The first day of school is a lot like standing at the gates of Hell after you pass into the ether -- you want to run, but an irreversible law forbids you from doing so. Plus, all the other damned souls would laugh their asses off if you tried to escape. That wasn't allowed in that realm or the current land of the living. Maybe in heaven, but there would be no purpose to run in heaven, right?

"So what do you have first period?"

I blinked to free myself of the multitude of thoughts running through my mind, then glanced over at my friend Megan. She was a foot or so shorter than me, which made the movement awkward.

"Biology," I replied. "That's what you have too, right?"

She smiled and nodded, constricting her books closer to her chest. "We have all of the same classes, for the most part. I have history third period, you have that CFM class. We're together after lunch for English, then we split up during ninth and tenth period for Spanish and history."

We were standing in the hallway where all of the kids accumulated before being allowed to trod off to their respective classes. It was awkward being so close to other people, but we didn't have much say in the matter. Everyone generally chattered in their cliques, anyway.

"Oh well, I'll see you in math fifth period, so it's not that bad," I attempted to add cheerfully.

Megan rolled her eyes and started when the bell rang.

"Yeah, there's a super class," she muttered as we began walking down the hallway. "I don't even get why we take it anymore, it's only geometry and other useless stuff like that."

I flipped my dark brown hair over my shoulder, then crinkled my nose to push my glasses further up my face. Damn things were so annoying.

"Well we only have two more years left of it," I said. "Then we move into the real world. D'you think junior year's gonna be any fun?"

She shrugged and nervously watched two boys swagger past us. "I don't know, we'll wait and see."

We parted ways at the conjuncture between the next two hallways, and I uneasily plodded along toward my locker, number 362. People were generally keeping to themselves this year, it seemed, so I didn't need to worry about any obnoxious kids gawking at my new glasses.

A group of freshmen anxiously whispered and tiptoed their way around me toward the stairs, but I veered away to get to the hall where my locker was situated. They were going to be entertaining to watch this year, just like we probably had been two years ago.

I dropped my messenger bag on the floor and tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear, then struggled with the combination of my locker. This usually confused me for a minute or two so I was typically late for class, but my grades kept me on the teachers' good side.

My locker popped open and I hurriedly dumped my books inside, hastily attempted to right them, then removed my biology binder. It was usually lenient on the first day, so I didn't need to worry about being late for a little while.

"Wow, Jessica, disorganized this year?"

I twisted my torso to see my friend Kyle leaning on the locker next to mine. He had grown out hair and dyed it every weekend, and was pretty attractive, but I kept him on a strictly friendly status. The whole drinking and smoking thing wasn't an interest of mine, and was something of an obsession of his.

"Slightly," I sighed. "Are you in eleventh or twelfth again?"

Kyle regularly failed his classes, so it wouldn't be surprising if he had been kept in eleventh grade.

"Eleventh," he answered smugly.

Of course.

"Wow, that's . . . great," I said. "Are you in bio or chem?"

He watched me peel off my hoodie before he replied. "Chemistry. That's all they let me keep from twelfth. I gotta get going though, see you later."

I grunted a farewell, waited for him to leave, then rose to my feet and kicked my locker shut. That kid was incredibly lazy and usually copied my tests and homework. It was irritating, but I didn't want him to fail. He was pretty nice to me.

A group of bleach blonde girls passed me while I strolled down the hallway to biology. The girl in the middle, Carrie, smiled warmly and waved, so I reciprocated the action. I didn't know them very well, but Carrie was usually friendly and I didn't mind chatting with her on occasion.

I turned around a corner and nearly ran into the door, but managed to jerk back to keep myself from doing so. Megan was just inside, perched on a table, avidly talking to another girl, Nicole. She pointed me out and Nicole cocked her head, then turned and grinned.

My science teacher, Mrs. Matheson, was an extremely loud woman, but she knew what she was talking about, so I couldn't dislike her too much. The entire class was kind of obnoxious and she wasn't too pleased, especially because today was an A day, which meant block periods. On B days, Megan and I had gym class, which we both despised. Athleticism was not either of our fortes, to say in the least.

We all filed out of the room after black period biology was over and Megan walked off to history. As I strode down the opposing hallway, which led to the CFM room (it was at the dead-end of the hall), my mind began to wander. Would this year be any good, or was I just trying to trick myself into believing so? I was pretty good with deception and disillusioning myself from reality. Then again, I was an extreme pessimist, too.

A boy rushed past me and hurtled into the CFM room, muttering and grumbling to himself about classes. I rolled my eyes and kept my steady pace, then calmly gripped the handle of the door when it began to swing shut. Inside was probably a bunch of people I didn't know remotely, but there was also the vista of new experience, new knowledge. Either way I would have to enter, or I'd get in huge trouble for cutting class. And, of course, I would fail.

