Cereal was for breakfast. TJ wasn't picky about food, for the most part, so grabbing one of the boxes of cereal when he woke up wasn't an issue. After strapping in his rib brace, he went to the kitchen.

There were plenty to choose from, but he really wanted to eat some Cocoa Puffs, despite his dietary restrictions.

". . .I think it should be fine," he mumble, reading over the ingredients. "It's not dark chocolate so it should be okay."

Shrugging, he poured himself a bowl and headed into the basement. He heard the others down there as he passed the door on the way to the kitchen. They sat around a room fully decked out with video games and systems. He plopped himself on the end of a couch, watching them play. By the looks of it, it was one of the Mario Party's.

So the cabin should descend into fighting and yelling sometime soon. That'll be interesting. With only four controllers, Mikey was on the couch, too, while Gus, Gretchen, Vince, and Spinelli played. Between bites, he checked his phone. So many messages asking him to spend winter break with him. . .saying yes wasn't an option unless he wanted to out himself. Though the Ashley A's offer to go to Europe for a week was pretty fucking awesome.

"I thought you said you couldn't eat chocolate," Mikey said.

"I can't," TJ said. "This doesn't have that much chocolate. And it's not dark chocolate."

"Does that matter with an allergy?"

"It's not an allergy," said TJ. "I never said it was."

Their conversation was cut off by Gus' frustrated shouting as he came in fourth place. Coins and stars were stolen, and accusations of cheating were jokingly thrown around.

"Do one of you want to do play?" Gus asked, turning to them. TJ shrugged, sat aside him now empty bowl, and took the control as another game was set up. Even with the chaotic game in front of him, TJ didn't pay much attention. That bowl of cereal had him wondering if he got his hand on some dark chocolate and ate some, if they would take him to the hospital if he's screaming loud enough. It'd be a win-win for him.


TJ accepted that they weren't going to leave him alone if they could help it. But that didn't mean he had to talk to them with more than a few words at a time. He went to his room only for Gus to come in and try talking to him. He tried the living room and Vince acted like they never stopped being friends. Right now he settled in the sun room with a blanket around himself, on his phone, while Spinelli sat across from him. She insisted that the landscape outside gave her inspiration to draw.

He saw straight through her bullshit but after moving to different places three times, he just sat in his seat and focused on his phone.

"When did start drawing? You're really good at it."

"I dunno."

"You know the school has an art club, right? You should show people what you can do."


"Do you like drawing certain kinda of stuff? Because I like doing portraits."


He heard Spinelli throw down her pencil, but didn't look.

"C'mon, Teej, I'm trying to have a conversation here."

"That's not my problem. And don't call me that."

A nap sounded good right now. Maybe a hot bath beforehand. The bathroom was the only place he could get any privacy. Besides, his stomach was starting to hurt.

"You say you don't hate us but you sure as hell act like it," she said.

"I'm neutral at best towards all of you but if you want me to hate you, you're well on your way to that," he said. "I'm going to my room. You think I can get some privacy?"

Luckily, she didn't follow him, but that didn't stop him from watching to see if anyone else looked like they were going to talk to him.