Chapter One

October 1st Morning

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with school. It's all the same anymore; I haven't learned anything new in years. I miss the excitement I used to get in the classroom, cracking open a text book, learning about some new type of plant species, making sense of a new function, reading the classics. When did that all get so dull and boring?


There went the warming bell; ten minutes before school started. One of the Assistant Principles was standing in the middle of the courtyard yelling at a small group of students, probably freshman, to "Hurry up and get to class! You don't want to be late! You'll have to spend the rest of the day in detention!"

'Some of us would rather be late,' Carly was thinking to herself as she slipped her felt-back journal into her messenger bag.

She was walking across the courtyard, lost in thought as she began up the stone stairs. It was strange how much her life had changed in the last year. Sometimes it was hard to tell if it was for better or worse; for a moment she began to feel guilty for her attitude towards her classmates in the courtyard. After all, that was her just one year ago.

'Has it really been that long?' she wondered in amazement.

She was more than used to winding her way through the halls of Eastwood High; managing the chaos was almost effortless for her now. Still, it felt like just yesterday she was struggling to make her way from class to class, not only because of the nearly three thousand other students at the high school, but also because she had no idea where any of her classes were.


That was the five minute bell, and she was just finishing at her locker. Her class was a floor up, but the staircase was just down the hall from her locker; another feat that, a year ago, would have seemed impossible. Now, she did it everyday without a second thought. As she walked through the doors to her first period class, she began to realize more and more how badly she missed the innocence, the naivety, of being a freshman.

The water was cold when he first jumped in at five A.M., but only two hours later it was the most soothing feeling in the world.

Most would call him crazy for practicing so early in the morning, and dragging his older brother with him, before the season even started, but it didn't matter. He was fifteen, a sophomore, and tired of living in his brothers' shadows. This was the last year that he'd be "Mike and Steve's little brother." He was more dedicated than they could ever have dreamed to be. He practiced twice a day year round, almost every day of the week. There were almost zero exceptions.

Of course, he loved his brothers dearly; the three of them were best friends. At least, they were before Michael went away to college two years before. But, Mitchell had his own name, and he deserved the same level of respect awarded to his older brothers. In his eyes, he'd already earned it, and as long as there was a single shred of doubt in anyone's minds, he was going to do everything in his power to prove it.

His wet hair was still plastered to his forehead when he half-jogged up the steps. It was a warm day for October, but still most students were already wearing jackets and sweaters. He wore his usual; tennis shoes, loose jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and the cross necklace his grandmother had passed down to him just days before her death. Mitch was always her favorite, even if she never admitted it.


The five minutes bell hurried him along to his locker just a little bit faster, which of course was on the third floor, and he was just then on the second.

Unlike most teenage boys, Mitch was very organized. He had shelves in his locker, each with a dry erase board at the back so he could write his homework assignments and study reminders. Or course, Mitch was a straight 'A' student, as were both of his brothers, and it was most likely that he didn't even need to be organized to get his good grades; Steven, the middle brother, was one of the least organized people Mitch knew, and somehow he was still considered a better student than Mitch. But Mitch's over-organization of his school life seemed to be working, so why fix it if it's not broken?

Carly was just about to step through the doorway, lost in thought, when she suddenly found herself on the floor. Her messenger bag was sent into the middle of the hall; her books were scattered everywhere.


Panic gripped her for a moment; she had never been later to class before.

"Are you okay?"
Carly looked up to see equally panicked brown eyes. The halls were finally cleared; the only signs of life were her…and him.

"I'm so sorry," Mitch Brown put his hand out to help her up, which she dizzily accepted.

"It's…it's fine," She bent down to begin collecting her books. Mitch was immediately by her side.

"This is my fault, I'm so stupid! I've ruined by perfect record!"

"Mitch, neither of us was paying attention. If we get in trouble, we both deserve it. You're smarter than that."

He bit his lip and held the door open for her to walk in. Mr. Richards, the insanely strict Higher Math 'professor', as he preferred to be called, was writing on the chalkboard as the pair stepped in.

"I'm sorry I'm late, Mr. Richards…" Mitch started.

"You're both late," He interrupted.

"Yes, we know," Mitch tried to finish his earlier sentence.

"Mr. Brown, please go to your seat. You too, Miss Klemmens," Mr. Richards cut Mitch off. "You will both be serving detention immediately after school today," He had already set their detention slips on their desks. "Please see to it that you do not interrupt my class again."

Mitch started to argue more, but Carly cut him off.

"He's going to do what he's going to do," She whispered to him. "You'll only get yourself in more trouble by arguing."

