* ~ Chapter 1 ~*

"Anna," my best friend, Kirsten, yelled from across the hall. I turned around and saw both Kirsten and Gordon behind me. Usually, we all met after school to do our homework together, but today I was in a hurry. Today was the first day of dance class. It was early August when we had just started high school. Kirsten described our freshman year as "The best year of our lives." She said high school was the next best thing to college, where you live on your own in dorm rooms. Kirsten seemed to be having the time of her life, and so did Gordon, but I didn't seem to see anything different about high school than middle school. You switch classes, have lockers, and get assigned homework. Everything seemed to be the same. "What do you mean it's the same?" Gordon had asked me. " Yeah, we have a whole new dress code," Kirsten had agreed. In middle school, the dress code wasn't necessary. They made us wear belts and tuck in our shirts. For a while we could only wear solid colored shirts, but enough of the parents complained, so they changed it so that we could wear any shirt. Kirsten insisted that tucking her shirt into her pants made her hips look big, so she survived middle school by wearing dresses and overalls. According to Kirsten, high school was much better than middle school, but even if the dress code was different, all the other rules were still the same. "Why are you in a hurry Anna?"Gordon asked me. "Gordon, I've been talking about the first day of dance for weeks. See?" I said, holding up my bag with my ballet and pointe shoes in it. "You're still doing dance?" Kirsten asked surprised. "I thought you were going to quit in high school because of all the homework." "No," I exclaimed. " Besides, we have just as much homework as last year." "But Anna, it's only the third week of school. Real homework doesn't even get assigned until the sixth week." I knew that she was probably right, but I loved dancing and I wasn't going to quit. "I'm sure I can handle it." "Okay," she said. I rolled my eyes. Kirsten had been wanting for me to quit dance since the seventh grade. She insisted that we never spent enough time together, even though I only danced two days a week. She'd really been trying to get me to quit when she wanted to try out for the football team, but when the coach said no, her parents had agreed that football just wasn't for girls. I didn't really think that it was right. Just because her parents believed that football wasn't for girls that she should be forced to give up her dreams and have to give up what she wanted to do, but Kirsten did seem to hold her parents' choice against my choice, and she would always complain about how busy I was with dance. It was as if she wasn't allowed to do what she enjoyed, I wasn't either. "Kirsten, it's only two days a week," I reminded her. "Besides, you know how much this means to me. We can still hang out on the weekends." "It won't be the same. Anna, I know it won't," she said. "All you'll talk about are your pointe shoes, or complain about something." I rolled my eyes. "What if I promise you that I will not talk about dance while I'm with you." Kirsten had that glare in her eye. That glare that meant she was up to something. "What are you going to give me if you break that promise?" "Uh, I'll give you ten dollars." Kirsten held out her hand to shake on it. Normally, I don't gamble, but it was only ten dollars that I could easily earn back from allowance. I shook Kirsten's hand and then our discussion ended. "I'm glad that you guys are done with your argument," Gordon said as we stepped outside into the parking lot. When we stepped outside, we were immediately greeted by the fresh scent of daisy's, which grew all around the school. The grass was cut very short and was never high, like a golf corse. The bricks were a rusty red color and on the front of the building were the gold letters Lakedale High Schools. It seemed like one of the schools that people dream about going to with everything in order and everything in place, but it wasn't any different from any other school. You still got detention if you were misbehaving, you still got A's if you studied, and you were sometimes late to class because of the bell. Every day, after the last bell rang, the whole school let out at once, and everyone in the school went out into the parking lot where the busses were, along with the cars. Once you spotted your ride, you immediately went to it before they left. If by chance you missed your ride, they made you sit in the principal's office until your parents came to pick you up. One time I had to stay after school for the A&B club and they sent me to the office to give Principal York a note. There was a group of boys there, all of which were friends, and Mr. York was yelling at all of them for loitering on school property. I didn't know if it was like that every day, but I hoped not. Once I told Kirsten and Gordon about this, we all made sure we never missed our rides. If any of us were caught like that, we'd be grounded for months, and if I were caught in that situation, I'd probably be kicked out of the A&B club. "Hey, I've got to go guys. My bus is here," Gordon said as he headed toward the bus. I watched him run to the bus to be the first one on to get a back seat. It was cool for people to sit in the back seats at our school because you were far from the bus driver. People only did it so they could break the rules, like talk on their cell phones. They did really crazy things. I heard that one guy even mooned a truck driver. If you asked me, I'd say it was all nonsense. I didn't understand why people thought it was neat and cool to break the rules. It only got you into trouble if you were caught, and that's what people only thought. If you were caught. They decided to take a fifty-fifty chance on it, and with as much security as there is today because of all the shoplifting and kidnaping, they should know that more than likely, they're going to be caught.

