"Happy Birthday, booby-cakes," She says excitedly, handing me a small box with Spiderman giftwrapping.

"Okay, mom, can you not call me a boob in front of my friends? Yeah, that'd be great," I sigh, accepting the box half-heartedly.

You know those horrible stories about weirdo home-schooled kids that have no social lives and barely own clothes that aren't pajamas? I would love to tell you that none of those stories are true. Except, here I am, your local home-school statistic, sitting at the dining room table in my pj's with my mom and six stuffed animals. There's a cupcake- yes, a cupcake- with a blue candle getting stale a couple feet away from me. Dr. Evil is eyeing it from his chair to the right of me. I groan and roll my eyes when my mom looks sad that I've just berated her in front of my inanimate friends. Is it too late to sell my soul in exchange for a life that I actually want?

Rather than apologize, I focus on the box she has just handed me. I don't have high expectations, but I feign interest none the less. I shake it a little bit, and she jumps out of her seat, startling me.

"Whoa, Zac! Don't, um… Don't shake it, alright? It's fragile," She says, slowly sinking into her seat again.

I narrow my eyes at her, but I don't shake the box again. Instead, I rip it open. Forget the Spiderman wrapping paper and being neat. Inside the box is…

"A bag of water?" I mutter.

I'm confused.

"No, no, dear. Look closely at the bag," She says, getting all giddy and fidgety.

I pick up the bag and stare at it. By the time reality dawns on me, I'm already over it.

"A fish? You bought me a fish for my birthday?"

"You don't like it, do you? You hate me! I'm such a failure," she moans, tearing up.

I fight the urge to groan audibly, and force a half-smile instead.

"No, mom, it's not that. I just wasn't expecting it. I… I love it!" I lie.

She perks up instantly and claps, looking proud of herself. I contemplate swallowing the bag in some sort of bizarre suicide.

"I just knew you'd like it! I thought it would be a great opportunity for you to practice taking responsibility for something alive! At first I thought about getting an ant farm, but since you're a big boy I decided the fish would be a more interesting challenge," She rambled.

Seriously, a bag with a fish in it has never looked so tasty. I wonder if choking is a painful way to go.

"Yeah, a challenge. Sure. Hey, mom, can I go to school this year?" I say.

No need in beating around the bush. This is what I really want. If I never have to wake up and call my own mother "Mrs. Roche" again, I'd be fine with that.

"What? You mean like a public school?"

She does that annoying thing with her face where she shrivels it up like she's just smelled a fresh puddle of baby vomit, and I can feel the rejection charging the room like static. I take the light-hearted approach, pretending like what I've just asked her isn't a big deal.

"Public school, private school, daycare... I'm not picky," I shrug.

"Absolutely not," she says, getting out of her chair and briskly walking into the kitchen. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. I ask her this every year, and the answer is always the same. I look over at Dr. Evil, my one-eyed bear in a lab coat.

Way to go, Zac. I guess you'll just be a loser forever. No big deal. He taunted, expressionless as usual.

"What do you know? She'll have to let me go eventually. What's a few more years of this hell," I hissed. Stupid Dr. Evil. He was always instigating.

There's a whole world out there for you to explore, yet you passively accept a life in the dark. Your home is all you know. Well, that and the Food Mart. That's not really a life. This time it was Cassidy, my adventure bear.

"I don't know if you realize this, but you don't have a life either," I retorted.

Real clever, Zac. But in case you haven't realized, we're a bunch a bears. You are talking to a bunch of bears. You're almost as crazy as your mother. No offense, of course. She's a very nice lady. She's just insane. That was Dr. Evil again, his eye never leaving that store bought cupcake.

But he did have a point. They both did. I didn't know anything about the real world except for what I saw on the television and heard on the radio in the car. Could I really go on like this for much longer before I became a complete social idiot like my mother?

I stood up and did the only thing I knew would convince my mom to let me go to public school. I had to contact someone I rarely ever saw, but who had enough power to sway the odds in my favor. I called my father, the only other person in the world who understood my mom's … delicate mental state, and begged him to convince her.