This story is about four people. In this inviting story, you'll read their memories, their lives. Most of the events in this collaboration are true and actually happened to the authors. When you've read this challenging book, you might understand.


   Why couldn't I be skinny? Looking in the mirror, I ask myself over and over again. I finally can't stand it anymore and put on a navy blue tank top and brown cargo shorts. I fluff out my black curls and make sure my headband's in the right place. Then slip on black Puma tennis shoes, tucking in the strings and picking up my bag. On my way out the door, I take one last look at the mirror, making absolute certain that my eyeliner isn't smudged around my chocolate brown eyes.

    Just as I close the door my name is being called. "Alexa!" I turn and look, seeing my best friend, Gema, running towards me. With long, beautifully straight, black hair and gorgeous brown eyes, she reaches me, a foot shorter than my height. She wears fading gray skinny jeans, a blue t-shirt with angel wings, a gray hoodie and black converse sneakers.

   I eye all of her bracelets and rings, wishing I had as many. "So, what classes do you have?".

   "The same classes you have," she says, oblivious to my sarcasm. As soon as we got our schedules for our sophmore year, we shared them with each other.

   The high school looms before us as we walk in, prepared to start our first day.



   Caitlyn knew her parents would give her a lift to her new school if she asked, but she'd much rather walk and see what the new town was like on her way. She left the army base through the front gate, flashing her card even though the guards only cared when you entered, not left. 

   She walked along the main road before turning onto smaller streets. She stared at the idyllic houses as she passed them. The closer she got to the main street where the school was, the more she saw other people her age. She wondered if she'd make any friends. She'd moved plenty of times and had to start schools mid-term. This would be the first time she was starting at the same time as everyone else though. She walked on the gravel path that led to the parking lot and looked around. Hundreds of students moved around her, all different ages and normal from the outside. She walked through the main entrance and saw a cafeteria up ahead where students were sat and talking before class began. Catching up after a summer of not seeing each other, looking forward to the academic year ahead. She turned, following the signs to the reception office. 

   "New starter?" the lady asked after taking one look at her. Caitlyn nodded, nibbling her lower lip in nervousness. 

   "Name," she asked, tapping on the computer.

   "Caitlyn Bethen," She answered, taking in the small waiting sofas. Up ahead was the principles office. She hoped she didn't end up there. In her last school she'd kicked up quite a fuss. Though the bullies started it, not her. 

   "Head to the main hall. The back-to-school assembly should begin soon," she instructed. Caitlyn left the room and followed signs to the main hall, passing the cafeteria full of students. Some looked at her curiously, others glanced and looked away uninterested. She walked to the main hall and saw students fill the corridors around it, all talking. She saw nervous whispers from what she assumed were other first years. She contemplated talking to them then decided against it. She should wait until she was given her form teacher and class. They'll be the ones she spends most of her time with in theory. Someone bumped into her, sending her a few steps forward.

   "Sorry!" a girl yelled as she rushed past to talk to a friend. 

   "It's okay," Caitlyn mumbled, though she knew the girl wasn't listening. Caitlyn looked around for the others she'd met who were from the barracks. But the only ones she saw were the older kids who were in the years above.
The assembly started and she was sat next to two guys who immediately struck her as a pair of jokers. But they were good jokes and made her smile. Her nerves evaporated as she listened to the various teachers give talks on previous achievements of the school and safety. When the assembly broke for the mid-morning break she stuck to Jack and Joe and met their other guy mates. She'd always found it easier to hang out with guys than girls and continued to laugh at their jokes. She didn't bother attempting her own, afraid of embarrassing herself. She was glad when she found out they were both in her form class.



   "You sure we can do this?"

   My older brother looked to me and laughed. "Stop whining so much, no one will know," he said, confident as usual. He was so big and strong, I thought he must be right. The strong are always right. "Now, grab the lighter and the rockets."

   I did as I was told, grabbing the fireworks on the ground near the broken down trailer. It was down a trail no one ever traveled anymore, so we were free to get away with anything. That included shooting bottle rockets at the house. "Here they are, Kory."

   "Now, dweeb, you stand back. After we get done we will go play in the woods." He smiled with confidence. "We might even find another snake. You like snakes, don't you?"

   I shook my head. "The last one we found bit me! Dad said it was harmless but he lied!"

   Kory laughed. "Come on, Dylon, you grabbed it like it was a toy, of course it bit you. I would. Now shut up and watch." I nodded as Kory lit the end of the bottle rocket and aimed it at the trailer. This was going to be so cool! We might even scare a few animals out and be able to catch them!

   The first rocket came out and hit the window, going in and exploding. I nearly fell down with how much I had jumped. It was so... cool! The second and third rocket hit the side of the house and fell to the ground, exploding in the grass and catching some on fire. I wasn't worried though. My big brother knew what he was doing.

   As if I had jinxed him, Kory shot out the last rocket and hit the window again, allowing us to see a fire inside the house. The trailer was on fire! Kory looked as shocked as I felt. "Dylon, let's get out of here!"

   A picture. It's a picture that I found when my cousin and I were helping my aunt pull the carpet out of her bedroom floor. In the picture is myself as a six-year-old little girl, my great grandma, two of our distant cousins, and Mom. My mom. God, I miss her so much. Everybody in the photo is smiling, even my 90-year-old great grandmother. But, above all, Mom is smiling. More so than anyone else in the picture. Sure, we had all smiled for the picture, but hers was genuine. You could tell just by looking at her that she was truly happy. In fact, it'd been so long since she'd beamed like that, that it was beyond my recollection. Maybe she stopped smiling like that because she and my great grandma had been really close, right up until great grandma Wheeler died on Mom's birthday a few years ago. That whole ordeal had torn my mom apart from the inside out. Great grandma Wheeler. . . She had always known how to make Mom smile that way. So it's a shame that I can't remember any of those times specifically. When my mom was really, truly happy, nothing could compare to how bright that smile was.

   Just to look at that photo made me wish more than anything that I could recall that day clearly. Sometimes when I think of the picture, I get the longing and determination to build an actual time machine so I could go back to that day. But I can't. And when it all comes down to it, I know that in this life, I'll never be able to see that beautiful, gleaming smile ever again except in that picture.

   "Cassi! Time to go!" My aunt calls from downstairs. I sigh. That's another thing I've been thinking of lately. All the milestones that she's going to miss because she's gone. I know she's there still, watching over me, but it's just not the same. Never will be.

   "I'm coming!" I yell as I walk down the hall and descend the stairs. This is it, I think to myself. My first day of high school.

The End

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