Hi guys. Update!

I apologize for the lack of drama here, but more'll come soon. Just introducing some new stuff.

Winter break is over. She's been registered into foster care (yay, living with Percy!) and enrolled in school.

Enjoy, and review~

"We're here."

I yawned in reply. I should've gone to bed earlier.

It was early morning, and the sky was still dark as night, the moon a white crescent high above our heads. Our gaits slowed to complete stop as we approached the street corner. There was a small group of kids around our age already waiting, and none of them spared me a second glance. A guy with close-cropped gray-brown hair leaned against the stop sign, book bag slung over his shoulder, while a lanky, orange-haired guy paced in circles, a blue binder at his chest. A girl taller than me stood in a sweatshirt and basketball shorts, her yellow hair messily tied, fiddling with her cell phone. She had much more meat on her bones than I did, but wasn't fat. I'm athletic, but I'm also on the skinny side.

A cold gust from the north blew at my face, and I tucked my hands into my coat pockets. Percy was beside me, adjusting the straps of his backpack. I sighed as another cool breeze threatened to make me shiver. Percy gave me a look. Something up?

No, I mouthed back, just missing Cali. I'm still not used to the cold.

He agreed with a terse nod. You see, I'm from California. I had to move to NYC temporarily because my kindly father's job forced him to stay here for, say, three months. It's been a couple of weeks so far, but I know now I won't be returning to the sunshine and sandy beaches of LA. Oh well. You and I both know I prefer living with the Jacksons to living with the Chases. Sincerity intended.

The five of us, strangers and friends included, didn't speak a word as we waited, the only noises audible were the ones of skidding cars likely rushing their passengers to work. We stood around for what felt like hours (an actual ten minutes), and I decided to sit down on the concrete and lay my head in my lap. Naptime!

I had only shut my eyes for a few moments before my ears registered a weird wheezing and beeping noise. I picked myself off the ground to see a blinking yellow school bus making its way toward us. That sharp mind of mine was clouded from grogginess, but soon I realized the noises were from the diesel engine and… Morse code? Rather unconventional way of communication nowadays, but whatever.

The bus's doors folded open, and everyone stirred themselves into moving. I stepped through the doorway with Percy directly behind me. "Where do you sit?" I whispered to him, standing beside the bus driver. I ignored the few eyes that were watching me and nudged Percy again.

"Third row to your right," he whispered back, and I took my seat beside the window, Percy sliding in after me.

I leaned my head against the window, relishing the bus heaters warming my frozen self. Just then another thought occurred to me. "Oh no. Percy, what about the person you usually sit by on the bus? Where'll they sit now?"

He shook his head as he placed his backpack at his feet. "I sit alone."

"Sat alone," I corrected, poking his arm, and Percy actually cracked a smile. The bus revved and began to move again as the last kid took their place.

I then disconnected myself from everyone, staring out the window in silence. My brain vaguely registered the warmth of Percy's arm wedged against mine.

"Hello," came a nasally voice that made my skin crawl, and I turned. "You're the new student? Annabeth, is it?"

"Yes. This is Art A, right? First period Art A?"

The teacher nodded slightly, her eyes bored. "I'm Ms. Dollar. There's an empty seat beside… Keyvan. He's back there, near the paints. Go take your seat."

I craned my neck to take a peek at the art room. The large walls were a stained white, but covered with both crude and neat drawings and paintings stapled to bulletin boards. The back wall was lined with wooden cabinets holding supplies, and bowls of reddish brown clay sat by the sinks. The students seemed to be mostly sixth graders, all being annoying and blabbing to each other pointlessly, filling the room with their incessant chatter. Great.

I made my way over to the boy Ms. Dollar had motioned to. He had dark, bushy eyebrows that were scrunched into a scowl. His arms were crossed, and nobody seemed to be talking to him. At least he was quiet.

I placed my art bag on the table and took a chair next to him, wishing I could sleep.

Ms. Wooldridge was at the center of the classroom, explaining prepositional phrases in monotone. Along with the majority of his second period homeroom, Percy didn't feel like listening. Instead he opened his binder and leafed through old homework assignments as his mind kept wandering to Annabeth.

Annabeth was in the gifted and talented program back in California, and the school counselor offered her GT classes here at M.S. 131 too. She'd felt a little guilty accepting, what with her leaving Percy all alone in his Regular and Pre-AP classes (both under GT), but Percy had assured her he didn't mind. Truth be told: Percy isn't stupid. Shocker, right? Nah, he just doesn't pay attention in class and fidgets, both due to his unfortunate ADHD, and he also is – brace yourself – dyslexic. Unlucky combinations. Even though Percy is perfectly capable (on a side note, he doesn't realize this), he's stuck in here with Ms. Wooldridge in Regular Language Arts because of the way the letters float off the page when he tries reading them. Regular Math presents itself with the same reason – only with numbers. Percy is Pre-AP all else.

Coincidentally, Annabeth herself is also dyslexic. She loves reading so much he hadn't even known until she struggled to read a cursive neon sign on a malt shop as much as he did. The counselor proposed a special Ed class Percy had been forced into back in sixth grade, but she denied, her pride at stake.

