"Ella, wake up sweetie!" were the pointless words that filtered up into my room.

You see, I was already awake, as I had been since 6:30 am, and was attempting to read, sitting on my bed. I say "attempting" for a good reason. You see, I'm dyslexic. Yeah, I know. Poor me, right? You don't know the half of it. Unfortunately, I also have ADHD. I know, I know. I'm supposed to be bad at school and whatnot. But surprisingly, I'm not that bad. I'm a good student who usually lies low, getting slightly-better-than-average grades. Some know me as a nerd. One of those people is me.

I adjusted my glasses, sighed, and rose from my bed. I pretended to open and close my closet, then banged around my room to simulate the noise of me getting dressed. I sat down at my vanity table/desk thingy and started brushing my waist-length, not-quite-curly-but-not-quite-straight brown hair. I thought again of how completely unfair it was that I had to have braces and glasses at the same time. At a very important time, too. I was in the eighth grade, just about to go on to high school.

I walked down the stairs, faking a yawn, and sat down at the kitchen table.

"Morning, Mom," I said brightly.

"Morning, Ella. Play practice starts in an hour, so you have plenty of time."

It was a Saturday, and I was happy to be awake. I'd always been that way. I absolutely loved play practice and musical theater and anything to do with the arts. But I especially liked writing poems. Most people hated them, but I thought they were genius.

"So, Mom. Can you tell me about Dad?" I pleaded. I was always interested in my father, the man who I had never met. So I asked my mother about him every morning, hoping she'd remember something different that I had never known before.

"Ella, we've talked about this hundreds of times. He was smart and intelligent, he loved being outside, and he had your blue-gray eyes."

"I bet he didn't need glasses," I mumbled under my breath.

"I told you that you can get contacts in September!" I was about to comment on my braces, so she said, "And you're getting your braces off in July. You don't have that long to wait."

"It's May," I said dully. "The only thing I can look forward to now are exams, and I don't want to look forward to those." Just the thought of sitting still that long made me anxious.

"We've gone through this again and again. Next semester, you won't have braces or glasses anymore. You're lucky! My parents wouldn't let me get contacts until-"

"You were 17. I know, Mom. It's just hard to wait." I lowered my chin onto my hands.

She brushed a strand of my hair from my face and said, "Don't worry, honey. Those two and a half months will fly by. In the meantime, do you know all your lines?"

That perked me up instantly. I was Jasmine in my school play, Aladdin.

"Uh-huh! Except I'm kind of nervous..." It was totally unlike me. I never got stage fright, ever.

"About what?" Sometimes my mom was like my mom and sometimes she was like a best friend. How weird.

"Nothing." I said it too quickly, avoiding my mom's face. I interested myself in a Cheerio floating in my cereal bowl.

"Oh. I know what you're worried about." She smiled a little too understandingly. "You're worried about the k-"

"Lovely weather we're having!" I interrupted loudly, pointing at the cloudless sky outside the window. "See the sun? How bright it is?"

"Ella, you're avoiding the topic."

I decided to play dumb. "What topic? The weather? Did I mention that it's beautiful outside?"

"Ella Marie Johnson, you're anxious about your 'big scene' with Aladdin, aren't you?"

I blushed furiously and stuffed my mouth with Cheerios so that I could be spared from talking.

"I knew it!"

"I am not worried." I said, sending milk dribbling down my chin. I hastily wiped it off with a napkin.

"It's okay. Everyone gets nervous if they have to kiss someone onstage."

"Mother! If I wanted to talk to you about my problems, don't you think I'd ask you about them?!"

I stormed out of the house and into my tree. Well, it wasn't exactly my tree. It was technically my mom's, but she never went up there. So I considered it mine- There I go, babbling again. Great. Just great.

So I was sitting on a particularly high branch, looking at the sky, when my mom came outside.

"Ella?" she called. "Honey, where are you?"

"I'm up here," I grumbled, jumping down from the branch and landing on my feet.