I looked across the parking lot to find my mother waving at me to hurry up. "Kirsten, I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow." "Good luck today," she said, but secretly, I knew she wanted me to do badly so I would be kicked out of class. I just didn't understand it. Why does she not like me to have fun without her? "Hey Anna," my mom said to me as I hopped into her car. "Ready for the first day of dance?" "Yeah," I said feeling down. I didn't know how a person could go from feeling so excited too so depressed instantly. The way that Kirsten had been so cross about me taking dance had affected me. It hurt that she couldn't accept the fact that dancing was my sport, even if it wasn't considered cool in Lakedale. Dancing is what I did for fun. While everybody else tackled each other and scored a field goal, I spun turns and leaped jetes. It felt so painful that my best friend and I didn't see eye to eye with what to do after school. She acted as if ballet was something I planned to do my whole life. Sure dance was something I loved, but I didn't plan to make a career out of it. I wanted to be a journalist and write for a newspaper. Ballerinas had to stay on a special diet and had to be a certain height. I was already 5'7, but I had about another inch to grow. I was already too tall to be a ballerina anyway. Sometimes, Kirsten made me feel guilty, but after I thought about it for a while, I realized that it was silly to feel guilty to do something I loved. She really made me feel guilty because she didn't dance. Since she wasn't able to play football, something she loved and wanted to play, it made me feel sad that I was able to do what I loved either way. About the only thing Kirsten and I could do together was swimming, but my mom had already closed up our pool, so we had to weight until next summer. It really hurt that Kirsten kept trying to get me to quit dancing. She just didn't realize how much ballet made me happy. I had a few friends who took dance with me, but they all went to different schools. I often wished that I could have just one friend who would hang out in our trio to talk about dance with. Someone that would truly understand me and understood me for who I was, not by what I did. "So how was school today?" my mom asked me when we were halfway to the dance studio. Half the time, I thought my mom was physic. She knew when we had a bad day and she tended to stay quiet. "It was okay," I answered. After about three minutes, my mom broke the long silence between us. "Come on Anna. You need to cheer up." See, I told you, she's physic. "Oh, I'm fine, it's just Kirsten was a little disappointed that we couldn't hang out today." "Oh," she said. "Well, if that's it, than it's probably no big deal. She knows that you have dance classes two days a week just like the past two years." "Yeah," I said. "She was just disappointed because she wanted to do something today, but I'm sure we can do it another day." I knew it wasn't the whole truth, but I didn't want mom to ask what was wrong and for me to have to explain how I felt. "I guess you can. Your brother called me earlier and said he had a new girlfriend." I rolled my eyes. My older brother, Tim, had just gone to college. He was only seventeen because he had skipped a grade and he had a new girlfriend almost every week. Tim always said that he was always in love with his girlfriend and knew that she was the one. If you asked me, I'd say that love was really kind of stupid. It was something that teenagers pretended to be in so they could be cool. Everyone, it seemed, had either a boyfriend or a girlfriend and their relationships lasted two weeks tops. To me, love wasn't really serious until you couldn't stop thinking about the other person and you felt that you couldn't live without them, but sometimes, I secretly wished, even on my birthday when it was time to blow out the candles, that someone could love me. Not the type of love that teenagers are in, but real love, like how you feel when you can't live without your boyfriend and you couldn't even imagine how life without him would be, but I knew that stuff like that was impossible at my age. After all, I was only fourteen. I quicky grabbed my dance bag as we pulled into the parking lot. I was very excited now. It's funny how you can go from being depressed one minute, to be happy the next, and all it took for me was looking at a small, tiny studio with dancers inside getting ready to do warm-ups and seeing their teacher again after the summer break. "Bye Anna, have fun. I'll pick you up at five thirty," mom said as I shut the door to the car. I turned around, holding my heavy bag, and faced the studio, ready to go inside.

