Chapter 1

Summer, I guess, is a time for reinventing yourself.

I mean you look around that first day and see everyone so different from when you last saw them. The girls are all tanned and their hair is dyed and they had the new outfits and all of that stuff. Everyone everything. Backpacks and clothes and looks and attitudes, all to go along with the year they say will be the best- but still have a chance of being the worst. I pulled into the parking space I finally could afford in my crappy used car and prepared myself for another year.

Everyone is usually ready for this. Happy to show off all the progress they've made since last school year and showing how much you can change in two months to doing absolutely nothing really. Except the few of us that had to work summer jobs. I worked full time all summer getting enough money to pay for a parking space and whatever school supplies I needed and the clothes that would have to fit me all year or until I had enough money left over to go to the Kerrington mall and buy new clothes, which I know would only happen next year after a summer of working full time.

I did have a few breathes of air to hang out with my friends. There were a few seconds where I could stop sit down and just hang out. Do nothing e all were, but they were rare. Like a vacation in the school year. And I tried my best to not let the crappy life I have planned out around my job unloading food at a grocery store take over that one moment I had away from everything.

My friends went to parties and got girlfriends- most of which weren't their girlfriends right now. They drove around and enjoyed being juniors. The seniors were all off to college. We heard about a few who were in a band and going on tour an stuff in a little van, but other than that they were all gone leaving us to figure out what they call the best two years in the Kerrington school system. Which compared to the summer I just experienced was going to suck.

I slipped my houlder through one strap of the same faded worn bag I've had since I was a freshman. My dad and I don't have much money and we try our best not to let my little brother know that. My dad is trying to get a promotion while I'm learning how to support myself on minimum wage. We give everything to Matt basically. Everything we possibly can. But he's the most understanding nine-year-old in the history of younger kids. Which makes everything even harder.

The school looked bigger than it actually was. I walked up looking at the grey building I've gone to for two years not knowing how I survived. I'm not popular. I don't have the right clothes. Girls never like me enough to date me more than a few times. I don't hang out in the popular crowd and I just slip under the radar. I probably won't even make it to college. I'll just end up working full time for the rest of my life like people expect me to.

The kids hanging around the front meet up with each other all feeling older while the freshman are inside trying to find their lockers feeling extremely young and naive. There is nothing good about starting a new school year. It just means another step towards graduating- where most kids are going to escape into the world and do great things- and me finding a full time job to help my dad keep Matt's life the same way it's always been. The life where he always gets just enough and never too much of a good thing. And the life where my dad and I give our all to make sure he does.

My friends are sitting on the wall like they always are. I walk up and stand there with them. Josh is sitting all over this girl Charlotte he started dating over the summer while the rest of us just hang out. There's the four of us; Josh, Zack, me and Adam. We hang out all the time and were sort o stuck together in middle school because jocks didn't find it necessary to have kids like us around them. I had to quit track anyway, which makes me the only one who has to work while the rest of them go to track meets. I sort of miss running, but I figure working is more important.

"Hey man," Zack says. He gives me a high five.

"Hey," I say just as Charlotte bursts out laughing at something Josh said. I run a hand through my hair, knowing it wasn't about me probably, but I can't help feeling a wave of self consciousness. "What's up?"

There isn't much to talk about. We all have the same lunches and we all are generally in the same classes. We all don't want to be here but for all different reasons. Charlotte and Josh seem the happiest to be here because at least they have a few minutes ot be all over each other before the bell. Before we start another year and are expected to show of the new people we all became.

I'm nothing new. I'm the same person I was in June on the last day, just overworked now.

When the bell rings we all get crammed into the building. We all go to our homerooms and sit down looking around at the popular kids who are gawking about how much better looking they got over the summer. I'm just the same average normal guy sitting down. Josh next to me and Charlotte beside him. I listen to the announcements. Closing my eyes. I could have used a few more hours of sleep but I don't complain. I had my honey-nut Cheerios this morning and my coffee. I'm good for now. But I feel exhaustion setting in. I make a promise not to fall asleep today.

Looking up I lean on my arm. Charlotte is alright. She has a weird laugh but I guess she's cool. She has this blond hair and always wears it down, flipping it around like it's alive and attacking her neck. I watch her counting how many times she flipped it during one minute; 34 times. But my eyes travel beyond her.

