Chapter One


"Do you really want to be like them? Do you really want to be another trend? Do you want to be part of the crowd? 'Cause I don't ever want to, I don't ever want to be you. Don't want to be just like you." The lyrics screamed from my speakers. Good Charlotte. That was automatically a "stay out 'cause I'm pissed" sign if nothing else. Hadn't everyone in my family realized that by now?

And yet, I could still make out the tap-tap-tap of knuckles drumming on my door.

Maybe they mistook Good-Charlotte-pissed mood for Green-Day-rock-out mood. Or maybe, just maybe, they didn't care. No one in this house knew good music.

Tap-tap-tap. I sighed, then turned up the music, yelling over the sound, "Leave me alone!"

"Zoe! Zoe, don't make me bang this door straight off the hinges!"

Great. It was her. Miss I-can't-have-more-than-ten-calories-a-day. That's right, my practically sister, Leah. (And I was just kidding about the calories thing. I'm just majorly jealous that she can get away with eating two double cheese burgers from Mickey D's complete with large fries everyday for lunch, without exercising it all off, or puking it all up, and still be size 3.)

I allowed the CD to start song 3, "Lifestyles Of The Rich And The Famous", before turning it down and opening the door.

Right as I did, Leah busted in like she owned the place, and her size three butt plopped onto my beanbag chair. "Zo, listen to me. I am only saying this because I am your best friend and I care about you. Dearly."

I allowed my own butt, which was definitely not size three, to slide over to where a white hammock hung from my ceiling, "What are you talking about, Leah?"

"I'm talking about the chance of a lifetime for you!" and for the first time since she walked in, I noticed a crumpled paper laced between her fingers. "This… felloutofyourlockerFriday." She said it in a jumble as if I wouldn't be able to decipher what she said, and then threw the note at me, which I caught in mid-air before it hit my forehead.

On the outside, was two simple letters, Z.M. My initials. I unfolded it once, twice…

"Oh god. Is he still convinced I was drunk that night when I told him it was over?" I blinked at my best friend. The note was signed, Jay, in loopy letters the way only Jason Stone could write it.

"What does it…?" I glared at Leah. As if she hadn't read it, memorized it, and bought the t-shirt within the two days she had had it in her possession. But I still read it aloud. "Zoe, we really should catch up Thursday. That's when my game is. We're against the Tigers. Call me to set up plans. Jay." I contained a snort. "Catch up. I just dumped his sorry ass two days ago, and he wants to 'catch up'?" I spat out the words.

Leah smiled. "He's kind of slow, huh, Zo?"

I grinned back in response. I loved Leah for the pure fact that she always knew exactly what to say. Plus, Jay was slow. He hated so many things: punks, being dumped, being single, Goths, and bad hair days. Any of these, or a mixture, got him totally messed up until the weekend came.

"So, what are you going to do?" Leah interrupted my thoughts. I just shrugged in response, and for some reason, a guy's face popped into my head. No, not Jay's, someone else. Zander's face. Zander Nichols. The guy who—to the outside world—I despised, and—to myself—I loved.

I had realized I was falling in love with this total jerk not but a few weeks ago.

It was at lunch, and he had been hanging out with his Jock buddies—no surprise there. The lunch line was short, and although it was near the end of the forty-five minutes we had to eat our lunches, Leah dragged me into the line.

There he was—all six-foot-two-inches of him from his dirty blonde hair, which was just long enough to fall down into his dark emerald eyes, down to his size 14 black Converse high tops.

He was laughing, a sound that still haunts my dreams—whether they be during the night, or daydreams—to this very moment. And I don't by any means mean "haunting" in the literal bad sense of the word. I absolutely love his laugh. If his laugh and smile were men, I'd marry them. I really would.

So, he turned and caught my eye. Just for a split second. Long enough for me to simply smile, not knowing what else to do. I have a feeling he would have smiled back, except he didn't have enough time, considering one of his friends made him look the other way. But he did give me the cutest look of confusion.

Now, by law, or degree of the King, or whatever, punks and such, like myself, don't interact with High School Royalty such as the Jocks and Preps, like Zander. Especially for the girl punk to interact with Jocks or the boy punks to interact with Preps. Of course, there have been a few exceptions. One of them being myself with Jason Stone. No wonder it didn't work out. But in the few exceptions, it was unheard of that the punk broke up with the Prep or Jock.

I think that's why Jay just didn't get it.

Leah snapped me back from my daydream. "Zoe? Zo? Snap out of it, girl!" she shook my shoulders roughly. "Are you thinking about that mystery guy of yours again? Come on, focus. We need to do something to get this Jerky Jock BACK."

"Back?" I asked, confused.

Leah sighed, "He's using you, Zoe. He can't be broken up with by someone like you. So, he's going to invite you to his dumb thing, then break it off there, hello."

I shrugged again. "I think you're overreacting. I think he's just stupid."

Leah laughed a hearty, whole laugh. I wish I had her laugh. Mine comes out as more of a squeak.

"Well, think of something, Z. I got to get home. See you later." Leah opened my door, exited, and closed it hard. I sighed, leaned back, and turned Good Charlotte back up.

Okay kids, here's a clue: parents hate chat rooms. On the Internet, I mean. I know this because the one time my mom caught me on a Yeehaw! chat room, she nearly busted a cap.

"You'll meet some rapist and you'll set up a date with them and then you'll die!" that was the supposedly convincing argument she set up with me. But me, I'm careful on the Internet. Unlike her. I know for a fact she used to go in chat rooms all the time. That's how she met Dad. Through an internet chat room. Good mothering, chick.

But no, because online, I'm not myself. I'm not a punk named Zoe Maudlin. I'm a regular girl who is into everything, and my name is Amy Knightly. Yes, I still live in Hope, Arkansas like Zoe Maudlin does, but online, I'm in love with a boy named Andy Reynolds, who is nowhere near Zander Nichols.

I feel kind of bad for Andy. He probably thinks that he's talking to this gorgeous girl named Amy, and in fact he's talking to ME. Poor guy.

But even though I am in love with Zander, Andy is kind of… well… awesome. An although I, as Zoe, can't be in love with him, I, as Amy Knightly, can.

Just so long as he never wants to meet me.

Just imagine. I mean, I probably KNOW Andy. And Andy probably knows Zoe. So, if one day he just goes off and says, "Let's take this a little further, let's meet up," it's not like I can just say no. We're kind of cyber-dating, and he lives in Hope as well, so what would I do?

And what would he say?

Would he still love me once he found out I was a punk named Zoe instead of his beloved Amy?