I sucked in a deep breath, grimaced, then pushed the handle down and entered the room.

It was pleasantly warm in here, and from what I could tell, there were only a few kids. Relief flooded my veins when I spied roughly eight, give or take one or two, that were spread out at three large, wooden tables. Apparently this room was nearly clique-less.

As I walked further into the room, I slipped around the edge of the teacher's desk, then hurried over to the nearest table and sat next to a friendly-looking girl. She thankfully moved her books aside so I could put mine down, then gave me a hearty smile.

"Hey, you must be Jessica," she almost squealed. "I'm Hannah."

A quick assessment of her features told me she was indeed a nice girl. Curly brown hair, blueish green eyes . . . she definitely looked friendly.

"Nice to meet you," I responded as kindly as I could.

As I sat on the stool (which apparently served as a chair), another girl sat on the other side of me, huffing and puffing. She had blonde hair and blue eyes and looked really tired.

"Stupid hall," she gasped when the bell rang. "It takes forever to walk here."

Hannah grinned. "I know, it's really dumb. Who are you?"

The new girl once-overed both of us before answering.

"Kaila, you?"

I introduced myself and Hannah repeated her name again. She pointed out the names of the other people in the class, who happened to be boys (Mike, Ryan, Justin, and Brandon -- my number guess had been way off), and told me that the one who had rushed past me was Mike. He was sitting very rigidly, almost like he was monumentally uncomfortable.

When we three girls started discussing our first day and how idiotic most of the teachers were, the door to the classroom slammed shut with a resounding thud. We all raised our heads and stared directly at the door to find the source of the obnoxious noise.

A tall man was striding toward us very quickly, holding a book under his arm and rubbing the tips of the other hand's fingers together. His hair was dirty blonde and cut rather short, and like Kaila, he had blue eyes. They were a bite more piercing though, like he was looking directly through whatever he laid them upon. He had an ovular head, relatively high cheekbones, and seemed to be muscular, but it was difficult to tell (though he was probably in shape).

He dropped the book on his desk so it made another loud noise, then pulled up his sleeves and ran a hand through his hair. Hannah glanced over at me and winked, so I smirked. Nothing wrong with having a hot teacher.

"Hey guys, I'm Mr. Erikson, and I'm obviously late," he chuckled. His voice was a tenor pitch, not high, but not very deep.

We all laughed nervously, but I was already trying to psychoanalyze his actions. He was an assertive person, that much was clear, but that type of human was generally more punctual and organized. Maybe he was one of those geniuses who just couldn't get all of their crap in one sock.

Mr. Erikson pulled a binder out of the drawer situated under his desk, then flipped it open and laid it on his desk. For some reason, it was incredibly attractive to watch him draw his finger down the list of names inside. I blinked and wrenched my eyes off of him when he glanced up.

"Hannah Akin?" Hannah shyly raised her hand, and he smiled at her. "Nice to meet you. Jessica Derain?"

My heart pounded like a jackhammer when I raised my hand in the air. Mr. Erikson's eyes switched from watching Hannah to my hand, then drifted down to my face. He raised his eyebrows, and his gaze moved farther down my body in one fluid, confident motion before settling on my pupils again. "Hello," he said.

I had to look away, but managed to smile weakly. It was nearly impossible to meet his eyes; it almost felt like he was violating me.

He ran through the rest of the class, then shut the binder and sauntered over to a shelf full of hardcover and soft cover books. Hannah tapped my shoulder and stared at me expectantly, obviously curious to know what had transpired between Mr. Erikson and I in that split second. I shrugged and returned to gazing at him. Nothing had happened, he had only looked a bit surprised. I wasn't gorgeous or anything, not enough to make a grown man appear like he was in awe.

"Come up and grab a book and workbook," Mr. Erikson called over his shoulder. "And be careful with these things, I just got them for this year."

All six of us slid off our stools and shuffled warily toward him, sticking to our makeshift groups. Mr. Erikson stood up and maneuvered between Hannah and I, and his bicep just barely brushed the edge of my shoulder. I met Hannah's eyes and we both giggled.

This class was definitely on my favorites list.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I mainly sat quietly through classes, took notes, and tried to figure out how to befriend the teachers. The rest of them were pretty old, or female, so I didn't form anymore freaky, split-second crushes. But I tried to pay attention as much as I could despite how my thoughts kept drifting back to Mr. Erikson. It didn't matter, anyway, all he did was look at me for a minute, then look away. Perfectly normal behavior for a teacher.