I published a slightly different version of this story about a year ago, when at the end Laelah and her friends crashed. But then a year went but, and she and I aged. So, I'm still starting it at freshman year but chapter two is a major time jump. This is just like...background stuff. You know. Hmm...this is about real people, but not word for word. More like I'm taking my friends and putting them in this world (see if you can guess em all- for those of my real life friends that are reading this *CoughAethelindcough*. Also, I'm kinda merging the idea for this with 'The Dome' (See story on profile). Enjoy this first chapter!

I left the house at exactly 7:15, five minuets later than usual. I waited until my mother retreated back into the house, peering around the corner. Then I rolled my eyes and took of my thick fleece. I zipped open my unusually big and bulky backpack, stuffing it into it with plenty of room left.

My mother, to say the least, was rather overprotective. I understand and all- it was my fifth day of high school, my fifth day as a freshman. It was…different. It was different from what my mom knew. Along with my books, I was lugging around a room it seemed of things I 'might' need.

It was all precautionary…I guess she didn't know. I'd been going to a small catholic school all my life in walking difference. I had to take a twenty-minuet bus ride to my school, on a good day that is. My school/parish's community was small and close knit, and you knew everyone. The whole school, kindergarten through eighty grade, didn't exceed three hundred. I'd been a class of eighteen all my life.

I had been afraid too, and I still was. I wasn't sure on things, but I was learning. That's why you go to school; right? Of course…I placed my ear buds in, cranking up my rather gothic music nearly as loud as it could do and started walking.

I felt around in my pocket, feeling my phone, student ID, bus pass, money, and locker number. Yeah, I still didn't know which locker was mine. Sad, honestly, and a bit embarrassing when I couldn't open what I thought was my locker. Turned out to be that mine was three over, and I was late to class too!

Five minuets later, walking with a little more quickly than a casual walk I'd usually take, I noticed someone standing up near my bus stop. Odd…it was a boy. I found this odd because I was usually first there; much earlier. In fact, even if my mom thought I was late, I'd be early regardless.

Also, sometimes there were two other people; a foreign exchange student from somewhere that I didn't really know, nor did I know his name either. He always came two minuets before the bus arrived, coffee in hand and stood silently. Sometimes Melanie would come down too, on a good day. Her bus stop was just a block between us and she didn't much like waiting alone.

But it was neither. I took out my ear buds with confusion, but realized whom it was. A grin spread across my face. The boy turned, smiling.

"Orion." I breathed, smiling as I stuffed my ipod in my pocket.

"Laelah!" He breathed a sigh of relief, "I was worried you weren't gong to come!"

"This is my bus stop. If I miss it, I'm dead." I snorted, "Why are you here though."

"Well, my dad's not driving me today. He said I had to find a bus stop, so I kind of wandered around until I found this one. I figured it was yours…" He gestured to my street sign with a shrug.

"You figured right." I snorted, "You're a regular Sherlock." Orion's smile didn't waver, most were used to my good-natured sarcasm by now.

"Awe thanks!" he laughed, "Look what I found on the street!" I said and held up a Bic lighter, "It still works!" I backed away out of habit- I was slightly afraid of fire; just a bit- but at the same time the flame fascinated me.

"You just picked that up off the ground?" My voice was incredulous. He looked at me, unconcerned.

"Uh-huh. I thought it was a real find!" He sounded proud of himself, I realized.

"You don't know who used that or what kinds of drugs they could have on their fingers and put on that lighter and now you're touching it and-," I started in on my lecture, but Orion brushed me worries aside.

"Relax…" He said in a low voice, "You worry a lot."

"For good reasons." I replied with a pointed huff. He chuckled and grabbed a leaf from an overhanging tree, "What are you doing?" I demanded.

"Seeing if it actually works." He replied and held the leaf to the flame.

"Orion!" I shirked, "You idiot!" I didn't want to move to actually stop him, though; "I wonder how you made it to ninth grade." I said scathingly. The leaf, which had indeed caught on fire, was now under Orion's shoe as he stomped the flame out.

