Chapter 1: Normalcy

It was the beginning of another normal, American school day. Mrs. Duncan held up a stack of papers and her homeroom quieted down immediately. This was what they had all been looking forward to.

"Here are your new pen pals from our buddy school in England. They have been assigned to you by shared interests. I will call you up to get your pen pal's name and information," Mrs. Duncan announced and the class erupted into quiet chatter about their pen pals.

As Mrs. Duncan started to call her student forward, she watched them. She liked to see what each of the students was really like. Who was shy? Who was popular? It was interesting to watch. When she called one girl forward the whispers and stares increased. Jamie Falcon seemed to be a more awkward teenager. She was medium height and very thin, but it was hard to tell what she really looked like because she always wore ripped jeans, and baggy t-shirts with sweatshirts or boys button up shirts over top. Her hair was long and so dark brown it was almost black. Jamie's hair usually covered her face, but when she came to get her pen pal's information sheet Mrs. Duncan saw the intelligent and serious hazel eyes that hid beneath her hair. Mrs. Duncan realized Jamie would be a very pretty girl if she put some effort into it. "Here is the information on your pen pal, Jamie. I hope you have a good time with this."

"Thanks," replied Jamie and she returned to her desk. On the way to the back of the room one of the other students put out a leg to trip Jamie, but she just stepped over it and walked calmly over to her things and sat down. Mr. Duncan wondered why Jamie was the way she was. She seemed to be a polite and extremely intelligent student, but socially she was not up to par with the other students.

When the bell rang, the students all grabbed their books and papers and went off to the rest of their classes. "Have a good day everyone," called Mrs. Duncan over the burst of noise.

"You too," said Jamie with a small smile on her way out.

By the end of the day, Jamie was tired of listening to everyone go on and on about their new pen pals and what they were going to write in their first letter. Jamie wished she was part of some of the conversations until she caught the looks of the other students. She would never fit into their world. Jamie had not been invited to a party or friend's house since second grade when everyone realized her parents would not let her out of the house for anything except school. She had never been to a football game or a school dance either, those things were also taboo to her parents. She headed to her bus, walked to the very last seat and sat down. She pulled out her I-pod and did what she always did; convinced herself that she did not care what other people thought of her. This way she didn't have to deal with all of the drama everyone else always seemed to get caught up in. She was perfectly fine and she did not care about their dirty looks. Jamie turned up her I-pod and let herself sink into the music. This was her time of the day to relax and be herself.

The bus ride was all too short for her liking. Jamie disembarked and walked the two blocks to her house. She lived in a normal suburb. She nodded to the lady across the street as she headed up the driveway to the side door of her house. She let herself in and went through the kitchen to get something to drink. There was an interesting looking device on the counter, but she just ignored it. The less she knew the better she felt…sometimes. She traipsed upstairs to her room, threw her bag on the bed, and booted up her laptop. Her room was sparsely furnished. It had a nice bed, a desk, and a bureau, but not much else. There were a few movie posters and pictures of dream vacation spots she had found on the Internet. There were also drawings of people and landscapes that she had done herself and lots of books. From fantasy to academic material she had it all; it was her major touch to the room. She didn't feel awkward about having a plain room because the entire house wais plain. Sometimes it did not even look lived in.

Her computer chirped behind her and she clicked on the message that had popped up. "J. I need you to find this information and send it to me ASAP." The rest of the message contained the information about the information that needed to be found. It ended with a quick, "Love you, Mom." Jamie rolled her eyes and sighed. Since when did the child have to gather information for the parent? She logged onto the Internet, opened YouTube, and pulled up Word. She just wanted to write her letter to her English pen pal. Jamie pulled the paper out of her bag and took a good look at it for the first time that day. She stared at the picture of a fourteen-year-old boy with longer blond hair and serious brown eyes. He was cute she decided and her eyes slid over to his name, "Alex Rider". She was pretty sure she was the only girl in her class to get a boy as her pen pal. Jamie smirked as she thought of what the other girls would say if they knew she had a cute boy for her pen pal.

Jamie was about to search for the information her mother wanted when she found herself typing "Alex Rider" into the search box. When the results came up one site caught her eye. The article was in Arabic. If there was something about him on this site… maybe they had something in common, but that would just be so weird. She clicked on the site and was scanning it when her mother came in.

"Jamie, you had better be working on finding that information I asked you for. I need it now," she said. "Your father and I are working on an important project and we need the information tonight." Mrs. Falcon was not an old woman. She was in her early forties with straight, light brown hair and serious, green eyes. She surveyed the room and noticed the open website. "Oh! So you have been working…," Mrs. Falcon tapered off as she scanned the site. "What are you looking up?" her eyes flicked to the paper on Jamie's desk. "A pen pal?" she asked.

"They are assigned to us through school. I was just looking for information on him to help me start my letter," Jamie replied tiredly. "I really have a lot of homework tonight. Couldn't you or dad get this information without my help?"

Her mother looked at her with indignation. "You should be happy that your father and I include you in so many projects. Most children are only beginning their active involvement by your age and they would love to be in your position," her mother chastised. "I need that information by seven. That gives you plenty of time to find the information, finish your homework, and get ready for dinner. We are having company over tonight." Mrs. Falcon turned and left the room and headed down the stairs.

It took Jamie a minute to process what her mother had said. When she did, she ran out onto the landing. "Wait! By company, do you mean Dylan?" she asked.

Her mother turned. "Yes. So you had better find all of that information before he gets here." Her mother smiled and continued down the stairs to the kitchen. Jamie stood there for a moment and then headed back to her bedroom. She hadn't caused any problems lately. Why would Dylan be coming for dinner? Was he really going to simply be there to discuss the project her parents were working on? She almost had to laugh at herself for being so naive. Jamie sat back down at her computer, scanned the Arabic article one last time and worked on what her mother needed.