Ms. Wooldridge shifted to independent and dependent clauses as the girl behind Percy – Claire or Blaire or something – stifled a yawn. Ha-ha.

Percy took a swig from his water bottle, suddenly thirsty. His first period had been Athletics, which he despised, and they did sit-ups and other crap in the middle of the hallway again. The tank top clad basketball girls had run by to see Percy doing squats, his face sweaty and legs wobbly as he fell on his butt. The girls had laughed at him and went on to goggle at a more muscular seventh grader flexing his arms. Sigh.

Percy wondered if Annabeth's class was turning out any better than his. If she had any luck at all, the answer would be yes.

"Percy? I clearly remember asking you if the word in question thirteen was an adverb or an adjective." Ms. Wooldridge appeared before him, her pointed face looking irritated. The rest of the class stared, some snickering.

Uh oh.

Third period. I threaded my way through the hallway, binder at my side, to make my way to GT science. The door hung open, a poster of Einstein sticking his tongue out smack in the middle, and students were scattered about the room, some chatting and crowded around one area while some sat on their stools alone. The tables were all lab tables, sleek black islands with sinks and beakers and hot plates. Experiments instead of textbooks for once. Cool.

"Grover, the school will never sell veggie burgers. They're too cheap, for one thing. And most middle schoolers are carnivores, AKA meat-lovers, remember?" said a girl, struggling not to laugh. She fixed her dark ponytail as the boy she was talking to frowned.

"Most, Priya, not all," he replied, his fingers raking his brown curls. "Our food sucks anyways. They should have more cheese enchilada days. I get tired of waiting for Thursday, it's so far into the week."

A petite Asian girl sitting across from him grinned. "If we had any more enchilada days, Grover, you'd be fat as a goat in a matter of months."

Grover's acne-covered face reddened to the color of his blackheads. Ha-ha.

"Um, I don't have a seat in this class yet. Mind if I sit here?" I asked them, setting my stuff down near an empty stool. I hoped these people wouldn't annoy me, but wasn't sure.

"No, go ahead," piped up the first girl. Her skin was a light brown color, her long black hair tied lazily, and she was a little chubby, but her smile was good-natured. "Hi, I'm Priya. Did your schedule change so you have science this period?"

"Actually, I just moved here. I'm Annabeth."

The Asian girl nodded, her choppy bangs clouding her eyes. She had iPod earphones tangled around her neck, and her dark hair was highlighted. "I moved here from California towards the end of sixth grade. I get how you must feel."

My eyebrows arched up. "I'm from California too. Where are you from?"

She seemed a bit surprised, but excited too. "Whoa! I'm from LA, how about you?"

"Me too. Small world," I mused, sitting onto my chair.

"It's a great place, right? I miss LA… soooo much! I mean, so many of my good friends were there, and I wish I could move back…" the Asian girl frowned, adjusting her glasses. Priya threw her arms around her.

"Don't be sad, Mindy. And don't leave us here in NY! Annabeth, do you miss California too?" I felt a bit disconcerted at the sudden change of subject.

"Oh, yeah. Well, there are some things my heart aches for, like the sunshine – "

"And New York doesn't have much sun in the winter," Grover bleated.

"Oh believe me, I know," I agreed, a little bitter. Stupid New York and its stupid two hours of daylight. "But there are some things I know I won't miss that I left back in California."

"But LA is awesome. So what things?" The Mindy girl had recovered, and was now texting on her charm-overloaded cell phone.

I felt nauseous as bad memories of the Chases and my old schools washed over me, and I muttered, "I don't want to talk about it."

"Come on, tell us," she pressed, but Priya had seen me shudder and nudged Mindy to lay off.

"Ms. Riley is here, the lesson's about to begin," Grover said, gesturing towards an orange haired woman who sat behind the computer monitor.

The daily agenda was projected against the empty wall opposite to me, and I started to read.

1: Finish Physics vocabulary flash cards
2: Watch 'Newton's Laws' video
3: Present the last of the element presentations
4: Begin Alchemy research

Guess I was wrong about the explosively fun experiments, but I had never minded schoolwork. Language Arts and history were my strong suits, though I liked science too. But my first period teacher, Ms. Dollar, had been agonizing: she had the most drawling voice ever, telling me to do the stupidest art projects I had never even imagined (We had to draw a stupid dog with a stupid marker on stupid index cards for twenty stupid times). And my Reading 180 teacher made us discuss a cheap teen girl novel as opposed to the American classics I was expecting. So the only thing I hoped was that this Ms. Riley was reasonable.

Hmmm, which lunch line should I choose? Oh, wait. Yeah, that one, the middle one. The line's average-sized, but it's moving fastest.

Soon I emerged from the greasy school kitchens with – you guessed it! – greasy school food. I felt nervous as I scanned for a place to sit. Crap. I didn't know anyone here except for Percy, and I had no idea where that boy was in this huge cafeteria. I supposed I would just have to look for an empty place.

I spotted a nearly vacant circular table; only one curly-haired kid occupied the many plastic chairs around it. I put my tray in front of me and started nibbling on a stale Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwich when I realized who the other kid was.