Chapter 1

Fortunately, I have it all. I have a great group of friends, good grades, decent clothes, a nice singing voice, and I'm a good actress.

Unfortunately, my parents just pulled the perfect life rug out from under me.

At dinner (peas and meatballs. Yes, this is the logic I have to put up with around here), Dad cleared his throat. "Adele," he said. "You know your mother and I want you to have the best life possible, right?"

"Sure," I replied. I glanced at my sophomore-to-be brother, Milo; to see is he had any idea where our parents were headed with this. He shrugged, indicating that he didn't.

"You've always been into the arts, particularly acting, correct?" said Mom.

"Yeah…?" Okay, I seriously had no clue what they were going on about.

"You'll probably want to have a career in that area," added Dad.

"Sure." I chose not to voice the fact that I'm only eleven, just about to start sixth grade. I have plenty of time LATER to think about the Beyond, which is what I call life after high school.

"We've been searching online, and we found a school. Phoenix Boarding School for the Arts," said Dad.

Maybe I'm stupid. Or maybe I'm just clueless. But, either way, I still didn't get it. Or maybe I did, but I didn't want to believe the truth.

"Cool," I said, shoving another forkful of peas into my mouth. "So I'll be going there for high school, then?"

Mom and Dad exchanged a look. "High school," said Mom. "And middle school. Instead of going to Greensburg Middle, you're leaving for Phoenix next week."

I nearly choked on my peas. I thought that I'd turn blue, and Milo would have to give me the Heimlich. Once I recovered, I spluttered, "What? What about all of my friends here? Why didn't you tell me before?"

"You'll make plenty of friends at Phoenix," insisted Mom. "And we just found out that you got in today. We didn't want to get your hopes up."

"Get my hopes…? I don't want to go!"

"You can't send Adele to boarding school!" said Milo.

I beamed at him. Milo may be a bigheaded jerk at times, but sometimes I'm pretty sure that Milo is the only one in the Becker family who cares about me at all. This was definitely one of those "sometimes."

While Milo tried to convince my parents to let me stay, I asked Mom is I could have friends over for an emergency meeting. She said yes.

Half an hour later, I was sitting on my gorgeous green bedspread, which I would probably have to leave behind, and all of my closest friends were sitting in various places. Kayla Moss, Jasmine Finn, Sally James-Preston, and Naomi Hodge all looked at me with worried faces.

"What's up?" asked Sally.

"My parents found a great school for me," I mumbled. "It's a boarding school, and they're making me go."

Kayla shrieked, "WHAT?"

Jasmine just sat there, speechless for what may have been the first time in her life.

Sally looked like a frog that'd just swallowed a way too spicy fly.

Naomi had a total meltdown, which was flattering, even if it was a bit extreme.

"You can't leave Greensburg!" wailed Kayla. She got up from the orange beanbag, and began to pace. "Maybe if we just calmly and maturely explained to your parents that…"

"No good," said a voice. Milo was standing in my door. "I already tried to talk them out of it."

I sighed. Now it really WAS no good. Trust me, once Milo tells someone off, there's not much left to say.

Eventually, all of my friends had to go home. I just lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling. In seven days, instead of walking to Greensburg Middle, I would walk in the doors of Phoenix. I grabbed my laptop, and looked it up. The picture showed a humongous building. It was beautiful, but it didn't change my mind. Nothing would ever compare to home. I found out the living situation. Sixteen kids to a grade, eight to a gender, and four to a dorm. Middle school kids in one building, high school kids in the other.

Mom must have felt bad for me, because she gave me my new school clothes the next day. I was relieved that she didn't take me along for the shopping. I hate shopping because it's always torture. I'm kind of chubby, and practically nothing looks decent on me. And while I'm at it, my hair is red, not blonde, stick straight, not curly, and if I don't get regular trims, I get split ends.

Whatever.

Milo helped me pack, and before and knew it, it was Monday. Mom got me up at 4:00 AM, and we began to drive. Milo tagged along, even though normally, you can't get him out of bed before 6:45. Unless, of course, it's Christmas. (Actual "school" school started on Tuesday.)

