't have someone bring them something from home, send them to my office and I'll give them some very ugly in-dress code clothing articles that I purchased a few weeks ago. The fact that out-of-dress code students will have to wear this hideous clothing will surely try and persuade them not to do so again - moreso than any of us could persuade them, at least."

The faculty members nodded silently.

"Now, this month's duties have been assigned for all of you - assuming, of course, that Sharon didn't miss anyone when she was creating the list. So once the meeting's over and you're done getting your classrooms set up for the day, go check your e-mails and ensure that you're somewhere on the list. If you're not, let Sharon know and she'll place you somewhere. And speaking of e-mails, I'm brought to my next topic - that of students' electronic devices. Once again, our no-electronics-while-in-school policy still holds true, but it's gotten to be such a problem recently. I'm therefore making the policy stricter and telling you that if you see a student with some kind of electronic device, confiscate it immediately. There will be no warnings. You may, of course, tell the students of this reform in the policy when making your introductions in the classroom today, but after that, you don't give them any kind of warning. You simply confiscate their device and bring it to me at the end of the day - and, like always, when the student comes and brings me the penalty fee, he or she gets the device back."

Once again, the faculty nodded as a collective.

"And I suppose I have nothing more to say regarding rules and regulations and whatnot other than those two things. So now comes some rather nice news that doesn't have to do with penalizing students - in fact, the way I see it, this news will rather be a reward to most students in this school." Mr. Sutherland paused, clearing his throat. "As you all know, at the end of last year, Charlie Blaine retired after forty-eight years of teaching at this school. But as the saying goes - out with the old, in with the new. And two weeks ago I hired the woman who will be teaching in Charlie's place. We all know she's got some rather large shoes to fill because Charlie made such an impact here, but I know she'll do a wonderful job."

At that moment, Will placed his coffee cup to his lips and began drinking his coffee after not having touched it for several minutes.

"So now, ladies and gentlemen, I'd you all to assist me in giving a warm welcome to our new Secondary 4 Biology teacher, Mrs. Ren Blackwell. Ren, please rise and make yourself known."

Upon hearing the name Ren, Will's ears pricked, and as the new Secondary 4 Biology teacher at Hyndland Secondary School rose to her feet to the applause of her new co-workers, Will immediately recognized her. It had been twenty-four years since he'd seen her, but it was impossible not to remember that face, no matter how aged its appearance.

At the sight of Mrs. Ren Blackwell, Will sharply drew in his breath - a problem due to the fact that he was still drinking coffee. He began to choke, pulling the coffee cup away from his lips and doubling over, hidden underneath the table and out of sight, as he coughed for several moments.

"Who's that hacking up a lung over there?" Mr. Sutherland inquired as the applause of the Hyndland faculty began ceasing.

"That would be Will," Drew informed his employer, patting Will on the shoulder as he continued coughing a bit longer.

Please don't say my last name, please don't say my last name, Will thought to himself for a brief moment. He knew that if Mrs. Ren Blackwell heard his last name, she'd immediately know who it was. But then he remembered that, by some stroke of luck, he was the only Will or William who was a faculty member. This meant that Mr. Sutherland had to know he was the one coughing... right?

"Ah, I see," Mr. Sutherland replied, and, to Will's relief, he made no mention of a last name. "You all right there, Will?"

Remaining ducked underneath the table and silently scorning himself for it, Will said nothing in response to the principal's question and instead raised his right hand to signify to Mr. Sutherland that he was, indeed, all right - at least, all right in the sense that he wasn't choking.

"Very good, then. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I hereby conclude our meeting. I'll see you all here again at next month's meeting... although I'm sure I'll see all of you in different settings at one point or another throughout this first month. Everyone's dismissed."

At this, Will immediately got out of his seat and grabbed his things, making for the library door while most everyone else on the Hyndland faculty made a mass exodus towards their new co-worker in order to greet her. But he was too panicked by this unexpected and rather unwelcome arrival into his life; he had to run away. He felt like a fool for it, but he had to run away.

He rushed through the main hallway of Hyndland, hurriedly responding to choir students who greeted him as he passed them, until he reached the front door of the choir room.

Sticking the top of his coffee cup in his mouth and holding onto it with his teeth, he began fumbling for his keys in order to try and find the key that would allow him access inside the choir room. He felt certain that there was no real reason for him to hide, at least not yet, but he felt that he would only feel safe if he did so anyway.

After several frustrated moments of searching, he found the key to the choir room, and he immediately unlocked and opened the door, stepping inside the choir room before he practically slammed the door behind him. Then he made an immediate right turn to his office door, and after locating that key, he let himself into the office and closed that door, too. He also took the precaution of locking it so that no one would be able to come in.

Once he was locked away from the rest of the school and the rest of the world for the time being, he set down the things he'd brought with him, his attaché case and his jacket - the former going onto the floor beside his desk and the latter going onto the coat rack next to the door. Then he walked behind the desk and set down his coffee cup, sinking into his chair as he let out a long sigh.