I've always enjoyed coming to Lakedale Dance Academy, even since when I first started when I was four. Even though the studio had only one room, I still enjoyed being there. It was located on the same highway that my school was on, just about five miles away. It was in one of those buildings with several rooms to rent. I enjoyed the studio even more because a couple rooms down was a Sub Depot. I'd been eating down there every week after dance, and I knew Shirley, the manager, very well from all my visits. Since I always went down there, she'd give me discounts and free water. As soon as I saw my friend, Vicky, step out of her mom's car, I waved. "Hey, are you ready?" "Yup," she said. "As always." We walked in the building together and stepped into two unoccupied dressing rooms. The changing rooms were just closets with white curtains for a door. I had always been a little uncomfortable changing in them because all it would take is for a breeze from opening the door to make the curtain fly up. I knew that it didn't matter any way, since it was just us girls. Class didn't start until four o' clock, and I had ten minutes to be ready. I grabbed my new black leotard and jazz pants out of my bag to get dressed.

"We're here Jamie," I heard a woman say from outside my dressing room. "Don't worry. I'm sure you'll make new friends today. Now get in a dressing room to get changed." I heard the door shut and the rustle of curtains. Poor Jamie, I thought. She must be so sad having to move to a new studio where she doesn't know anybody. As soon as I was finished changing, I stepped outside and was immediately greeted by a big mass of red hair. "Vicky!" I exclaimed, laughing. "Sorry," she said smiling. "I'm trying to put up my hair. It's so hard now that I've cut it." Vicky tried to keep her hair in place by sticking dozens of butterfly clips on the back of her head with her hair flipped over. Then she quicky put her hair up in a ponytail. Once she lifted her head up, her hair was sticking out everywhere, but it was still out of her face. "How's that?" she asked me. "Well, it's certainly up," I joked. Vicky laughed, her cheeks red, which made her blue eyes appear even bluer. Vicky often complained about having red hair and blue eyes, but she didn't mind that she was full-blood Irish. I thought it was neat that all her ancestors came from Ireland. It was different with me. I was one eighth Irish, three eighths Swedish, and one half Cherokee. It was really confusing to figure out where my ancestors came from. The Cherokee Indians were already in America when the English started coming over. We all sat down by the stereo, waiting for our teacher, Buffy. Buffy was very short and petite. I'd often wondered if she had even been a Ballerina once, but knew she hadn't. We had first come to the studio when it had first opened, and it was Buffy's first year teaching. She was very young at the time, I'd say about twenty-one because she had just graduated college. Even if she had been a ballerina, she would have told us. Buffy told us everything, even stuff that was embarrassing, like when she had gotten her first pimple. She said it was big and red. She said that she thought that she was going to die of skin cancer. We all had a laugh from that. "Hello class," Buffy said, smiling from ear to ear. "I see that we've changed a lot over the summer." I saw Vicky blush a little. "As you may know, Claire has moved to Utah and will not be having classes with us anymore." Many people started whispering and asking each other "Why?" "Don't worry everyone," Buffy said, trying to quiet everyone down. "We have a new student who will be in class with us today." "Who?" Rochelle, a girl who was very nosey, asked. "Jamie," Buffy said, "will be attending our class today. Right now, however, Jamie's in the dressing room changing, but will be out in a second." I heard curtains rustle toward the front of the studio, but before I could turn around Buffy said, "Ladies, Jamie is now ready to join class with us." Everyone turned around to see a boy with brown curly hair wearing black pants and a T-shirt. Immediately, everyone started whispering. "Why is he here?" "Did he walk into the wrong building?" "Maybe he meant to go to Sub Depot." "What if he tries to sneak in my dressing room?" "What's with the name Jamie?" "OH MY GOD HE'S A BOY!" Rochelle yelled, causing everyone to laugh, even Jamie. "Well duh, Rochelle," Cindy, Rochelle's friend, hollered laughing. I looked at Rochelle, to see if she was embarrassed, but I was surprised not to see her cheeks turning red. Rochelle always made everyone laugh, even if she was a little nosey. "Okay class," Buffy said once the laughter died down. "Since the last time we danced was in May, we're just going to do warm-ups out on the floor. Once we're done, we'll sit down and introduce ourselves to Jamie. Take you place out on the floor while I try to find some music." Vicky and I hurried so we could be beside each other. "I really want to know why he's a dancer," Vicky whispered to me. "I know what you mean," I replied. There were two boys who were twins who started dancing with me when I was eight, but they quit when they were ten because it was embarrassing for them at school. I didn't blame them either. It wasn't even cool for me to dance at school. Imagine how bad it would be for boys. They would be teased and picked on, but girls wouldn't. It was just the opposite of football. Dancing was a girl's sport. "Who's going to dance with him if there is a duet? I know Buffy and she'll do a duet with him and some girl, and it's not going to be me," Vicky said to me. "It won't be me either," I said. "Not if I can help it."