"It works!" He informed me, ignoring my last comment. He stomped that leaf to a pulp, a still embered pulp might I say, and threw it into the bushes. I gave a visible flinch.

"If I come back and my whole neighborhood has burnt down, I'm holding you personally responsible." I crossed my arms as Orion grinned at me.

"Lay, Lay, Lay…" He gave an tsk of his tongue, "If that happens, I promise I'll…"He paused, tapping his chin, "kiss you. That's how positive it won't happen!" I scowled.

"You make it sound like it would be a bad thing! Then again, that would be a bit…awkward." I coughed. There were rumors floating around that back in the sixth grade, Orion had had the biggest crush on me. But I just wanted to be friends at that point, so he didn't keep it. Unfortunately, I'd sotra liked him periodically from that time on- where as our situation seemed to be reversed. For this particularly, I almost wanted it but didn't want it to happen. Either way I was sure a bright scarlet color was creeping to my cheeks.

"Exactly! It wouldn't be bad, but if it did happen, I didn't want to choose something awful like kiss Melanie." He pointed out, "See, using the old brain!" He chuckled.

"Speak of the devil…" I said softly, turning left just as, to my displeasure, Orion pocked the lighter.

He squinted, and then curled his lip. "Is that Melanie?" I nodded as I saw her walking- correction- running toward us.

I laughed; Melanie and Orion didn't exactly see eye to eye on…well anything. They were pretty much mortal enemies, although there was a time when it was thought she liked him. He never seemed to even remotely like her back.

"Yeah, didn't I say once that she walks down to our bus sometimes?" I asked, and he frowned.

"Maybe once." He growled. Melanie arrived within the minuet, Orion turning away to text someone with his phone. Mel regarded him with the same ignorance, but turned to me.

"Lay- can I borrow you're phone? I need to call my mom." She asked hurriedly. I raised an eyebrow.

"Don't you have a phone of your own- a very nice one, at that?" I asked, setting down my backpack on the concrete sidewalk. She rolled her eyes, annoyed and huffed at me.

"I left it in my dance bag; which I also need today." She said, "My dance bag is my room in a bag-like you're backpack." She said, kicking my backpack. I moved it away, and knelt beside it, pulling out my little square cell.

"Don't be hatin' the backpack." I said jokingly, "it's gunna same my life one day- so my mother says." Mel snorted.

"Sure, sure mine says the same." She waved her hand in a delicate manner, that only one as tough and sharp but dainty, light, and feminine as Melanie Thyme could pull off, "But do you have a phone?"

"Here…" I sighed. She walked back down my street about a driveway, talking into the phone, making gestures with her hands as if arguing with her mother over the phone. Orion peered over my shoulder, smirking.

I slapped him on the shoulder, rolling my eyes. Actually, it wasn't just Orion Mel didn't get along with; it was few that she did. Her mother and her were always at odds, perhaps because she was a mirror imagine just with blond hair. She didn't really get along much with guys, because she was rather loud and a little more outgoing than needed. And girls? Well, she did okay- she was rather judgmental, so that clouded any friendship at first glance.

I had been a good friend- one of her best as she was mine likewise- since we'd met in kindergarten. She came back, tossing my phone to me. "She's not happy, but she's brining it." She informed both of us and Orion rolled his eyes.

"Wow, surprise, surprise." He said in a low undertone.

"Someone's grumpy today." Mel laughed a bit, hitting my shoulder and tilting her head at him.

"I was having a good day- until you showed up." He growled, and looked down, "Thank god- there's our bus." He said as he flicked his bus pas between his fingers, the thicker paper fluttering in the biting September breeze.

Our bus, which was a not a yellow school bus but rather a city transit bus, pulled up with the door already open. It was nicer- the seats were a bit uncomfortable, although, and you had to pull a string to 'request a stop' (First day, I didn't know and missed my stop. I thought they stopped everywhere).