In middle school I was average. I didn't need to worry about Matt, I hated him and my mum was around to worry about him. I was a short little kid. I could run wicked fast though. I still hold the record in the middle school for fastest timed mile. But I had one accomplishment that seemed like something worth more than the trophies and crappy sweatshirts I got every new season. I girl asked me out. Not just any girl. Ashley Hansen, who was pretty and hung around with the "posse" of girls who made 'Bitch Lists' and everything. And out of the few conversations we had with each other she wasn't into that stuff. But of all things I sent Josh to tell her I didn't want to be her boyfriend anymore and we haven't talked since.

She sat there next to Charlotte. Barely listening and ready to fall asleep. Unlike the short three months we were "going out" I was taller than her now. She was small and the same. She was tanned of course, and giving off the look of summer. It's always weird seeing her. We used ot have science together freshman year and whenever we were partnered we always just ignored each other. It's always been awkward.

And even though it's been three years since the day I sent Josh to break up with her for me, I feel like I've been through ten. I feel so much older than everyone. I feel ancient. Like I shouldn't be here listening to girls chewing bubble gm and freaking out about seeing their summer boyfriends and the guys around me talking about how many girls they fucked this summer. I feel like I was held back a hundred times. I'm sixteen, I could drop out. I have thought about it. But I couldn't do that. Matt'd think it's okay to quit school and count the days until he can. But of all things we want him to get to a college.

It's weird the things we sacrifice for the people we love.

I go to the same classes I have since first grade to learn harder versions of the same thing. I get sheets and supplies lists and requirements. I have to kno how to carry a conversation in Spanish. I need to know the organs of a human and or animal- and I need to have a strong stomach too because we're going to dissect dead animals this year too. I need to know all the algebra I've ever learned. I need to know who discovered the western continents and when. I need to know how to write essays and decode Shakespeare. I need to know a lot of things. And no matter how overwhelming it is I walk out of each class relieved it's over.

We sit outside for lunch. In Kerrington we have a weird social pyramid of sorts. There are the generic popular crowd. The people who are good at everything, good looking, and into the school and everything. Then there is the occasional freak. The person who rises above everyone. I walked past her, and she seems sort of normal. I don't know her name, I anow to step back when she walks down the halls and look at her. The weird part is, she's just small. She looks harmless. She's wearing a t-shirt with the words "Red Letter" across the chest whatever that means, and she's innocent looking. Whatever decides these things obviously aren't passed down to our classes.

Our table is small. I sit at the end making it later than everyone. Josh has his hands all over Charlotte again as she giggles and flips her hair. Zack and Adam act normal. "Bill," Adam says leaning over looking at me. "Dude, stay after for track. Coach asked me if you were doing it this year, we need you."

I shake my head. "I have to pick Matt up from school." I say. "I can't do it this year. Maybe in the spring."

"Come on," Zack says. "You've been giving that excuse every season. Get Matt a bus pass and tay after." The thing is I can't. att gets teased a lot at school. He wears glasses that are all broken and crooked because we can't get him new ones for a little while. He doesn't need them uch longer, but it's hard on a kid who doesn't have the right clothes or a computer to do all the things kids do now. He got beat up last year, an even though e's got a tight group of friends, a few kid who are friends with the kid who beat him up and picked on him is on the same bus as he'd be. So I drive him to and from school.

It's tough being a kid now. But I'm trying to look after him even more than ever. "I can't," I say. I don't have much of a fight after this. They usually let up and move on. Complain to me that they need me for the finals. I'm probably slower than the entire team by now. I don't run too much, I probably lost a lot of my speed anyways. They don't need me.

Another year, same as any other with all new kids. The sam kids you've known for all tohse past years that were the best for some and the worst for others. We're all the same and all different. I don't really now the difference actually. I just know I wish things were easier. I wisheverything would jsut fall into place and I didn't have to work m ass off to buy the brand name of Matt's favorite cereal and settle for the fake generic kind for myself.

I miss being young like Matt when people looked out for me and I could even look after myself.

A/N: What do you think? I just came up with this. Any ideas? Anyone want me to continue? Predictions? Feelings? Ideas?