He felt nervous. He felt foolish. He felt scared. In fact, he felt so many emotions that he didn't know which emotion was the predominant one. He couldn't believe it - after twenty-four years, Mrs. Ren Blackwell had inexplicably found her way back into his life.

Back when he'd known Mrs. Ren Blackwell, her name hadn't been Mrs. Ren Blackwell. Her name been Miss Ren Attwood, and he'd met her due to the fact that they'd attended the same college. Their relationship had been a somewhat unusual one, one that he personally found difficult to define - but, he had to admit, until he'd met Stacey, the closest relationship he'd ever had with a non-family-member woman had been the relationship he'd had with Miss Ren Attwood.

But when he'd moved to New York, that relationship had ended... although he might have returned to Scotland and that relationship might have continued if Ren hadn't been so terrible to him the last time they talked... and if he hadn't taken all the things she'd said to him so much to heart...

He groaned lightly and covered his face with his hands, now sensing that his predominant emotion was one of foolishness. Why had he run away when he'd seen that Ren was the new Secondary 4 Biology teacher? It wasn't as if that had prevented him from ever seeing her again; it was inevitable that, at some point in the near future, their paths would cross. And then he'd have to be calm and cool, he'd have to speak the words he would surely would have spoken if he'd kept a cool head, stayed in the library, and greeted her alongside his other co-workers.

"Hi, Ren - long time no see. Yeah, it's been twenty-four years - can you believe it? It's incredible that we're seeing each other again after all this time..."

No. No mention of "seeing each other again." That would have made things awkward - and, in thinking about it, he realized that he probably would have used that exact term. So it was probably better that he'd scurried away from the library the moment the opportunity had presented itself, for if he'd remained, he would have made an even bigger fool of himself than he had by running away.

Suddenly, he felt glad he'd been so unnerved by Ren's reappearance into his life that he'd impulsively decided to run off before having to speak to her, before having to look her in the eyes. He'd now given himself ample time to think about what to say and do when he inevitably saw her again.

But he wasn't too glad that he was, in fact, going to have to see her again... at least, he didn't think so. For the past five minutes, he hadn't known what to think anymore, and that doubt still remained. So who knew? Maybe he would be glad to see her again, maybe he wouldn't.

Time, he supposed, would have to tell.

--

Stacey let out a quiet sigh as she finally pulled her car back into the garage of her empty house, feeling relieved. It was good to be home - and it was always good to be home, but it would be even better now because she was going to be alone for the majority of the day, until she had to go pick up Chance and Lizzie from school. As much as a woman might love her family and having them around, she always needed a little solitude sometimes.

When she'd made her way out of the garage and back inside the house, she entered the kitchen, where Alex's now-cold and uneaten breakfast remained on its plate. She'd told Alex that if it wasn't eaten, Stacey herself would be eating it. And she was a woman of her word, so it was time for a second breakfast.

After sticking the food in the microwave for some time under a minute, she grabbed a fork from the silverware drawer and began eating the eggs, pancakes, and haggis, and her stomach was delighted. It always seemed to like her cooking better when it had been intended for someone else. This, she supposed, was why she liked the Chase family's weekly Leftover Night so much - when that food had been new, it had in part been meant for others.

Once she'd indulged herself with this second breakfast and placed the plate and fork in the dishwasher, she decided that she wanted to take advantage of the quiet in her house and do something that was meant for quiet times - read. She loved reading, but she hadn't had the chance to really appreciate a book she enjoyed due to the fact that she hadn't ever been alone in the house for quite some time. She therefore made her way to the guest room on the second floor, which could also be considered a library, for it contained the books that the Chase family most frequently read.

Upon locating the shelves that contained books she, Will, and Alex read, she sifted through the various titles, trying to decide what she might like to read.

Revolutionary Road... Jane Eyre... The Sun Also Rises... And Then There Were None... The Count of Monte Cristo...

She frowned upon seeing these titles. She felt no pull towards any of these books; there wasn't something in particular that she was just dying to open and read. Perhaps there was something in the attic that she might like to read, for certain books that she hadn't read since her adolescent years (and that she didn't have to heart to rid herself of) were stocked away in boxes up there. It would be nice to read something that she hadn't touched in such a long time, she decided, for in reading a particular book, she would be reminded of why she'd chosen to keep it.

Her decision made, she exited the room and made her way to the middle of the hallway, above which was the attic door. With a bit of effort, she reached for the cord and pulled it down, causing the door to open and the sliding stairs to slide down until the hit the hallway floor. She grabbed a flashlight from the linen closet, turned it on and ensured that it was in good working condition, and then made her way up the stairs, holding onto the step ahead of her with one hand while her other hand held the flashlight.

When she reached the top of the stairs, she stepped into the attic, shining her flashlight around it to try and find the boxes of old books while she braced herself as much to full height as she could without hitting her head on the somewhat low ceiling. It appeared, however, that no boxes of old books were anywhere to be found at first glance. They were more hidden than she'd realized, apparently, which meant that she had to really go looking for them.