I got on the bus, swiping my card and saw the usual people on the bus. I could almost pinpoint the guesses of people that would be on the bus, there and back. I sat next to Elody, another friend from my middle school. In fact, this bust was like all the people from my class that had gone. There was Orion, Melanie, Elody, Aiden, Asher, and I. Jason and Anna-Lynn would get on at the next stop as well.

Melanie sat down one the other side of Elody, while Orion joined his friend Keith in across from us. I looked down at Eldoy's leg brace, "How's the leg?" I asked, trying to make conversation.

"Good...getting better." She patted her leg. Earlier that summer, Elody had tore her ACL playing soccer. She'd had surgery a little while ago, but aside from the physical pain, it was pretty much killing her on the inside. She lived for sports, and she couldn't play for at least a year.

"Why are you still using that leg brace?" Melanie made a face, "Shouldn't you be, you know, off of it?" Elody paused for a second before responding.

"Sure, I could but it's…well it tells the other kids to be careful around me. You know, if I fell down…" She trailed off. Orion, who'd caught onto the conversation, finished for her.

"It would hurt like a bitch?" He said with amusement. Elody blushed at his cussing, but Keith laughed beside him. Orion's face grew red, "Well that's what you told me!" He muttered, pointing an accusing finger at him.

"Not in so many words." Elody groaned, "And I defiantly didn't swear! That's all him!" She rushed to say, as if we'd think less of her because of it.

We wouldn't…Elody would play all innocent and stuff, like just hearing the words would scar her for life. Like she hasn't had older sisters that taught her them when she was younger, or that she didn't use them regularly. If we were all being honest, Elody would have to say that she was swearing around the time it was thought a deepest sin to say 'shut up, idiot' or 'you're stupid' to someone. She had a nasty temper when she wasn't, but after people had pointed this out she'd tried to lessen. Eventually it became less and less of trying not to act as odd, but to protect herself like we'd banish her f from our group if those dirty words graced her lips.

We wouldn't- I wasn't particularly fond of swear words but I understood that some people…well relied on it. They used it because they were unsure of themselves as a person.

I? I knew exactly who I was. I was Laelah Young, fourteen going on fifteen. I was shorter, maybe 5 feet 4 inches, and probably would only grow another one inch in my lifetime. I was unusually light, only weighing at 95 pounds. I had deep brown hair, in the dark it looked black but in the light it had a rather faint ginger hue. It was thick, and a mess in the morning. I had pale skin with many freckles (thank you genetic, from my dear uncle) but luckily never broke out with pimples or anything else. My teeth, not yet straightened by a pair of braces, were a little crooked but didn't make them look horrible or offsetting. But the three things I most liked about myself? First was my legs- lean and long, I had a hard time fining pants that fit me well. I was a slim eighteen at the moment; showing the most of me was leg. What was my second feature, which was my body. I was skinny as a twig; I knew that.

It's not like I was anorexic or anything like some thought, I simply only ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. I never over ate, and burned calories by playing tennis. This had given me a small waist, skinny body, good-sized hips, strong legs, and thin arms.

But my favorite thing about me was my eyes. They were the deepest blue color I'd ever seen. Not like I'm trying to brag about myself or anything- I'm not shallow like that- but they are. Most thought I wore colored contacts to make my eyes the blue depths they were, but I didn't. They were as deep and blue as sapphires, and could be as dark and raging as a storming sea. I did wear contacts though, just because I was pretty blind without glasses or them, with NEGATIVE five visions in both eyes.

I can't play sports; usually hang out with both 'crowds' if you will. I'm mostly that nerdy dork at heart, hanging with all the artsy-theater-band type people, but I have friends in the jock crowd. That's the crowd with parties and hot guys with dancing where the girls and they guys do a bit more than 'dancing'. My dad said he'd pay for anything in the world I desired if just once I'd go up to them and remind them to 'leave room for Jesus'. I had just rolled my eyes at him.

I wasn't very popular; I'd have to say. I just had jock friends that could wave me in and say, "She's cool, she's with me.' And BAM- I was in. I'm an artistic person that loves solitude most of the times. My mom gets so upset with me; she was pretty popular in school so she just doesn't understand why I don't need friends or texting 24/7. I actually crave alone time. Yeah, sounds odd but true. There's a whole bunch more about me, so much that I know that it would fill books upon books. But I won't- I'll just let you figure the rest out for yourselves.

