Chapter One: New Beginnings

The halls that had been empty just days before were now packed with hundreds of students. It was easy to tell which ones were freshmen—they were the ones clinging to their parents' sides. I smiled to myself, remembering how I'd been in their shoes just a year ago—even though I'd been a sophomore, not a freshman. It had still been my first year at Midland High School. Now I was returning for another year…my junior year!

Pushing my way through the crowd, I found myself in the cafeteria. About a dozen tables were set up, each offering a different service to the mass of students. One was selling yearbooks, a few clubs had set up informational tables, but most of the tables were surrounded by students trying to pick up their schedules. I quickly found the one marked "Juniors H-O" and took my place in line.

"Holland, Lydia," I said when I finally made it up to the table. The woman shuffled through a thick stack of papers until she found the one with my name on it. I took my schedule, thanked the woman, and stepped over to the side to read over my classes. First semester I had AP Lit and AP U.S. History, Healthcare Applications, Chemistry, and Intermediate Band. I was pleased to see that I had Mrs. Bryant for AP Lit—as difficult as her class was rumored to be, I knew that she was an excellent teacher. For Chemistry, I had Mrs. Carter, the easier of the two Chem teachers. Health Apps was with Mrs. Thomas, U.S. History with Mrs. Fielding, and band was with Mr. Duncan, the new band director.

I folded up my schedule and put it in my pocket. I looked around, searching for any of my friends, or even a good acquaintance. Alicia Woodall and Jessica Palmer, two cheerleaders from my lit class last year, were standing near the drink machine. I didn't know either of them very well; besides, I didn't usually socialize with cheerleaders. Not that I'm jealous or don't like them, because in all honesty, many of them are very nice. It's just that it's always been my experience that we don't have a lot of common ground, no shared interests. I scanned the crowds again, noticing several people that I'd had classes with, but no one that I knew well enough to go talk to. I was about to pull out my schedule again and go meet my teachers when I saw him.

Jordan Walker was my first and best friend at Midland. He wasn't my best friend in that we were always doing stuff together on the weekend, or telling each other all of our secrets, or anything like that. He was just the best that I had up here…my real best friend, Mandy, was back home in Ohio. Jordan was an awesome guy…we were incredibly close, we just didn't do enough together for him to truly be the type of best friend that Mandy was.

I hadn't seen Jordan since school let out—which had secretly been killing me. We'd emailed each other a few times over the summer, but we both had such busy schedules that we hadn't been able to keep in touch as well as we'd promised each other. It gets kind of depressing, not talking to your best friend all summer. Not only was he my best friend, I'd been in love with him since November of my sophomore year. Of course, he didn't know how I felt about him…last year he'd been dating his best friend, a girl named Aubrey. They broke up around Valentine's Day (how ironic), but they remained close until she graduated in June and went off to college.

Now Jordan was available…not like I'd have the guts to say anything to him, of course. He was standing behind a table, trying to recruit new members for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jordan was the leader of our school's chapter of FCA, and he was totally committed to it.

I walked up behind Jordan and poked him in his sides, like he'd always done to me last year whenever he came up behind me. He jumped and spun around to see who was behind him. His face lit up when he saw it was me.

"Lyds!" he exclaimed as he wrapped his arms around me in a quick hug. "How are you doing, baby girl?"

"I'm okay," I shrugged. "I had a fun summer with my dad, but obviously I'm back here now, so that's bound to damper my moods soon."

"I'm glad you decided to stay, Lyds," Jordan said softly. I'd been thinking about moving home to Ohio at the end of my sophomore year, but had decided to stay. I'd cited the AP classes I was signed up to take and my other academic and co-curricular activities as the reasons, but while they had influenced my decision, they weren't my main reason. I'd stayed because I couldn't stand the idea of leaving Jordan.

"I don't know if I'm glad or not," I said. "I think I made the wrong decision, and for the wrong reasons, but there's nothing I can do now…I'm stuck here."

"It'll all be okay, Lyds," Jordan said, giving me another hug and rubbing my back reassuringly. He let go, but let his hand slide down my arm to my hand, which he gently squeezed for a brief moment. A freshman boy came up to the table, so Jordan let go to give the kid a flier on FCA and encourage him to come to the first meeting, next Friday. When the boy had gone, Jordan turned back to me.

"You look great, Lyds," he said, looking me up and down.

"Thanks," I said with a grin. I had spent all summer trying to improve my appearance. Every day I was riding horses or working at the stable from seven until about five-thirty, and when I got home, I had gone for a thirty-minute jog with one of my dogs. Once I'd finished my run, I did a thousand crunches, then did some exercises with small weights to tone up my arms. Every Saturday, I floated around my pool with a book for about four hours. The end result was that I was truly tan for the first time in my life, with a flat stomach and the slender, toned legs that I hadn't had since the fourth grade.

"Are you eating again?" Jordan asked, giving me a stern look. The year before, I'd been a borderline anorexic. Honestly, by all descriptions of the disease that I've ever read, I was anorexic. But I really don't think I was…I just exhibited a lot of anorexic behaviors. I'd stopped eating in October, and for the rest of the year, Jordan had yelled at me and tried to get me to eat. He'd succeeded a few times…I just couldn't look into those gorgeous green eyes of his or hear him say that if I loved him, I'd eat, and then refuse to eat.

"Yeah, I started again," I admitted. This was true. I'd finally accepted the fact that my starvation "diet" wasn't going to work, and that I needed to eat if I really wanted to lose fat and tone up. I'd also been afraid that if I starved myself while I was at the stable, I'd pass out from working in the heat on an empty stomach.

"Good," Jordan said, giving me another hug. He held me a little tighter and longer this time—not that I minded, of course. "Let me see your schedule, I want to see if we'll have lunch together this year."

I handed over my schedule and looked over his shoulder as he compared our classes. He had some pretty tough classes, especially calculus and physics.

"Your chemistry class is on the same hall as my physics class," he said. "We should have lunch together."

"Great!" I said, taking my schedule back from him. "Well, I'd better let you get back to handing out fliers or whatever you're doing. I just wanted to talk to you for a little bit."

"All right, but before you leave, you have to promise me that you'll come to FCA this year," Jordan said, handing me a flier.

"I'll try," I replied, folding the paper and putting it in my pocket.

"Lyds, please?" Jordan said, making that adorable puppy-dog face that he knew I couldn't say no to.

"All right, I'll come next Friday, if I can get a ride," I relented.

"If you can't, let me know and I'll come pick you up," Jordan offered.

"Okay," I agreed. "Bye."

"Hey, Lyds," Jordan called as I started to walk to my first class. I stopped and turned my head to look at him.

"What are you doing tomorrow?" Tomorrow, Friday. Our last day of summer vacation.

"Absolutely nothing, why?"

"Do you want to do something with me, then?"

"Sure!" I replied, hoping I didn't sound overly enthusiastic.

"Okay, I'll call you tonight and we'll talk about it," Jordan promised.

"Okay," I said with a huge grin. I turned and headed to Mrs. Bryant's classroom, my spirits incredibly high.