After about a million years, we pulled up to a gorgeous building. Milo helped me carry my suitcases up to one of the two sixth grade girl dorms. The sun was high in the sky, and a window offered nice view of the lake. He hugged me. "See you at Christmas, Adele," he said. My parents hugged and kissed me goodbye, with the promise that they'd write at least once a week. Then they were gone.

The door banged open again, and three other girls sailed in. "Did you see that high school boy who just left our room?" asked a girl with black hair.

"I wonder what his name was," said another one, barely looking up from her Gameboy.

"Yeah," said the last girl. "He was cute!"

I snorted. "His name is Milo Becker. And you can forget it, he's my brother."

The black haired girl sat down on my bed. "What's your name?" she asked. "I'm Aurora Day."

"I'm Adele Becker," I said.

The blue-eyed girl said, "My name is Brooke Penn."

The last one added, "I'm Delilah Horton." She sat down on one of the other beds, and resumed playing her video game.

"Thank God that Sophia Blank is in the other dorm!" said Brooke.

"Who?" the rest of us asked in unison.

"I live in the same neighborhood as her," she explained, wrinkling her dainty nose. "She's EVIL."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah. When I was ten, she showed up at my birthday party, just so she could eat all of my cake."

We spent the rest of the night talking about our homes, and I found out that we're all Harry Potter fans. We ended up having an hour-long discussion about Luna's crazy theories.

The next day, part of the sixth grade shuffled into first period math. I took a seat behind Brooke, and next to a girl with wavy brown hair. She examined her perfectly manicured nails. "Hi," I said.

"Whatever," she replied, without looking up.

I wasn't willing to give in without a fight. "I'm Adele."

"What kind of a name is that?" she snapped.

Hurt, I retorted, "It happens to mean 'noble.'"

"I'm Sophia Blank," said the girl, flipping her hair. My heart sunk. This was the nasty girl Brooke had warned me about! "What kind of an outfit is that?"

I glanced down. I was in black pants, a crimson tunic, and red high tops. I personally thought that I looked good. I touched my ears, to make sure that both of my hoop earrings had stayed in. Yes, they had.

Luckily, for me, Mr. Ross started class just then. A boy with a face full of freckles leaned over to my desk. "Don't listen to her," he whispered. "You look cool."

"Thanks," I whispered back.

Mr. Ross called the roll. "Hannah Bats?"

"Here!" said a girl who I guessed must have been in the other dorm.

"Adele Becker?"

"Here!" I called.

Eventually, he called "Patrick Hudson?"

The freckle faced boy shouted, "Here!"

Class was dull, as were all the other morning classes. But after lunch, things began to pick up. After lunch, we had one more practical class. In my case, it was science. Then, we each had three arty classes that we'd picked. I'd picked drama, choir, and creative writing. I looked at my schedule. I had choir first.

I guess lunch must've given us more energy, because everyone cracked a lot more jokes in classes after that.

"Adele Becker?" called Miss Fox.

"She died over the summer!" I shouted.

Miss Fox rolled her eyes. "Gerald Dynamite?"

Gerald made a farting noise with his armpit.

"Holly Evers?"

"Mentally, I'm in bed."

Miss Fox had us all audition to see whether we'd be put in the soprano, alto, baritone, or tenor section. I ended up being a soprano. So did Sophia Blank. Patrick was put in the tenor section. Delilah was an alto. (She's actually a mezzo-soprano, but there were WAY more sopranos than altos, to Miss Fox put her in the alto section to even things out a bit.)

We spent the period learning how to sing "Yuki" for the Christmas concert.

The bell finally rang, and there was a scramble to get our books. Patrick came up to me, and we both speed-walked together. "What do you have next?" he asked me.

"Creative writing," I replied.

"I have poetry next. See you in drama!"

Creative writing was fun. We had to write a short essay about ourselves. (Sophia's was about her many, many accomplishments.) I got a good reaction from Mr. Price on mine, so I probably got an A.

After dinner, I wrote to Milo.

Dear Milo,

Life here isn't as bad as I expected. My roommates are nice, and so are most of my classmates. Except for a certain… oh, I don't know… SOPHIA BLANK!

Whatever.

I like most of my classes, and the food here is great. Heck, there's an ice cream shop in the cafeteria! I haven't quite figured out how to fit in yet. I hope I do soon.

Write back soon,

Adele