You see, I could tell you all that easily. Of course, there were parts that annoyed me at times, but generally I loved everything about me. Some people still haven't figured that out yet. My parents did say I had wisdom beyond my years though; that I was an 'old soul' and much more mature than all of my friends. I was a killjoy, yes, but I kept Melanie out of a lot of trouble.

"Hey, did you read that story for Honor's English?" I asked, looking to Melanie. She frowned.

"Yeah, why?" She said breezily, which most of us meant that she didn't actually do it.

"Do you have it with you? I forgot my folder." Mel gave an over-dramatic sigh, and threw it at me.

"Go wild…tell me how it ends." She said with a smirk. For remainder of the bus ride, I tried to cram the story into my brain, our teacher liked to give us quizzes on the most insignificant little parts, just to see if we REALLY read the story.

As we got off the bus, I handed her back the story. "They lived happily ever after, blah-blah-blah." I told her and she punched me good-naturedly.

"You're such a big help." She said snatching it away, "Luckily, I have English sixth hour, so I figure I'll read it during some of the other classes." She said and waved good-bye to us as she headed down the hallway to her locker, while we walked up.

Elody took the elevator, and Orion tried to catch a ride with her, but promptly pushed him away. He ran to catch up with us, muttering unintelligent. No one paid attention to him, just walked without acknowledging his grumbling.

We arrived just as the first bell rang, meaning we had ten minuets to get to our first class. Alegebra..great.

In class, my teacher divided us into groups to do our assignment. In my group were three other girls and one boy. I sat obediently on the carper squares one had pulled out, my textbook and calculator on my lap.

"Should we like, start with names?" One of the girls asked. I glanced around- all three looked strikingly similar to each other, in my opinion. All had beautiful blond hair, cascading down their shoulders with sky blue eyes and nearly perfect complexion. And I could tell, just by looking at them that they were the kind that I so much despised.

The girls that giggled like a hyena at everything a guy said, and flipped their hair to the point that one day they'd be bald, and batted their eyelashes so hard like they had something stuck in it. The crooned stupid words, words of an airhead to make them seem like an idiot, although they were in all honor's courses. They were the kind of girl that would change everything for a guy.

Maybe I disliked them so much because I was so much better than that.

I figured that their names, all sounding eerily similar, were unimportant and I'd be better off with just so calling them Barbie 1, 2, and 3.

The guy, who I knew not much more than his name- Nolan- introduced himself. We'd been together in a class over the summer, but first name basis was just about as far as I knew for most of the guys. Barbie 1 gave me a perfectly white smile, her teeth all perfectly aligned.

"You're name is?" She asked, tapping her pencil.

"Laelah" Nolan said before I could reply. All four eyes gawked at him, although mine was less surprised. Okay, I was surprised that he knew my name. But not as surprised as the three Barbies that were beside me.

"Stalker." Barbie 3 accused, amusement tingeing her voice but mostly just plain old shock. Nolan gulped, realizing his mistake.

"So I'm trying to get to know the names of people that I'll be with for the next four years! So sue me." He said, looking away. The Barbies didn't look away, and Barbie 2 grinned.

"Yeah but…it kind of sounds like you're a stalker? I mean, she could have answered for herself- or do you lik-," Nolan cut her off.

"We just took a class during the summer- it's…" He struggled for a better response, but I waved my hand.

"Well he's right." I replied, "Let's get to math- hmm?" I asked, averting the subject. The Barbies didn't look convinced, but didn't go back to it. Halfway though, Nolan gave me a thankful smile- not like he had anything to be ashamed of, I thought with a sigh.

My day went surprisingly fast, which I was grateful for. Before I knew it Algebra, Chem and Physics, French, Honors English, and Band had flown by and I was unpacking my lunch at the table. I looked at my home packed lunch, sighing. Suddenly, my apple, bag of chips, and a few other things didn't look quite so appetizing.

