A/N: I wrote this a long time ago, and I'm not sure if I'll continue it or not, depending on how it is received. Therefore, please read and review. If I get enough of a response, I'll continue it.


I walked through the hallways of the high school in a fog, my eyes fixed ahead of me and glazed over, seeing but not really comprehending the sympathetic glances I was receiving. My brain was on autopilot, simply doing what it had done every morning for the past eleven years – enter school, go to locker, retrieve necessary items, walk to first block class.

Eventually, I somehow found myself sitting in History, waiting for Mr. Kohler to arrive. The desk and attached chair felt cold and unfamiliar, as did the entire classroom. My peers chattered among themselves, their conversations reaching my ears as nothing more than meaningless gibberish. Somewhere in my mind I knew that they were talking about me, but without aural confirmation, I remained distant.

A slight breeze brushed my cheeks as Sam Decker and Matt Roach slid past my desk, one on either side. They sat down behind me, causing their desks to scrape across the floor in the process. I immediately went on the alert. These two boys had never been friendly with me, and now they had even more ammunition to use in what had become a sort-of contest to see who could upset me first.

"You hear about it?" Matt asked somewhat loudly, his voice unnaturally near my ear, as if he was leaning forward to get closer to me.

"About what?" Sam's feigned ignorance bled through his reply. He had heard about it. Everyone had.

"You know…"

"Oh, right! That idiot they found dead at Jon Davidson's party."

"Yeah, Doug Atkinson. I heard he chugged a whole bottle of Everclear and passed out."

"Hailey Miller heard that he got drunk and then decided to shoot up."

"What a moron!"

"I know! Can you believe that Jake Hartman and Tom Peters invited him? He must've bribed them or something!"

"I guess."

"Why else would the QB and the star wide receiver invite that loser?"

"Unless he was the entertainment…Hey! Neely'll know something."

I felt someone's finger poke me in the back. My throat tightened in panic, and my eyes began to sting. No tears came, though. The past week had drained all the water from my eyes. As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't cry anymore.

"Yo, Neely!" Matt barked.

Instead of turning around, I gripped the sides of the desk and tried to control my breathing. However, the poking continued. Matt and Sam were never easily deterred.

"Neely, tell us what happened," demanded Sam. "What'd he OD on? Where'd they find him?"

By now, heads were turned in my direction, waiting curiously for my response. But none came. Even if my throat had been open, I couldn't have replied. My brain wasn't sending any words to my tongue. Closing my eyes, I prayed for the teacher to walk in and begin his lecture. Although I had never really liked History, I was now desperate for it to become my saving grace.

"What's wrong?" Matt sneered. "Don't you want to tell us what happened to that gay-wad brother of yours? You know, set the record straight?"

My face began to burn, and I rested my head in my cool, shaking hands. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. I wanted to explain everything – to clear Dougie's name. But I couldn't. Not when I didn't even understand what had happened.

"Face it, man," Sam said bitterly. "She just doesn't want to admit that he was a worthless junkie, just like their dad."

Suddenly, I was no longer facing forward. My eyes were locked with Sam's, penetrating their hatred with a chilly stare that, up until that point in time, I didn't know was in me. Then, before I knew what had happened, Sam had recoiled, holding his freshly discolored cheek in his hand.

"Don't you ever compare Dougie-Lee to that…that…piece of crap!" I hissed. In one swift motion, I stood up, picked up my purse, and walked away. Just as I was leaving the room, Mr. Kohler arrived. I suppose he called out to me, but I didn't hear him through my wall of grief and anger. With an aching heart and a stinging hand, I quietly but resolutely made my way to the exit.

I never returned.