AN: Julie disappeared from the series after season 1, and I wanted to bring her back for a fic. This is my first story for this site. As you'll probably be able to tell, I don't live in the US, so the narrative might sound a bit stilted to you. Oh well. Please review, try to be nice! :)

DISCLAIMER: Malcolm in the Middle was created and is still owned by Linwood Boomer. Sad but true.

It was Friday afternoon. Malcolm should have been pleased. School had finished for the summer. Eight weeks of freedom lay ahead of him.

And yet somehow, it just left him feeling empty.

Francis was working so there was no chance of seeing him all summer. Stevie wouldn't be around either since he was on vacation, which left just Reese, Dewey and Jamie. Malcolm liked his brothers okay - some of the time, anyway - but eight weeks with nothing much to do except fight and get grounded seemed a pretty bleak way to spend the summer.

He was walking the long way home from school, eyes to the pavement. Usually he met Reese at the gates but he'd told his brother not to wait up.

He knew his mom would be mad if he was late home but he wasn't really bothered. He had a whole summer of sitting around at home, tormenting and being tormented, so a few extra minutes wouldn't go amiss.

He kicked a stone absentmindedly along the path, not really paying attention to where he was going. And then suddenly he slammed into someone.

The someone was a girl: petite, blonde, blue eyes. And she'd obviously been carrying a pile of books, which were now strewn across the sidewalk around Malcolm's feet.

''Um, let me get those,'' he mumbled as they both bent down to pick them up. As they did so, they banged their heads together in the middle.

''Sorry,'' they both said at once. Malcolm could feel himself blushing when he realised the girl was staring at him intently.

''Malcolm?'' she said, sounding unsure.

''Yeah, how did you...''

And then suddenly, he remembered who she was.

''Julie?''

She smiled. ''That's right.''

Malcolm gulped. ''Um. Wow.'' he said intelligently.

She laughed, and collected up the rest of the books before straightening up. Malcolm stood up too.

''I can't believe it,'' she said, ''I haven't seen you in such a long time!''

Malcolm nodded, dumbly, still unable to speak properly.

''My family moved to New York,'' Julie explained, ''Four summers ago. I didn't have time to tell anyone from school because I only found out in the middle of the vacation.''

Malcolm was acutely aware that his mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish. When did she get so pretty? he wondered.

''It's so good to see you,'' Julie enthused. Then she seemed to realise he hadn't been speaking for a while. ''Malcolm? Are you okay?''

He blinked, and managed to say, ''Um, yeah... I'm fine.''

''Careful you don't catch flies,'' Julie said, grinning.

He closed his mouth. ''So, uh, are you over here for the summer?''

''Nah,'' said Julie, taking the rest of her books from his outstretched hands. ''I moved back here with my mom. Hudson Street. The house is over there,'' she said, pointing.

Malcolm nodded. ''This road backs on to my street. So, uh, why did you move back?''

Julie looked away, wouldn't meet his eyes. ''My mom and dad split up.''

''Oh,'' he said awkwardly. ''I'm sorry.''

Julie smiled weakly. ''Yeah, well, my mom wanted out of NY and so did I, so I moved back with her.'' She shook her head, as if to pull herself together. ''Oh well. It'll be good to see all my old friends again. How is everyone?''

Malcolm shrugged. ''Okay, I guess. School just broke up for the summer.''

''Cool,'' Julie said, smiling. ''Maybe we can hang out sometime.''

Malcolm nodded a bit too eagerly. ''Yeah, I'd like that.''

''Well,'' said Julie, ''I guess I should go. I'm still unpacking, but mom left the car here instead of parking on the drive. She didn't want to attract too much attention from the neighbours.''

Malcolm nodded. ''Well, I'll see you around.''

As he walked away he was grinning like a monkey. He couldn't seem to stop. He hadn't realised how much he'd missed Julie Houlerman.