"I don't think I'm hungry." I murmured, rezipping the bag and stuffing it into my backpack, "I'm stealing you're fries, Mel." I said, grabbing her French fries. She growled, but didn't stop me.

"You owe me $1.50." She said with a sigh, but didn't look up from the story she hadn't read for English. I munched slowly, listening into the different conversations people were having around he table.

Keith and Orion were talking about the cross-country meet that everyone got to go to tomorrow, missing a day of school. I envied that, well the part about missing school that is. I sucked at running, so in no way did I envy missing school…to run.

Anna-Lynn, Melanie (who'd given up reading the story), and Elody were talking about a kid that had been a bit obsessing over Melanie; much to her chagrin. They were swapping possibilities of him asking her to the homecoming dance. She told us all she'd say now, but we all knew she'd say yes.

There were a couple of other talking all around me, but I rather just soaked in the information. Even with Mel's French fries, I didn't eat. There was a feeling in the pit of my stomach…a sort empty and hollow feeling where hunger should have been.

I knew it, and I was worried. It had appeared just after second period, and hadn't stopped like it sometimes did. Instead, had intensified. This made me usually edgy and I looked around, waiting for something to that would make my heart stop for a second.

It could be good, I could be. But usually, it would mean something bad. Really, really bad.

I was jumpy all through art, so jumpy that I could hardly focus on the drawing I was supposed to be doing. By the end of the class when I'd only done a small part of what I could have done, a few people defiantly noticed. My art teacher gave me a look that clearly said 'you'd better do more tomorrow' and Orion asked me what was wrong.

"Nothing." I lied as I walked to history with him. He clearly didn't believe me, but a girl in our class caught up and strung him into a conversation, leaving me a lone with my thoughts as I sat down.

My thoughts were a whole bunch of random things that I didn't know where they came from. Flashes of pictures that looked like a movie I'd seen, but I couldn't remember where. I knew it was one of those 'when the world ends' movies, ones that I'd scoffed at along with my friends.

"Laelah?" My teacher jolted me from my thoughts. I felt my face flush, and I ducked me head a bit, but then scolded myself and raised my chin to meet his gaze.

"Yes, sir?" I asked.

"Can you answer question number three on our assignment?" He asked, and all the eyes turned at me.

"Uh…" I gulped, blushing a little. I looked down at my paper, but saw the scribbled down answer I'd done in French this morning, "Well you see…" I took a deep breath, cleared my mind, and spoke without looking at my paper. My teacher nodded to me for a sign that I done okay. He had a look though that warned me not to daydream anymore. The bell rang, and I felt overjoyed. World History could bore me half to death some days, and this was one of them.

I turned to Orion to talk but saw a mob of girls surrounding him. They laughed and flipped their hair (There were not only blond Barbies, but brunette and redhead around him as well.) He didn't even look at me.

Our desks were a foot apart give or take, but today- for some unknown reason- the aisle felt as wide as the sea.

My last class was theology, which we all called an 'unannounced study hall'. He never noticed if you pulled out you're English homework while lecturing, as long as you got down what he was saying. Luckily, by now we knew exactly how to get a whole forty five class worth of talking into one full page- front and back- of our notes.

When Orion nudged me with his pencil to ask about a question for when our art assignment was due, I pretended I didn't hear or feel it.

After the last bell (Finally!) Orion grabbed my shoulder.

"Are you mad at me?" He asked.

"No." I asked pointedly. He looked confused.

"Whatta I do?" He asked, shaking his head.

"Nothing. I'm not mad at you." I was shocked how easily it came lying to him.

"Oh…I just…oh." He laughed, and I gave a small grin at him. The one thing that I hated the most about him? Orion was the single person that no matter what he did, I couldn't stay mad at.

No, scratch that- what I hated was how innocent he was to the effect he had on people. How he made girls, girls like I feel without knowing anything really. Orion was Mr. Popular. He knew everyone, and everyone liked him. All the girls fell a little bit in love with him, I think.

