Paige decided to take the rest of the year off to recover. She had almost enough credits to graduate anyway, so she decided to get the few ones she still needed during summer school. I was late getting back to school after it started again because my whole family took a while to recover. Surprisingly, both of my parents found the adoption difficult too. We had a few pictures of the baby before the Kassem family took her away, but that was it. That was all we would ever get. They just kept reminding themselves and everyone else that it was for the best.

I got my braces off just after Christmas. It was strange to see my teeth again, but this time they were straight and even. It was like a whole new mouth. A whole new me. My hair was growing out so that it no longer stuck straight out when it dried. I didn't look like Peter Pan anymore. I guess I was growing up.

I pulled on my favorite new beanie. It was leopard print and had cat ears on it. Paige got it for me for Christmas. In her own small way I think she was thanking me for the months I'd been there for her and the night I'd spent in the hospital right beside her. I loved the beanie. I loved what it represented. That even though we didn't really get along or like each other very much, we were still sisters. And even if she didn't want to be seen with me most of the time, she still appreciated me. In some weird small way. At least she knew what I liked enough to know I'd love the stupid cat ear beanie. And her ability to differentiate between the person she wanted me to be and the person I really was, was kind of touching.

I decided to walk to school on my first day back. Being that I was a lazy person I usually never walked anywhere except to the grocery store. But my house had been so stuffy and sad all break. So I just wanted to escape and enjoy the chill air and solitude. I didn't have a lot of that lately. So it was nice. When I reached the next block, a girl was leaving her house as I passed. She was small framed with a mouth full of braces and dark curly hair. She reminded me kind of like myself when I was a freshman. I was pretty sure she was a freshman too. I hadn't seen her before and I was almost done with junior year.

"Hi," she said as she stepped toward the sidewalk.

"Hello," I replied.

"You're Piper, right?" I nodded.

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

"Everyone knows you." My eyes widened in surprise.

"This is news to me." She laughed.

"Would you like some company?"

"Yeah, sure." She sidled up beside me and we walked in silence for a few minutes.

"I like your beanie," she finally said.

"Thanks. I just got it for Christmas," I explained.

"It's really cool. And you got your braces off?" I swear I'd never seen this girl before in my life. I must have been going to school with her for at least a semester. But just like Vincent said, I was a teenager too blinded by my own problems to notice anyone else.

"Yeah, I did," I confirmed.

"I can't wait to get mine off and I just barely got them on." I laughed.

"It's not so bad once you get used to them. Plus, you picked out a really great color. Purple was my favorite color to get. But they'll be gone before you know it."

"Cool. So do you miss them?"

"Strangely enough, yeah. I feel kind of naked without them." She laughed.

"I guess it'll get used to them eventually."

"You will. I promise."

She talked to me all the way to school. She said her name was Kaitlyn, but she went by Kat for some reason. She was a freshman just like I guessed. When we got to school, she said goodbye and went off to meet her friends as I wandered into my first class.

Later that day at lunch I went to the line to find something suitable to eat. My mom had finally relented about her ban on school lunches and gave me money. I was going to get curly fries for the first time. Only once I got there I found I wasn't that hungry for curly fries. I settled on something healthier so my mom wouldn't get mad at me if she found out. Not that anyone would tell her. Vincent wasn't there either. I overheard some seniors saying he transferred schools.

When I got my food, the Kat girl from my morning walk approached me again.

"Hey," she said.

"Hello," I replied.

"I was wondering if you wanted to come sit with my friends and me." I was startled for a second. No one ever asked me that before. But I looked over at where she pointed. There was a whole table full of them. Of kids like me. Some were chubby like I was. Some had braces. Some had wildly curly hair and bad haircuts. Some were even wearing silly beanies. They were all sitting off but looking in my direction. And when I looked up a few of them waved me over. So I nodded to Kat and smiled.

"Yeah, sure. That'd be nice," I decided.

...

Ta-da! *Waves hands*

I hope you guys like it.

And the implication is that Piper finally found friends just like her, who respect her and appreciate her for who she is.

SEQUEL! I will get that up asap. And I'll start posting it as soon as I can. I have quite a few chapters already written, BUT I want to get more done before I start posting just so I don't leave you guys on a hiatus unexpectedly. It will be called Food, Cats, and Being in Love. Because Piper is going to experience love for the first time because I apparently can't write a story without it because I'm cheesy.