* * *

" I can't believe he's actually dancing," I said to both Kirsten and Gordon as I sat down at the lunch table with them during lunch period. Why did Jamie think he could dance in ballet? Girls were more graceful than boys were, not to mention ballet was a girl thing. If you had asked anyone in my dance class, they would have said Jamie should have been in hip hop with the rest of the boys. "Who's he?" Kirsten asked me, clueless. "Jamie. He's a new kid at our studio," I told her. "What's wrong with him dancing?" Gordon asked. "I do it all the time at parties and concerts. What's wrong with a little funky dance moves?" I looked at him, "He dances ballet. In my class as well. With us girls." Kirsten seemed to get my point and looked disgusted. "EW! Now I know what you mean!" Gordon stared at us, confused. "Uh, guys, you do realize that you're discriminating against him?" "So?" I said. "We're discriminated against as girls and you guys don't even realize how it feels until it happens to you." I just didn't get it! I wasn't really discriminating against Jamie. I was just making a point. Ballet was really a girl thing and it was freaky to see a guy doing it. It was like seeing a girl wearing a peace medallion way to big for her around her neck with baggy pants, and a t-shirt way to big for her. If it wasn't bad enough, one of the girls in my ballet class would be dancing a duet with him for a dancing competition. "Class," Buffy had said the day before, " since Jamie is dancing with us from now on, I thought it would be neat if he performed a duet with one of you girls for a statewide competition coming up in early November. Next week, I will decide who will perform with him. Now, you don't have to worry. I pretty much already know who it is, but on Thursday, we will do a complete warm-up and a few moves across the floor so I can be sure the person I choose is right." "I'm going to do badly on purpose," Vicky then whispered to me. "That way I know I won't be chosen." "I don't think I will," I said. "She already knows who's going to be, so it won't make a difference." All I knew is that I was not going to be in the duet. It was hard enough to even dance in the same room with him. Imagine how even more embarrassing it would be to dance a duet with him. If I did got chosen, I would just tell Buffy that it was impossible that I could make the practices, even if she did know the real reason. I believed that Buffy knew that all the girls didn't like the idea of having a boy in their class, but then again, what girl did? "Yeah Gordon," Kirsten agreed with me. "What they did to me on the football team was discrimination. Did you even confront the coach about it? No! But you're going to confront Anna when she discriminated against guys!" "Hey! Hey! Hey!" Gordon yelled. "Sorry! I was just making a point! Stop yelling at me!" We all started to laugh. "Sorry Gordon," I said, laughing. "Yeah, sorry," Kirsten said. "But with this Jamie guy in my class, things just couldn't get any worse," I told them. Almost instantly, as if fate had planned it, I heard someone yell "Hey, Anna!" from across the cafeteria. I turned around and almost came face to face with Jamie! "Uh, Anna," Gordon said, "I think it just got worse." What was he doing here? At my school? He was already in my dance class. With my luck, he'd be in my gym class and see me in my gym clothes. What if he was in any of my classes with Kirsten and me? "Do you mind if I sit here guys?" Jamie asked us. I couldn't just say no. After all, he was new at school, and he was in my ballet class. I was the only person he knew here so far. "Sure," I said. Jamie sat down right beside me. "So," he said," What classes do you have after lunch?" "Gym, English, and then geometry," I told him. "Kirsten and Gordon have English and gym with me." "Cool! I have English with you guys," Jamie said. "Mrs. Morgan, right?" "Yeah," I said. At least he wouldn't have gym with me, and I would actually prefer that because he wouldn't see me in my gym clothes. It didn't really matter though, because he would see me too days a week in a tight leotard, and besides, I wouldn't be the only person in his English class with him. Kirsten and Gordon would be there too. "So," Gordon said, " did you see the race on Sunday?" "Oh yeah! It was awesome!" Jamie cried. Kirsten and I looked at each other. