Chapter 1: New Beginnings

The sweet, angelic voice of my older sister is the first thing to pierce through the fog of my sleep:

"Ethan! Get your lazy arse out of bed!"

"My arse prefers to be lazy, thank you, Ken!" I yell back quickly. We talk like this so often that even when I'm half-asleep, I can come up with a retort. But even sometimes when Kendra is fully awake, she can't.

I groan and grope around on my bedside table for my glasses. Finding them, I roll out of bed and get dressed. Well, technically, I stare at my drawers forever to decide what to wear on my first day at Svenner High. Fun, fun.

Finally I pick out dark washed jeans and my favorite t-shirt, a blue one with a picture of a chocolate pudding cup above the words "is this your hammer?" in Swedish. I got it last year from a street vendor in Piccadilly Circus, in London. Kendra looked up what the Swedish meant on her phone, then laughed so hard she nearly threw up. She said I had to get it or she would disown me.

"Ethan! Hurry the bloody fuck up!"

Yeah, because disowning me would be a punishment.

"No curse words before eight!" Bloody hell, Kendra, calm down. I speed through brushing my teeth and rush down the stairs.

"Where's the fire, darling?" My mother asks breezily, running her fingers through her hair and yawning. She's sitting on the couch with a pillow snuggled under her arm and a book in her hand. I can't believe she didn't hear the curse words flying all over the place (or maybe she just doesn't care). I can't believe she's sitting there calmly reading at 7:00 in the morning.

"In Hell, with Kendra's soul." I pull on my sneakers and start to pack up my bag. "Where is she, anyway?"

Mum looks wide-eyed at me. "Oh, she's doing her hair, darling."

I kiss Mum on the cheek and dart into the kitchen. Kendra's sitting at the table, a cereal spoon held in her mouth as she curls her hair. She looks up when I walk in, but doesn't say anything, for obvious reasons. When she's finished the bit of hair she was working on, she wiggles her fingers and glares.

She takes the spoon out of her mouth and says, "Finally. What took you so long? I'm driving you, get your stuff."

"What about breakfast?" She throws me a granola bar and I scowl at her. "Thank you, O goddess of nutrition."

"No problem, little brother. Toss me the keys?" I do. We walk out the door and get into Kendra's red Chevrolet Sonic. I've always thought it was a bit of a flashy car. I guess we have the assets for it, though.

As she starts the engine, I look over at my sister. She looks good today; her blonde hair is curled to hang about her face, and her makeup is shimmery, but not overdone. I probably shouldn't know the word shimmer, but over the years, Kendra's corrupted me with her expansive knowledge of fashion, all taken from What Not To Wear episodes.

But my History teacher back in London, Ms. Woods, always said no one can force you to notice anything. So I guess I notice the fashion stuff because on some level, I find it interesting.

That's a scary thought... I need a distraction. "Kendra, can I ask you a question?"

She raises an eyebrow but doesn't take her eyes off the road. "Mm?"

I watch cars and trees whoosh by outside. "Do you miss England?"

"Sometimes." She says. "I miss my friends. Especially Molly. I mean, we lived there for seven years! But it's good to be back in the States, you know?"

I shrug. She looks over at me sympathetically. "I know it's hard for you, though. I had more time here than you did. But Harry promised to call you, didn't he? And email all the time?"

"Yeah." I mumble as we pull to a stop in front of the school. "But I don't think he will." I peer outside at the school's entrance, where students are already pooling in large numbers. "Looks... meh."

Kendra sighs and pats my knee condescendingly. "Don't be so pessimistic. Just wait and see. Who knows? You might like Svenner High after all."

I stick out my tongue. "When did you become my mother?"

"Well, if not me, who? Mum is useless as a parent."

"True." I laugh, throwing my bag over my shoulder and opening the door. But Ken pulls me back over and ruffles my hair, then leans away to survey her work. "Better." She nods, and pushes me outside into the abyss of high school.

~xoxo~

I check in at the office, where I get my locker and homeroom info from the Headmaster.

The halls are packed with people who haven't seen each other since last year—girls squealing and guys pounding each other on the back. The latter look like they're trying to make their friends cough up their breakfast.

I find the Science Hall on the map. Luckily it's less crowded, just kids picking out their new lockers. The empty lockers blend into clusters of boring green rectangles. The numbers scroll as I pass them, but I don't see mine.

"Hey, you need help?"

I look up from my paper to see a tall, skinny brunette girl in a gray Virginia Tech sweatshirt. I assume Virginia Tech is in Virginia, but I still have no idea what it is.

"Um, yes. I can't find my locker." I hand her the paper and shove my hands in my pockets nervously.

She flashes me a smile. "You're just over there." She points to a locker a few feet from us and then gives back the sheet. "I'm Alex Quid. Uh, Alexander." She looks down at her red converse awkwardly.

I look at her for a second. It's not clear from first glance, but her—his brown hair is cropped short, and the sweatshirt looks designed to hide his chest. I suddenly feel sympathetic for Alex. He probably has some awkward conversations when he first meets people.

"I'm Ethan. I just moved here from England."

"That's so cool. I've always wanted to go there, but I've never been overseas." Alex shakes his head and gives me another warm smile. "Well, anyway. Nice meeting you, Ethan. Good luck with your locker."

"Thanks." I call after him. He doesn't seem to notice.

A/N: No need to panic, I've only replaced the first chapter with this new one! Now all the proper London vernacular (SAT words!) is in place, including the fun and useful "arse."

And, woo, Alex is introduced! I love him so much... I have a world of crazy planned for dearest Alex. Who knows, if he's a good sport about it, he might even get his own spin-off short story!