Chapter one

As the alarm clock rang, Julie sat up and turned on the nearby lamp. She then looked over at her sleeping husband, before giving him a small shove.

"Gabe." She said, nearly sweetly "Come on, honey, time to get up."

He buried his face beneath his pillow and mumbled. "I don't want to."

Julie turned the alarm off and took the pillow off Gabe's head. "But you have to, honey. You have to get ready for school."

"Call me in sick. I think there's a test today."

"You can't stay home. And you don't have to worry about tests. You're the teacher."

He sat up with a grin. "Oh yeah."

Gabe got out of bed and started getting ready to go to work. As he did this, Julie folded up the pull out bed and then went over to the kitchen area to fix breakfast. Upon his departure from the bathroom, Gabe started telling his wife one of his infamous corny jokes about yet another one of his relatives. After the joke, and a quick breakfast, he headed out the door to start another school day. Just like any other day as he made his journey to the school, he knew his students were once again going to make sure that typical and ordinary were the last words used to describe the experience.

By the time he arrived at his classroom, he was greeted by obnoxious laughter and hijinks from the students. He stepped in the doorway, nearly dreading the experience he surely would have to face. Then, slowly making his way from the door, he walked to the front of his desk. Gaining the attention of the students, he managed to get them to quiet down and take to their seats.

"Excuse me." Gabe said "But I didn't realize I was going to be walking into the monkey house at the zoo." His students looked at him, each attempting to appear serious and ready to learn. "I'm not sure this is any better. Now where are my students?"

In order to split the difference, the students took all seriousness away from their appearance. They entered their slacker postures and took away all traces of wanting to learn. Satisfied, yet internally slightly irritated, Gabe then felt easier about starting the class. Nonetheless, the students decided that they were going to do whatever they could to delay this.

Vinnie laughed and looked over at Epstein, knowing exactly what would make the best distraction. "Hey, Epstein! What's with you carrying that girl down the hallway?" A collective grouping of hoots and taunts from the other students followed this question.

"Who? Cutie Pie?" Epstein asked, sitting up and ignoring the others as they quieted down. "Well, see, she twisted her ankle so I was helping her get to her class. What was I supposed to do? Let her limp around?"

"But Epstein." Horshack said, confused. "Don't you always let people limp around?"

"Guys, Horshack. Not girls. I never leave an injured girl behind."

"Why Epstein." said Gabe, comically "How chivalrous of you."

"Hey." Epstein grinned slightly "Nobody knows this but Chivalrous is actually one of my middle names. It's tucked in there between Philippo and de Huevos. I just don't make a big deal about it."

Gabe, although amused, knew it was a good time to put on an air of seriousness. "Alright, now let's move on from that and actually do some work now. Everybody get out your books and-" He let the rest of his statement drop abruptly. Then, knowing he may regret it, he let his curiosity get the best of him. "Ok, who's this Cutie Pie?"

Freddie smiled slickly "Oh Cutie Pie? Yeah she's this chick who moved here a few years ago from Michigan. On her first day here she introduced herself to everybody as Cutie Pie." He paused briefly, making his smile scarce. "But ain't nobody knew her real name."

Vinnie, with a dimpled smile, added to the topic. "Yeah, Mr. Kotter, Cutie Pie is the perfect nickname for this girl too. 'Cause that's exactly what she is. She's like this adorable little munchkin with big hair."

Gabe laughed "Well, according to that last description, except for the adorable part, this girl could pass for Epstein."

"You know Mr. Kotter…" Horshack spoke up. "I never thought about that before. Probably because she's so sweet and Epstein… isn't." he finished by entering his laugh.

Rather than seeming offended, Epstein merely nodded in agreement. Gabe then, in an attempt at gaining control of the reigns again, stepped before the class to bring attention back onto him.

"As much fun as this conversation is, boys and girls, it's time to actually do some school work."

After brushing off the general complaints from his students, insisting that they had to at least give the appearance of a class, Gabe went into his lecture. The students continued throughout the class period, however, to try distracting their teacher away from the day's lesson plan. A few times this worked for a moment or two but Gabe managed to maintain control of his class, keeping their concentration on their assignment, much to his and everyone else's surprise. Little did either of them know, this was not going to be the biggest surprise, or most interesting part of the day for the Sweathogs.