"Didn't I ask you not to do that? You scare me to death!"

I stared at the sky again. Sometimes I found it fascinating. Except when it gave my pitifully pale skin a sunburn. Then I got mad and stayed inside for days.

"Get in the car. It's almost time for practice, but it wouldn't kill you to be a little early."

I rolled my eyes and got in the passenger seat.

"It wouldn't hurt for you to tell me what's going on in your life," my mom noted as she put the key in the ignition. I absentmindly ran through my lines in my head while she continued to talk. "If you're having trouble, you can always tell me. I went through it, and soon it'll be over with for you. And don't be nervous about the kiss. You're a good actress, and it's only acting, okay?" Involuntarily my mind switched to my big scene. There was the boy playing Aladdin, Will, and there I was. We were finishing up "A Whole New World." As we hit the ending note, he leaned in towards me and-

I shook my head to clear the awful image of what would come next. I didn't even usually talk to Will, so why on earth did I have to kiss him in front of everyone?

"And you know, I did acting when I was your age. I've done plenty of scenes like that, and I'm still alive to talk about it."

I had almost forgotten that Mom was talking. I distracted myself from the terrifying scene I had to perform at practice that morning by thinking about clouds and their shapes.

Mom pulled into the parking lot for my school's auditorium and parked the car so that I could get out. I unbuckled my seat belt, bid a quick adieu to my mother, sighed, and walked into the big building. I had been told that I had a slight arrogant air to the way I walked, but I didn't care. I walked confidently, at least according to me.

Script in one hand and a water bottle in the other, I sat down next to my best friend, Beth. Beth was lights in the show. She was obviously a nerd, judging by both her looks and behavior. She had plain black glasses that were unlike my pink-ish beige-ish ones, horribly crooked teeth, and chin length brown hair. But here's the catch- she was proud of being a nerd, and showed it as often as possible.

I had to tap her shoulder to get her to stop paying attention to her book. "Beth!"

She narrowed her eyes and said irritably, "What?" I knew she was only crabby because of the whole me-not-letting-her-read-instead-of-listening-to-me-talk thing.

So I rolled my eyes and said, "So, do you have all of your cues down?"

Being lights, she had to memorize when to turn on the lights, and which colors she had to use. It was almost as hard as being onstage, she had told me whenever I complained about having to learn my lines.

She nodded and immersed herself in her novel again.

I poked her shoulder three more times. She did not respond, but kept reading. Defeated, I walked to my "frenemies," most of the other girls in our grade. You see, I am incredibly bubbly and people-loving for a nerd. I enjoy meeting new people, and they enjoy meeting me. I had tons of friends, and everyone in the school basically knew who I was. Not that I was popular or anything. Lip gloss and Hollister are not for me. I preferred books and T-shirts.

"Hey guys," I said casually, leaning against a wall.

"Sup, Ella?" asked Will. The girls around him giggled. He had been acting incredibly stupid since I got the role of Jasmine and he Aladdin. I chose to ignore him.

"Shouldn't you get your costume on?" asked my understudy, Allie, with a brief look of panic.

"Oh, yeah! How can I be so stupid?" I rushed backstage into the girls' dressing room to shimmy into my revealing Jasmine costume. I wasn't exactly worried about wearing it in front of a crowd. It wasn't like I had anything to hide. I had a pretty good body, but please let me make myself clear- I am not, nor will I ever be, good at sports. Except softball. Everything else I ended up hurting myself in.

I ran back into the group of girls donning my mint-green ensemble when the director, Mr. Gilbert, demanded attention. He was this creepy little man with a mane of tangled, dirt-colored hair and glasses an inch thick. I didn't know why, but he gave me the creeps.

"Places, people!" he wheezed, clapping his hands. "For 'A Whole New World!'"

Will was already in his stupid-looking purple vest and balloon pants, so there were no immediate delays.

"Cue music! Cue spotlight!"

Will had barely opened his mouth to sing when the scratching started.