It's not like Orion was drop dead handsome, or the football player or anything remotely like that. Fact was, it was almost opposite. Orion was shorter than the average, just taller than me by an inch or less-, which believe me, irked me to no end.

His voice was a little high for a guy, and he wasn't really muscles or that. His body was stringy, and he played sports but didn't really excel at any. He had dusty brown hair, not silky smooth or anything but just normal, and had freckles upon freckles. His eyes changed though, depending on what he was wearing. They could look murky blue or leaf green, but usually settled for a nice hazel tone in between. He was childish too; would fit in with little kindergartners I think at sometimes, but somehow held the look of someone beyond his age. At the same time, he was annoying. But he was easy to talk to and had an irritable charm that made you want to be friends with him.

I, being his friend of nearly four years now, was expecting it, but by no means meant I was used to this. It still made me feel hollow and left out, and sometimes mad, but it wasn't exactly a new feeling to my stomach.

We split our separate ways at the lockers, but I knew I'd see him on the bus ride home. I looked at my hand, the hand I drew with a thick pen all my assignments on, and exchanged my history and theology things for Science, French, and Art. My backpack lugged with weight as I hefted it onto my shoulder, looking up and down the hallways.

Melanie passed me, and I tagged along with her. She greeted me semi-angrily.

"Stupid homework." Was her nearly inaudible reply when I questioned what was with her attitude, "Three tests and a quiz tomorrow, plus a paper due? It's not even like I'm IN honor courses- this is ridiculous."

"Uh-huh." I agreed quietly while she spewed sentences that by the time we were out the door was a lump of gibberish with the occasional recognizable word in between words that only existed in Melanie Land. Maybe it was to swear less; to make up her own words. Her mother hated it when she swore.

We boarded the bus, per usual, and got I got off at my stop.

Nothing special. In fact, the remainder of my dad was nearly bone-dry boring. Homework was long, my mother was fretting, and I faintly regarded the fact that soon I'd have to get up and do it all over again.

It wasn't until I walked my youngest brother Gabe to the park, when something unusual happened.

I sat at one of the benches, playing around on my phone when the whole atmosphere changed.

Children in mid-run paused. Mother chatting became statues. The trees that had been gently swaying in the wind hardened. A chill ran down my back as I got up tentatively. Looking around, I saw Gabe reaching in the air for a bouncy-ball, which hung like a wire connected it to the sky. I took a step toward him, and a blinding pain and a flash of white invaded my mind.

When I opened my eyes, there was a man that had not been there before, just standing. But he was very much moving- his eyes twinkled, his hair blew like the wind was still blowing, and his perfectly pressed suit creased as he stepped toward me.

He looked old; like 50 or older. His hair was slicked back and graying, but he wasn't balding. One of his eyes was a green color, while the other was a shocking, icy blue.

I didn't know what to do…what was happening? But he gave me a reassuring smile, and I felt calmed.

Do not be afraid.

He spoke to me through our minds. I stiffened, staring hard at him.

Don't fear. It's coming, Laelah. Soon. Be strong, be brave, be a leader, but most of all…be ready.

His 'words' had a chill to them that made me want to flee, but know more at the same time. For a while, we held each other's gazes, locked in an eternal staring contest. Finally, when I could no longer keep my eyes open, I blinked and the world kept moving around me. They were oblivious to what had just transpired, and Gabe caught the bouncy-ball in his hand, throwing it back.

"Gabe- we're going home. Now." My voice shook.

"But we haven't been here long." He whined.

"No. Come on." I was too confused to explain why, or feel the need to. I gripped his arm and dragged him away.

For days I agonized over what 'it' was, or when, but it slowly was forgotten. For a while, I thought he- whoever he was- was wrong.

Yeah! I like this ending MUUUUCH better. For those who are guessing characters *CoughAETHELINDCough* just text me...you know, just in case. But anyway as I was saying, the next 'chapter' isn't really a chapter but a character sheet. So...yup. Tell me whatcha' thought!

'Laelah' Lexie