By the arrival of lunchtime, the students nearly brought on a food fight protest to yet another disgusting concoction that was served to them. The food fight soon turned mostly to talk once Mr. Woodman entered the cafeteria. They were reminded of the more peaceful and far less messy sit-in protest against liver, causing them to rethink the food fight. Instead, although it was not clear whose hands were in charge of it, some food was thrown at Mr. Woodman. After the messy departure of the vice principal, the students resumed a more civilized lunch break.

A few girls walked by the table which four Sweathogs sat, each of them receiving whistles before invitations to join the boys at the table. Smiling, Rosalie and Vernajean took empty spaces next to Vinnie and Freddie correspondingly. Cutie Pie stood awkwardly next to the table, unsure of where to sit. Slapping Horshack on the arm, Epstein made him leave his seat so the girl could sit there instead. With a grin and quiet 'thank you', Cutie Pie accepted the freshly empty space next to Epstein. As Cutie Pie took her seat, Vinnie smiled and motioned toward her.

"Well if it ain't Buchanan's very own brunette Farrah Fawcett!"

"Brunette Farrah Fawcett?" Cutie Pie scoffed with a grin. "Please, I've been styling my hair this way long before Farrah wound up on TV. So, if anything, she's the blonde me."

This exchange of humorous comments brought on shared laughter amongst the small group at the table. Upon leaving this laughter, the students entered a discussion about the food attack on Mr. Woodman and who was to blame for causing it. Horshack was the first to accuse Epstein of starting the food attack, which Epstein promptly denied by threatening the other student with a shake of his fist. This discussion was soon steered away to a different topic that Vinnie felt needed attention in that moment.

"Alright, pelting Mr. Woodman with food is always fun." He smiled, drawing everyone's attention onto him. "But right now we're experiencing a very rare, although enjoyable, occasion here." He looked at Rosalie and Vernajean. "And I'm glad you girls are here for it too."

"What are you talking about, Vinnie?" Rosalie asked

Vinnie motioned to Cutie Pie "We have someone outside the Sweathogs joining us at our lunch table and she's actually pretty cool."

"Yeah you ain't bad for an honors chick." Said Freddie with a slight grin at Cutie Pie

"Me? Honors?" Cutie Pie laughed. "Come on. I may not be a remedial student, but believe me, I'm nowhere near an honors student."

"Hey didn't you get A's on your report card last semester?" Asked Epstein

"Well yeah but A's don't make someone an honors student. Anyway, I only had two and one was a low one. The rest of my grades were B's and C's. But I had to bust my ass off for those grades."

"Look, Cutie Pie," Vernajean said with a small grin. "You might as well be speakin' in a foreign language to these guys. 'Cause the only way either of them will be seeing B's and C's on their report cards is if they forged them."

"I got a C on my report card once." Said Horshack "But it turned out my teacher forgot to put the minus beside it." He laughed

"When did you get a C minus?" Asked Freddie

"And why didn't you let me cheat off you when you were getting it?" Added Epstein

"Alright, alright," Vinnie said, taking the reins of the conversation. "Putting this grade talk aside, I think this is cause for celebration." They looked at him confused. "I say Cutie Pie is cool enough for us to make her the honorary Sweathog for the rest of the day."

Quickly agreeing with Vinnie, everyone else began to cheer Cutie Pie. Freddie reached across the table to slap a slick low five to her. Blushing with a grin, Cutie Pie then stood up to give a small bow. This prompted the others to cheer her.

"On behalf of non-Sweathogs everywhere, I'd like to thank you for bestowing upon me such an honor. And I promise I won't do anything to disgrace the title of honorary Sweathog while I have it." They all cheered her again as she sat down.

Rosalie laughed before looking at Cutie Pie. "You know, I don't think there's anything you or anyone could possibly do to disgrace the Sweathog name. As much of a badge of honor it is, the name is already disgraced enough." As she laughed, she had the other girls joining her.