Mr. Richards was not the type of man to linger on any one topic for too long; he liked to keep life in motion. For Mitch to have argued on the reason for his and Carly's tardiness would only have served to frustrate the eager math teacher. Carly, who thought the best of Mitch, assumed that this would be a common realization between them. She was wrong.

As class droned on and on, Carly sat and worked at her desk in solitude. She had gone over the lessons and homework for the next several days of class already, and at that moment she was finishing the homework due for the following Monday.

Mitch, whom she had correctly assumed was fully able to work ahead in the Calculus text book, preferred to sit patiently and take careful notes. In front of him sat the text book, his notebook his pen, which was technically in his hand, and several highlighters of various colors. Carly never really paid much mind to Mitch's ethic until a sheet of clean white paper appeared on top of her desk.

Why wouldn't you let me take the blame?

Carly glanced around her to see if anyone was looking before writing back:

What are you talking about?

She checked twice to see if Mr. Richards was looking, and she kept her eyes on the back of his red sweater while she held the paper across the aisle for Mitch to take. For a moment, she was afraid that he wouldn't take it back, but she soon felt the thin sheet of paper slip from between her fingertips just as Mr. Richards was turning to regard the class.

"Was there something you needed to ask me, Miss Klemmens?"

Carly looked up to him too fast; she had been staring at Mitch's desk as he wrote his response to her.

"No, I understand the lesson, sir," She tried to answer calmly. She was definitely not a good liar.

"Perhaps next time you will not be writing your question to Mr. Brown then?"
He turned back to his chalkboard and began his drone again.

Mitch hesitated to pass the paper back next time.

I'll serve your detention for you.

A few lines later, clearly after Mr. Richards' little speech, Mitch wrote:

Especially now that you're in trouble because of me again. I'm very sorry.

Carly rolled her eyes very pointedly so that Mitch would see her, and then she crumpled the paper and gently tossed it into the nearby garbage can. She was clearly not buying his sincerity.

'We'll talk later,' She mouth to him, and then refocused on her work.

Mitch had been worried about his detention since he talked to Mr. Richards that morning. He had expected to spend the early evening after school in the second floor detention room with Carly and whichever tired teacher that needed to finish grading homework. Instead, he found lunch and after school detention, everyday for the next week. Starting that day. So now not only did he have his perfect record ruined, but he had to spend his valuable time stuck in a room with the girl that had caused it. Perfect, just perfect!

He knew that Mr. Richards meant business, and that no matter what he absolutely had to track Carly down before fourth period. They needed to get this straightened out.

During passing time between his second and third classes, Mitch realized that he had third period with Carly.

'Perfect!' He almost said aloud as he stood outside his open locker.

Carefully, he checked the whiteboard at the back of the locker and crossed off his homework from the night before.

Third period for Mitch and Carly was AP Chemistry; first was AP Calculus, and, he thought a moment later, fourth was AP History. Didn't they both have AP English seventh period too?

Most thought Mitch was insane for taking four AP classes as a sophomore; most seniors limited themselves to one or two, and they took at least one free block for extra study. Supposedly. Mitch knew darn well that his brother did just about everything except study during his free block; Study halls and free blocks were only open freely to seniors, but sophomores and juniors could have one and only one if they had met the prerequisites for AP classes. The only real difference between a study hall and a free block was that students could leave the campus during a free block, but they had to report to a classroom for study halls.

Mitch also took all of his AP classes with his brother; his parents had insisted on making Steven wait to take his AP classes until the two brothers could take the classes together. This pressured both siblings; Steven because he had to wait for Mitch, and Mitch because he didn't get to wait.

Mitch spent his summer studying with his older brother; underclassmen had to pass a series of tests in order to take AP classes. In addition, they had to have outstanding ACT/SAT scores, their standardized test scores had to be kept up, and they had to have teacher recommendations. They also had to at least be second honors to even be considered for the tests in the first place. Thus, only a handful of underclassmen had ever qualified for the classes.

Really, he had been very surprised when both he and Carly were allowed into their AP classes. Of course he'd had classes with her before; actually he'd had a lo tof classes with her, he realized after he took the time to think about it. Maybe she was smarter than he'd given her credit for?

Some days, Carly wondered why she even had a second period class. Her counselors called her insane for taking a full class load; they'd begged her to at least have one study hall. But no, she had to make herself look good, to be better than everyone else.


Not that any of that would get his attention; why choose a nobody like her when he could easily have any girl he wanted…

It wasn't particularly that she didn't like her second block; photography was one of her passions. The issue was more that she already knew everything that Mr. Marley tried to teach her. It was that her life, Carly's, was just one huge review for an exam that simply wasn't coming .She was getting ready for something…but what?