Sierra sat on the bus and watched the cars pass by. She stifled a yawn with her fist, realizing halfway through that her mask did the job for her. She wore a grey, long-sleeved half shirt that had a mask connected to it. A pair of grey camo cargos hung low on her hips and a pair of black steel-toed boots kept her feet warm.

Here's my stop... She zipped up her black vest and shouldered her book bag before hopping off the bus. She walked the few blocks from the bus stop to her school and stared at the tall, wrought-iron gates. A rueful smile crossed her lips as she thought back to the days before her "accident". First day back... Here goes nothing...

Sierra walked into the lunchroom fourth period and made a beeline towards the table her and her friends sit at. She managed to slip out of class early, so the area was clear when she got there. She sat in a chair and put her head on the table, mildly anticipating seeing her friends after so long.

The hum of conversation increased as more students filled the lunchroom. Sierra paid no mind to the snippets of conversation she heard, but a single phrase spoken by a familiar voice caught her ear.

"Is that Sierra at our table?"

Sierra raised her head at the sound of the voice and jumped halfway out of her skin when a pair of brown eyes appeared before her own. Half a second passed before Sierra was wrapped in a tight hug and a voice squealed into her ear.

"Sierra! It's really you! I'm so happy you're back! I heard you were in the hospital, but I didn't know which one and I couldn't reach you on your phone and I got so worried but you're back now and I'm so happy!"

I can practically hear the exclamation points in her voice… "Real nice Shen…but…can't…breathe" Shensi quickly released her friend, who began gasping for air. "Ohmigosh I'm so sorry Sierra I didn't mean to I forgot you just got out of the hospital and-"

"Stop apologizing, it's okay. But it's really nice to see you again." Sierra smiled under her mask, forgetting that they couldn't see her face. She looked away from her and was met with the smiling faces of her closest friends. Emotions ranged from surprise to sheer happiness, and Sierra's smile widened at her warm welcome. The smile faltered when she remembered the permanent smile that stretched across her face, but she quickly fought back the thought.

"Glad you're back, Misty." "Glad to be back, Bro." Sierra and Dante shared a hug, all the sentimental things he didn't want to say transferred through the simple contact. Sierra barely had time to sit back down before she was assaulted with questions and well wishes.

Dante was the one to ask the question that was on everyone's mind. "So, what's up with the mask? I doubt you're going for a new look or something." The lunchroom seemed to get quieter and the air a few degrees colder once the question left Dante's mouth.

Sierra hesitated before answering. "Uh, three guesses then I'll tell." Tristan spoke up. "Don't do this to us, Mist. We're your friends, you can trust us." Sierra sighed resignedly, knowing he was right but not wanting to admit it. She looked up, and the concerned gazed of Tristan, Shensi, Dante, and Quentin gave her reassurance. "Well…um…you see…"

"You tried to kill yourself, didn't you?" He knows me better than all the others… A collective gasp ran through the small circle of friends. "Dante's right…" "But…what does that have to do with the mask…?" Tristan's question was equal parts concern and confusion.

"I sliced my face open so I would bleed out but my brother found me and then Mother took me to the hospital and the doctors stitched me up." Shensi spoke next, her voice small and tinny. I forgot how squeamish she is... "So, under the mask there's..."

Sierra didn't answer Shensi's unspoken question, knowing the response would put her off. "Are we going to be able to see what your face looks like now?" Quentin asked the question as carefully as he could, not wanting to let his curiosity overshadow his concern.

Quentin saw Sierra glance warily around the crowded lunchroom and nodded in understanding. "Whenever you're ready, Misty." The bell rang, signaling the end of the lunch period. Everyone gathered their stuff, and made their way to their respective classes.

Sierra put in the combination to her locker and swung it open. She opened her book bag swapping the books that were already in it for her psychology textbook.

"Hey Sierra!" Sierra groaned at the sound of the voice and closed her locker. If you ignore your problems, they're sure to go away. "Hey, Sierra! Stop walking, will ya?" Even as Sierra walked away, the sound of footsteps got closer and closer until they were in sync with her own.

"Sierra, long time no see! I've missed you!" Yeah fucking right, Sierra thought. The owner of the voice slipped an arm around Sierra's waist. "Where have you been Sierra?" "None of your fucking business." Sierra removed the arm from around her waist and continued to walk.

Still determined, the person kept pace with Sierra. "Oh really now? If you won't tell me that, then what's with the new look? Not saying I don't like it, but why the sudden change? Especially the mask. You're not hiding something from me, are you?"

I'm done with his shit. "Piss off, Jerrod." Unperturbed by the insult, Jerrod slung an arm around Sierra's shoulder. "C'mon Sierra, don't be like that. You can tell me, I'm your friend."

Sierra shrugged his arm off her shoulder. "Sure as hell doesn't seem like it, you bastard. Since when do you even care about me?"

"Since just now." He slammed Sierra against a nearby locker. "Now stop acting like a fucking airhead and tell me what the fuck is under that mask." His eyes lit up and his mouth twisted into a malicious smile. "If you don't want to tell me, then maybe I'll just have a look for myself."

Sierra began to struggle, afraid to scream because she didn't want to tear her stitches, while Jerrod tried to rip the mask from her face. Before he made much progress,though, a teacher stepped out of his room to get to the bathroom.

"Mr. Martinez, just what do you think you're doing?" Jerrod cursed under his breath and let go of Sierra to turn and face the teacher standing behind him. "Uh, nothing Mr. Miller." His eyes quickly flicked to Sierra, who was now glaring hotly at Jerrod's back, before responding. "It sure didn't look like 'nothing' when I left the classroom, and I'm sure Miss Rienhart here would agree with me."

Before Jerrod could reply, Mr. Miller took him by the arm and started to lead him down the hallway. "I'm real sorry you had to deal with that, Sierra. I'll take him to the dean's office, you just make your way to class."

Shaking her head angrily, Sierra started to make her way towards her class. She dug in her bag and took out a small pill bottle and a bottle of water. She shook a pill into her hand and downed it quickly with some water. She placed the items back into her bag and started walking to her class, hoping the painkillers would work quickly and eliminate the pain in her jaw.