Keeping the light of the flashlight in front of her so that she could see, she made her way ahead to a notable pile of boxes, and when she found herself in front of them, she began pushing them around with one hand, trying to find the boxes that contained her old books.

After about ten minutes of determined searching, she finally found one of the boxes that contained her old books - a box that, on its lid, someone had aptly written, Stacey's Old Books.

She pulled off the lid and shone her flashlight in the box, digging through the musty-smelling books and glancing at their titles until she found one that she hadn't read since she'd been nineteen years of age, about a year into her marriage to Will.

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception.

She smiled as she remembered the Artemis Fowl series. It had been an entertaining one, one which she'd always been enthusiastic to read. She remembered being seriously disappointed when it had ended - and she remembered how she'd rather unceremoniously quit reading the books about two years after the series had ended.

It would probably be a better idea to read the books preceding this one first, but she decided that she didn't want to - she was going to force herself to remember everything that had happened in the previous books as she read this one. She had a pretty good memory, so she was sure she wouldn't have too difficult of a time remembering everything that had happened in the books before this one.

Having now decided that this was the book she would be reading, she placed the lid back on the box containing her other old books and turned, making to walk towards the stairs and descend them. As she turned, however, so did the light on her flashlight, and something caught her eye in mid-turn.

There were several boxes, all by themselves, that were inconspicuously tucked away in the corner of the attic farthest from her. She'd never seen them before - or, at least, she didn't think so, for she didn't remember having placed any number of boxes in a part of the attic separate from the other boxes. She must have not packed them, then, which meant that she most likely hadn't seen their contents.

Intrigued, she walked over to the boxes, keeping her flashlight on them to ensure that she wasn't going in the wrong direction. Upon arriving at the boxes, she saw that there was nothing written on any of their lids. Either somebody had forgotten to write on them or somebody hadn't wanted them to be found, which would also account for why they weren't with all the other boxes.

But if these boxes weren't meant to be found, why had they been kept in the attic all these years? Why hadn't they, as well as their contents, been thrown out - which would have made their chances of not being found better?

She placed her book down on the floor and opened the lid of one of the boxes, seeing that there were multiple Mead Composition Books inside. When she removed the lids from the other boxes, she found that they, too, contained Mead Composition Books. Each Composition Book, she discovered, had a month and a year (and sometimes a different months, a different year, or two different months and years) written on their front covers.

Upon glancing at the Composition Books for several moments, she discovered that the first box she'd opened contained the Composition Books with the earliest dates on them. She then decided that she wanted to read these Composition Books - or, at least, the first one. If she didn't find it intriguing after a while, she would simply put it back and read the book she'd originally chosen for herself.

At this, she grabbed the top Composition Book in the first box, which had August 1993 - February 1994 written on its front cover. She made herself comfortable, lying on her stomach with her arms propping her up as she shone her flashlight down on the Composition Book and opened it.

At that point, she found that whoever had written in this Composition Book had not had the best penmanship - the words had somewhat minimal space between them and had a tendency to lean slightly to the right, and the black ink these words had been written with had smeared whenever the writer had rubbed his or her hand against it while it had still been fresh. But everything that had been written was at least legible, so it wasn't too troubling to her. She therefore began to read.

08-16-1993

Dan moved out today. It feels so unusual - every time I think about it, I get a weird feeling in my stomach. Now it's just Ma and me.

I don't think I felt this weird when Ellie moved. Maybe that's because she's older and she and I haven't ever been as close as I've been to Dan. Maybe that's because Dan's always been the man of the house, and when Ellie left, Ma was still the woman of the house - like she always will be.

So now that Dan's gone, he can't really be the man of the house anymore, can he? Does that mean there's no man of the house? Or does that mean I'm the man of the house?

Dan told me a while back that I was going to become the man of the house when he moved out, but I don't think that's true. I don't think I can do that. My life is so totally screwed-up. How can I be responsible enough to be an adult figure in a house, even if I am now the only guy living there? Besides, Ma's never going to listen to what I say; it's not going to be like I'm telling her what to do and everything. My power hasn't really increased at all just because Dan's left.

I think "man of the house" is just a term used to try and make fatherless boys like Dan and me better about not having a dad. It doesn't really exist, it's not a real title, unless there's an father or a husband in the house. Dads and husbands are the men of their houses, but kids can't ever be the men of their houses until they become dads or husbands.

I'm not the man of the house, then. But maybe I will be someday. And I think it'd be really cool if I were the man of the house and the woman of the house was Bailley Hartfeld. She got really hot over summer vacation. I think I'll have to look into trying to take her on a date.

For several moments, Stacey was silent as she continued looking down at this first entry. She didn't know who Bailley Hartfeld was, except for the fact that she'd apparently become very attractive during the summer of 1993, but she knew who Dan, Ellie, and Ma were - her siblings- and mother-in-law, Will's siblings and mother. This meant that she also knew who the author of these Composition Books was - the one who had come to see Bailley Hartfeld as a catch upon seeing her again after the summer of 1993 had passed.

She sucked in a breath as she fully comprehended that, in her hands, she held the journal that had been her husband's when he'd been fifteen years old.