This story is for Miss Valentina's February's challenge. Co-written with Danny44- check out his stories, too! :)

I (Sri) wrote this chapter.

"Mary! Would you please get out of the bathroom already?!" my brother yelled for the fifth time. I could practically hear him jumping up and down in impatience. I sighed.

"Owen, for the last time! Use the one downstairs, it's not like you've got makeup you need to put on or anything, right?! It's the frigging first day of high school! Don't you understand how important it is that I look perfect?"

"You're such a girl! It's not like anybody's going to care how you look. And I can't go to the one downstairs: all my clothes are in there- the ones Mom's making me wear for the first day. Believe me, I'd rather go in something else."

"You're such a boy. Of course they'll care, we're the new kids. Everyone cares how new kids look, and again, it's the first day of high school! Now shut up!"

"But my clothes! There's only five minutes till breakfast!"

I pinched the bridge of my nose. "That gives me even less time to do my mascara! Wait…"

I found his clothes neatly pressed on the rack behind me and gingerly passed them out the door. "Now go away!"

"You could be nicer about it," he snipped, but I heard his footsteps fading and sighed in relief. Then I turned my attention back to my makeup and began putting on the finishing touches. I smoothed my straight blond hair and smiled at my reflection in the mirror, satisfied.

"Mary, are you ready yet? Breakfast is!" my mom yelled from the kitchen. I yelled back a quick affirmative and patted myself down once, checking for anything out of place- but nope, everything was fine. I glanced at myself again, crossed my fingers quickly, and headed out of the bathroom.

Halfway down the stairs, I realized I'd forgotten my backpack and ran back upstairs, crashing into Owen along the hallway on my way down again. I picked myself up quickly and gaped at him. "Owen!"

"What?" he asked defensively. He already knew what.

"You cannot go to school, especially on the first day, looking like that! Your hair's messy, your jeans are wrinkled—I could've sworn they were alright when I passed them out to you. And did you shower?"

"No, I didn't have the time, since you refused to come out of the bathroom!" Owen said sulkily, brushing a strand of blond hair out of his right eye. "My jeans got wrinkled because I had to put them on so quickly. There's nothing we can do about it now. Go on."

I felt a twinge of guilt. I shouldn't have taken that much time with the makeup…

I set down my backpack quickly and grabbed his wrist, twisting it slightly to get a good look at the watch. He opened his mouth to protest, but before he could get a word out I shoved him in the direction of the bathroom, grabbed a towel hanging on the nearby stair railing and threw it at him. "You have enough time to shower and comb your hair. Make it quick!"


"I'll stall with Mom and Dad. They won't get mad at you, I promise. Go!"

Looking slightly bewildered, he disappeared inside the bathroom. I grabbed both our backpacks and went downstairs quickly. Time for a show, folks.

As soon as Mom spotted me heading over to the counter, she sighed in relief. "There you are! Where's Owen?"

"He's, uh, on his way. What's for breakfast?" I didn't really need to ask. My nose had already told me it was pancakes. I supposed Mom had agreed to help Dad make them since it was our first day of school here in Illinois.

"He should hurry up-" she began impatiently, but before she could get any further, I sensed an emergency. Hiding my arm behind my backpack, I shoved the large green glass vase on a nearby table with my elbow. It teetered for a moment, and I used that second to get as far away from it as possible, practically running to the other side of the room. Luckily, Mom was too busy painstakingly teaching Dad how to flip a pancake to notice.

I jumped when the vase finally gave in to gravity and smashed on the floor, shattering into a thousand dangerous, glittery green shards. Mom and Dad turned around quickly, stifling exclamations of horror. "What happened?!"

"I don't know," I replied, my voice quavering believably. Thank God for all those drama classes I'd taken last year. I managed to look shocked enough at the accident.

"That vase was new, but it was cheap- so no big loss, I guess," my dad said, his voice sounding fake to me. I let the corners of my mouth pull up tentatively.

"Yeah, I- I'll just clean it up now, those shards are very dangerous. Mary, come help me- grab us both a pair of woolen socks from that storeroom over there, and get old boots too, okay?" Mom said, trying to lighten the mood.

"Yes, Mom," I said dutifully, retreating into the storeroom. Once hidden, I pumped my fist quietly, heartened by the success of my plan. Owen would be down before we'd finished cleaning up the glass.

He was. Jogging down the stairs with an apprehensive expression on his face, he stopped short when he saw Mom and me sprawled on the floor in our socks and boots, picking up the pieces. I sent him a quick wink right before I explained that the vase had fallen mysteriously and broken. We ate our breakfasts in relative silence. I could tell Mom and Dad were still spooked by how the vase had fallen.

Dad offered to drive us to school since we were running late, although we had originally planned to walk. We accepted. As soon as we'd gotten out at the school gates and kissed Dad goodbye, Owen turned to me.

"You could have gotten in a lot of trouble for that, you know."

"I needed to delay them. It wasn't a problem, anyway- my acting skills are fabulous." I flipped my hair.

He snorted. "Yeah, right. Which is why I can always tell when you're lying."

"I'll find a way to deceive you, too," I replied, smirking.

The school gates were open before us. The grounds were absolutely huge- I'd heard that this was also a boarding school, although day students like us were allowed to attend. A huge sign outside said ROSEMARY ATKINS ACADEMY.

I swallowed nervously. I'd never been a new student before- Owen and I had been born in Georgia and had gone to school there all our lives. But now, for the most important years of our school lives- high school- we had been brought across the country to Illinois and were expected to start there like nothing was off.

Well, that wasn't really true. Dad had talked to us all about it many times for the past year, and we'd had plenty of time to get used to the idea, but it all still felt very sudden. I wondered what the people at this school would be like. Last year, we'd had groups of friends, not exclusive but still defined- but since I was one of them, a Georgian through and through, I'd always had my own group of people. I was always accepted. I'd never been this alone before.

At least I had Owen. I was sure he was also feeling the same way- but then, we were always there for each other. I reached out and grabbed his hand. It tensed, but he didn't try to pull away.

And just like that, we walked into our first day of school together.