Suddenly, Cutie Pie jumped in her seat with a shriek. She looked under the table before kicking something in front of her. Epstein had also looked under the table to see what could have made her react in such a way.

"Horshack!" Epstein exclaimed, causing Horshack to bump his head on the bottom of the table. "What the hell are you doin' down there? Get up here now!"

Horshack sheepishly poked his head out from under the table. "I was just picking up the napkin I dropped. "A small laugh escaped his mouth.

"Dropped napkin my ass!" Cutie Pie exclaimed, offended, while tucking her denim skirt down over her knees.

Rosalie leaned closer to Vernajean and spoke softly to her. "See what I mean by disgrace?"

"Yeah. We're surrounded by idiots and pigs."

Horshack crawled out from under the table, dusting off his clothes. As he sat down, he cowered a little to the look that came from Epstein, warning him against doing something like that again.

"Horshack I'm surprised at you." Vinnie said. "We have an honored guest at our table and you don't know to show enough respect to not look up her skirt? Ain't you learned nothing by bein' around me?"

"Besides, everybody here knows that's not how to get dates." Freddie grinned as he slipped an arm around Vernajean

Epstein grinned "Yeah you gotta save that for during the date." He and Freddie slapped each other a five.

"Now, Horshack, apologize to our guest." Vinnie insisted

Horshack turned and looked apologetically at Cutie Pie. "Sorry Cutie Pie. I won't attempt to look up your skirt no more. Unless we happen to be on a date."

She patted him on the head. "Don't worry 'bout it, kid. Just don't do it again."

"Cutie Pie, I got a question to ax you."

"G'head, Arnold, ax." Cutie Pie said, mimicking the way Horshack spoke.

"How come you got those bruises on your leg?"

She looked away from him with a sense of shame about her. "I don't know what you're talking about, Arnold."

"Hey Horshack," Epstein spoke up in her defense. "Never mind about her bruises or I'll give you some of your own." He said while threateningly shaking a fist at him.

Without protest, Horshack scooted down further on the bench, away from Cutie Pie and Epstein. The threats to Horshack, although, only caused the others to draw their curiosity to the subject before them. They all looked over at Cutie Pie, each showing some degree of concern.

"What bruises, Cutie Pie?" Freddie asked, "First your twisted ankle this morning now bruises on your leg? Somebody been hurting you?"

"Hey listen; if somebody's hurting you around here then we'll take care of it." Vinnie said, jumping on Freddie's concern. "We can loan Epstein out to you for your personal bodyguard."

"Well then he'll have to follow me home to be my bodyguard. 'Cause the person who hurt me isn't around here."

Confusion mixed in with their silence as they all looked at her. Feeling the sheer awkwardness, the other students did not have a clue what to say to Cutie Pie in regards to her statement. There was a great heaviness weighing all of them down as they realized how serious the subject at hand had become. Being the first to react, Epstein sighed, and then looked at her. He placed a hand under her chin, gently turning her head so she would look him in the eyes.

"Cutie Pie what's going on at home? You can be honest with us."

"Juan I don't think it's really anyone's business but mine." She looked away with a small sigh before standing up. "Thanks for letting me join you guys for lunch. And for making me a Sweathog for the day. But I can't sit here talking about my personal life with you guys." She stepped away from the table. "See you around school."

When she started to walk away, Epstein got up and stopped her. "Hey you don't gotta leave. C'mere." He led her back over to the table and they both sat back down. "We didn't mean for things to get so personal. You don't gotta talk 'bout it if you don't want. But know that you can always talk to us if you change your mind."

Cutie Pie sighed. "Thanks Juan." She looked at everyone sincerely. "I appreciate you guys trying to look out for me, but you can't help me with this."

"We didn't think we could actually help." Vernajean replied "But we can talk. And listen. I mean we've all got some sort of personal issues in our lives so we might be able to understand."

"Alright well think you could understand what I live with?" Cutie Pie glanced away, starting to feel tears form. "You know what it's like never knowing when you're going to get hit, or kicked, or shoved around?" They looked at her silently stunned. "You really want to know how I hurt my ankle and got these bruises this morning?" She turned her eyes back to them seriously. "It was from when I fell down the stairs… after my father pushed me."