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to have Jamie sit with us. Gordon would finally have something to talk about besides purses and make-up anymore. He could talk about guy stuff with Jamie instead of Kirsten and me. Kirsten! "Oh crap!" I yelled. "What," Jamie asked. I reached into my purse and counted out ten dollars to give to Kirsten. "I owe Kirsten ten dollars." Everyone laughed, except for Jamie, who was confused. Once we explained it to him, he laughed too. We all sat and talked until the lunch bell rang, and I had to admit, having lunch with Jamie wasn't as bad as I thought. I thought it'd be completely boring because he's a dancer, and all he'd talk about was how cool it was that we went to the same school and the same dance class, but he didn't. We all talked classes, gym teachers, movie stars, and even a little about tofu. Kirsten even liked him as much as I did. "He's not that bad Anna. Not as bad as I thought," she whispered to me when Gordon and Jamie were talking about the races next Sunday. I believe we were all a little disappointed when the bell rang to switch, because we all groaned as we got up to put our trays away. "They just never seem to give you enough time do they?" Kirsten said. "Nope. They never even give you close to how much you need," I answered. "We'll, I'm going to be going," Jamie said, " I talk to you in English," "Ok buddy," Gordon said to him as we walked out of the cafeteria and headed to our lockers. Gordon had just called him buddy, but Jamie wasn't part of our trio.I was once again mad at Jamie, and even a little confused. How could you automatically call someone your buddy just because they ate lunch with you once? Just because we sat at Lunch together didn't automatically make him part of our group. Did it?
Chapter 3

I sat outside Lakedale High, sitting on the steps leading up to the school. It was already four o' clock. Thirty-minutes past the time my mom was supposed to pick me up. I didn't have dance today, and I was a little relieved. I was still sore from the day before doing warm-ups. I was usually sore for the first two weeks after classes began, because of the long summer break without dancing for three months, but after a while, I hardly broke a sweat. I was still confused about Jamie. Gordon had called him "buddy." He hardy knew Jamie. He knew me before he ever saw Jamie, and if it wasn't for me, Gordon wouldn't have even met Jamie. Gordon never called me "buddy" at all, but then again, all Kirsten and I ever talked about were make-up and boys, something Gordon could care less about. But, never less, it didn't matter. How could you assume someone is your "buddy" by only eating lunch with him once? You can't judge a person by seeing them once. I thought, but as soon as I thought that, my stomach started aching. I figured out why Gordon was complaining about me discriminating against Jamie. I'd never really met the guy, I'd only danced two hours in a dance class with him. Oh, Anna, I thought. How could you do this? If Jamie knew what you really thought about him, he'd be really disappointed. I wondered over and over again how I could stoop down to the level of the southerners back during the time of slavery? How could I be so mean to someone? I wasn't too sure if Jamie could forgive me if he ever found out how I'd been complaining about him to my friends, but hopefully, Gordon and Kirsten wouldn't blow my secret. I then decided, I wouldn't complain about Jamie so much. I mean, after all, he did have the guts to dance ballet when it wasn't even cool for me, so that was one good thing about him. He wasn't ashamed to do something he loved, and no one could change his mind. Maybe Jamie isn't so bad after all, I thought. And besides, just because I don't mind the fact so much that he's a dancer, doesn't mean that I'm going to dance in the duet with him. To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled about Buffy's choice to make a girl dance a duet with him because it seemed cute. Not to mention, dancing with a boy, in any way to me, seemed romantic, and you were supposed to be in love with the other person in order to dance right. You have to feel the music and be able to dance with a partner that you're comfortable with in order to become part of the music, to sway and flow with the music, just like you are a part of the chorus and lyrics, only the part that's visible to the human eye. You are the dancer, and you must entertain your audience, and the only way that you can truly do that, is to become part of the music. It's very similar to people who write, paint, or play an instrument. People who do these things know that you have to become part of your work to be able to make your work come to life for the viewer, and Buffy, making one of the girls dance with Jamie, just simply couldn't be done. Okay Anna, I told myself, Even though you don't mind Jamie as much as you did, you will not dance in the duet with him. I heard the door to the front of the building slam shut, but I didn't