January 27

Sometimes I wonder why it has to be pink. It's not that I have anything against the color pink, but it's just not who I am. I mean, every now and then I show a completely pink, bubbly, blond side, but that's usually only when there's sugar involved. And nothing like that has happened since the fire.

Still, I could do without the pink. It's such a public color. I can't stand it! A pink bed, pink sweat suit, and even this notebook that I'm writing in is pink. But what am I supposed to do; tell mom? Tell mom to lay off, and that I am SUFFOCATING beneath the gay pinkness and even gayer attention!? I may have lost some important things in the fire, but not the ability to take care of myself. Of course, I can't tell her that. I can't tell her, or anyone, anything at all, and it's all The Fire's fault.

Mom couldn't stand staying in New York after that fire. It just harbored too many painful memories. That's why she and dad packed up Tom, my older reject of a brother, Bonnie, my 16-year-old diva of a sister, and me, Essie, the only one who was actually hurt in that fire and now the "Poor Baby" of the family, into the car and drove off. Apparently they'd been planning to move for months, but never got around to telling us.

So now here I am, sitting in my new home in a sweet little town in the middle of Tangerine, Florida, drowning in the pink of it all, staring at the blank pages of this new notebook that my mom bought, and wishing the clock would just stop. I needed time to slow down and think about where I am. Everything's been going by so fast that it's left me… speechless.

Anyway, it's nearly 10:00 right now, and I can hear mom in the kitchen finishing the dinner dishes. I know the drill. After that, she's going to come in here and announce it's time for bed. It's easier if I'm already in bed and pretending to be asleep so that I can avoid the awkward silence that I can't fill, so I'm going to go to bed now. Tomorrow I start school. Oh joy!

January 28

Starting school in the middle of the school year was not my first choice. I mean, if it were my choice, I'd take home school. I wouldn't have to deal with the whole having to have a teacher explain to the students that I don't have a voice, having everyone gawk at me like I'm a fish in a tank, and suddenly being the biggest hit since sliced bread. It happened when I came back after the long weekend when my apartment caught fire. Why should it be any different here?

This new school isn't anything special; in fact, it's pretty cliché. In one corner, you see the cheer leaders revealing themselves to guys, and in another section are the complete geeks and dorks all huddled over their homework or books or whatever, and then mini cliques and gangs are dotted everywhere, topped right off with rejects staring at it all. I was all too familiar with what those rejects must be thinking. "If only they would just talk to me. Please, invite me to come sit with you!" or something along those lines.

Anyway, I can take this all in just as mom pulls up the car and cranes her neck, trying to get a look at who she was leaving her "Poor Baby" with. No matter how old I am, whether it's kindergarten or freshman year, I'm always just dumb enough to be the world's stupidest kid in Mom's eyes.

Mom hands me a bagged lunch filled with too much food, as always. "Ess, you going to be alright here?" she asked, turning back to me and pursing her lips.

I look back at her and stare for a few moments, wondering if she was seriously expecting me to answer her. Finally, I nod, and a strand of my blond hair flies forward and stabs me in the eye. Mom doesn't seem to trust that I'm alright.

I sigh through my nose. Horrible way to start the day. But it could always be worse, I counter myself. Mom could always insist that she has to—

"I think I'll come in with you, if that's alright with you, hun. Just a little casual meet and greet." Speak of the Devil! She didn't even bother to look at me for an answer; she was already opening her door.

I bite my lip nervously, feeling eyes bored into my back all around, thoughts seeming to just fly through the air as public as a frog. "Oh, look, a new girl who can't part with her mommy." Oh my flippin chocolate covered gosh, I can't let this happen. I can't screw up my name before I even start school. Somebody help me before this gets worse.

That was when, like a blessing sent from heaven above, a young woman who could pass for anorexic in a fancy and expensive as heck suit happened to stroll by the car and stop to talk with my mother, introducing herself as the principal. Mom was happy about that, as if this were room service that solved the inconvenience of having to walk to the school.

They shook hands and briefed each other on the loop, Mom being just words away from whipping out the baby pictures of "Poor Baby's" first bath. Joy, joy, joy.

But that's not the least of it. It's almost like they were secretly planning to make me a total reject as they agreed to give me an IEP for my speech problem. My gosh, why don't they just nail a sign that says "loser" to my forehead and save everyone the trouble.

Anyways, here I am now with at my newly awarded desk this pink, notebook waiting for class to start. In front of me, at the head of the class, as a fat teacher with chalk in hand writing his name, Mr. Garcia, along the top right hand corner. I'm just about to put this thing away before any suspicions are raised. How would that look, someone finding out I kept a diary on my first day. Gosh, high school is such a dangerous game of life or death.

January 28, Later

I'm confused.

That's not something that I'll easily admit—the fact that I don't understand something—but it's all too true right now. I'm perplexed, puzzled, at a loss, and all them other syllables out there for confuzzled. And, honestly, it's all because of them.

Them. The strangest bunch I ever did see: A group of girls all huddled together, staring upon the rest of the world as if they knew something that everyone else didn't. I don't know what made them catch my eye, but now that they have my stomach is tightening just as I think about them.

I'd first seen them at lunch. Well, not first, because one of them I'd already met in my Science class that I took with the one who seemed like the leader of the bunch, Hannah Cruz. Apparently her brother's some hotshot soccer star that everyone knows all too well, although how she has any "hotshot" blood in her is beyond me.

First, let me explain about her. If anything, she's nice. Nice, but mysterious and definitely has more behind her brown eyes and fragile smile than she'd been willing to let on. When she talks, she whispers, and when she gets angry or frustrated, she swears. That was about all I saw of her today, us being put into the same science quad, and these quads being for the rest of the quarter.

I don't know the rest of their names, but they all look as if they've been through Hell and high water. Heavy eyeliner is slapped along each eye, some with a flashy, sparkly shadow, and they each wear skinny jeans, black and ripped, with sleeveless tanks or gothica blouses, and even some of them have flushed out tutus, ranging from moody purple to gay-enthusiastic rainbow. And that's not even mentioning the strange things going on with their hair: blue-black, to dark brown with blonde streaks, to blonde with black back, down to the very last one with natural, auburn hair, and others too odd to even describe.

In retrospect, I can tell that I'm in for hell at this school. Obviously I've come into one of them gang-banger counties where you find a dead body in every other freaking alley. If I'm going to survive without a voice, I'll need have a gun in one pocket and an angel at my side.

~Essie