bother to turn around. I had no business to see who it was. My only business was to wait for my mom to come and pick me up. "Hey Anna," someone yelled from behind me. I turned around at the mention of my name, and came face to face with Jamie. All the guiltiness I felt earlier was gone, and I despised Jamie with every nerve in my body. "Hey," I said flatly. "Did you get the English assignment that Ms. Morgan assigned today?" he asked. How dare he? I thought. All he wants do is copy off my work, and see how I got it. "Yes, it's fairly easy. Diagraming sentences. It's just review," I answered. "Oh," he mumbled. "Well, I get a little confused with the adjective and adverb part. I always get them confused, I'll get my mom to help me with that," he paused a second, as if debating what to say. " Are you excited about Buffy making a girl dance with me for a duet?" "No, nobody in the class is," I answered. "Yeah, I didn't want to do it either, but my mom is making me. She thinks it'll be sweet and precious. Sometimes, I don't get her. She's the reason that I'm dancing. If she hadn't signed me up when I was five, I wouldn't have fallen in love with it, and now I'm stuck either way," he said, as if he were complaining to me. How pathetic! "Well, I started dancing because I thought it was fun, and it was," this time, my voice wasn't as harsh and cruel as it had been before. Why, I didn't know. He had taken my best friend, and now they seemed tight. I didn't understand it, one minute I hated his guts, the next, I forgave him, and then, what do you know, I like him again. Life was weird sometimes, and people try so hard to figure out why, but even then it seems confusing as they try to figure out. "Anna, did you here me?" My thoughts were interrupted by Jamie waving his hand over and over in front of my face. I looked at him. "Sorry, I was thinking. What did you say?" "I asked you if you were doing anything this Saturday? Because my sister has two extra tickets to this theme park down the street. She bought a packet of four, and she only needed two for her date, but she decided to bring me along because Mom wouldn't let her go alone. Do you want to come?" he asked, the little puppy dog face hidden beneath his tan, pimple-free face. I couldn't say no. Thinking about how he would complain to Gordon about how I rejected him, and imagining about how hurt he'd be, made me give in. Besides, Tim had to go somewhere Saturday anyway, and he could easily drop me off. "Sure," I replied, feeling guilty that I was probably confusing him and that he would think that I liked him, so I added "As friends." Just then, a car pulled up. I looked inside, and saw my brother Tim sitting in the driver's seat and hopped up to go. "I have to go now. My brother's here," I replied. "Bye, see you at dance practice tomorrow," he yelled. I quickly ran over to my brother's car as fast as I could, trying to get as far away as possible from Jamie. I opened the door, and hopped into the car. "Hey kiddo, what's new?" he asked me. "Nothing much," I answered. This was pretty much how all our conversations went. Tim and I never really had those heart to heart conversations that some siblings had, but we did have some kind of relationship. It was called you do your thing, and I'll do mine. Then, it came to me. Out of thin air, it just came. I had a plan, well, not really a plan, plans are used to hurt people, but I had an idea that could get me Jamie free for that night, and still have a blast. I could ask Kirsten and Gordon to come with me. Gordon could hang with his knew "buddy" while Kirsten and I walked around the park rating guys 1-10 like we usually did on Saturday nights. It was brilliant! If I didn't know that I had thought of it myslef, I would thought Kirsten had made it up (She always has to deal with situations like these. After all, she had a boyfriend every other week.) I quickly reached down and grabbed my brother's cell phone. "Need to make a call?" he asked. It was the stupidest question anyone had ever asked me, aside from this boy in third grade trying to be cute asking me what my gender was. "No, I'm selling it for drugs," I said sarcastically. I dialed Kirsten's cell. As if on cue, she answered immediately. "Hey Kirsten, want to go to a carnival on Saturday?" I asked and explained the situation, leaving out the parts about Jamie. "Okay, sure. I'll call Gordon immediately. I know he'll be thrilled. Another night out with us talking about boys," She agreed. I laughed. Amazingly, I had this feeling in my stomach. I kind of felt sad that my date with Jamie was going to be ruined. Wait a minute! What was I talking about! This wasn't a date! We were only friends.