On Being Different – Some people just stand out. They might not catch the spotlight consciously, but it finds them anyway. When he finally lets you in, he shone brighter than everyone else and you feel that maybe you can shine, too.

Decided to try my hand at romance. We'll see how it goes. Let me know what you think.

1. Smiley

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, straightening my shoulders as I began walking up the steps. The looming brick building made me nervous but I was determined not to show it, especially when I had just seen my younger sister trot up the steps with the same confidence she had going into a place she considered hers. It wasn't far from what would happen anyway, she was one of those people that were instantly popular. I suppressed a sigh and pushed the doors open, absently following after her toward the office.

Pushing through the crowded hallways I chastised myself for being such a downer. It was my senior year and yeah, my little sister always ended up having more friends, but we were family. I shouldn't have been jealous. It was stupid and childish and I was too mature for it, but the envy ate at my insides anyway.

Don't get me wrong. I love my sister. She's great, if an idiot sometimes. I just wish I was more like her. Stupid, isn't it? The younger sister is supposed to idolize the older one, not the other way around. It's a small consolation that my twin brothers like me better (they told me so).

"Oi, Will."

I looked up, my subconscious having made sure I didn't ram into anybody – or anything, for that matter – while I walked and I found myself standing in the high school office and blinking stupidly at my sister, Lessa. She rolled her eyes and smiled indulgently at me. "Space cadet, come on."

I followed her to the secretary, who had been eyeing us since we got in, and handed us sheets of paper without asking for our names. I hate being new in small towns. "Thanks," I mumbled, taking the sheet and scanning its contents.

Lessa looked at hers and then peered over my shoulder to read mine. I snatched hers and quickly read it through before handing it back. "They gave us gym together. Great. And you're in AP classes again."

"Somebody has to be the smart one," I said absently, chewing my lip as I read over the schedule again. Calculus first thing in the morning, fantastic. I hated math.

"Bitch," she retorted affectionately, jostling my shoulder as she headed out of the office.

I folded the schedule and stuffed it in the back pocket of my jeans, pausing a moment to take in Lessa's outfit. "Mum doesn't know you're wearing that, does she."

"Nope." Lessa adjusted the strap of her bag that pressed between her breasts. I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. I personally didn't mind when she wore ribbed tank tops, but I had to agree with mum that they showed an awful lot of my sister's cleavage. She never seemed to notice, and often demanded to know why mum thought it was okay for me to wear them.

Mum never answered that one, but I think both Lessa and I know why. She gets attention from guys when wearing them, I don't. Enough said.

"So long as I don't have to hear about it later." I yawned and clipped my car keys to a belt loop before moving down the hall toward my locker, wherever that was.

Lessa snorted and waved as she moved into the opposite direction. "See ya, Will!"

I lifted a hand without looking back and trudged toward my impending doom.

I sat by the windows in every class, making sure I got there early just so I could secure a seat. So far, my day had been rather uneventful. The other students were friendly enough, although no one had stopped to talk to me. The teachers had been all right, although I already hated AP Biology with a passion.

AP English was a little different.

The class was small, no larger than sixteen students by the time the teacher stepped up to the front of the room and introduced himself as Mr Dailey. He was a tall man who looked to have been a linebacker in his youth but had softened with age into a beer belly and a large bald spot on his head. Laugh lines deepened when he smiled and even before he addressed us I knew I would like him.

"All right fools, settle down. Mike, you're seventeen, not five. Stop acting like a monkey."

I looked over to see a tall, skinny guy grin cheekily before leaping off the radiator and land rather clumsily two seats in front of me. He never let his feet touch the ground and instead pulled his long legs up and rested his scuffed Vans on his seat, plopping a ratty notebook on the desk. Wild brown hair stuck up every which way and he waved at the teacher to continue.

Mr Dailey snorted and shook his head but still took his place in the front of the room. "Okay, I'm gonna call roll even though I know most of you freaks already. First, Beth Amey."

A girl with long straight blonde hair raised her hand and he nodded to her.

I tuned him out and looked out the window, watching as a motorcycle sped up to the parking lot and skidded into a space in the back. The rider, in contrast, took his time – I'm assuming it's a guy because no girl can accomplish that lazy gait – with making his way through the cars and up the sidewalk to enter the school.

"Wilma Henderson."

There were several snickers and incredulous "Wilma?" whispers but I had grown used to them over the years. It's what happens when your parents decide to give you an enormously outdated name.

"It's Will," I corrected, still gazing out the window.

"Will, okay. Let me see your face so I can remember it with the name."

I obediently turned my head and rested my cheek in my palm as he, and the rest of the class, studied my face. I don't know what they saw, if it was any different than what I did when I checked my appearance for two seconds in the mirror that morning. Long brown hair pulled haphazardly into a bun that looked on the verge of falling apart, bangs sweeping over brown eyes, a girl of short stature – I admit to being vertically challenged – wearing a brown Etnies T-shirt, loose jeans and a pair of gray Converse.

"Will it is then." He nodded and sent me a slight smile before calling out "Nathan Lerner" and that was it. No welcome to Bradford High School, no suspicious look, no "why don't you introduce yourself." I could deal with that.

My gaze slid back to the window and I watched a bird settle into one of the trees just outside. I was successfully ignoring the class when something struck my arm and I blinked, looking forward to see the monkey boy, Mike West, grin at me.

"You don't look like a Wilma," he said, not bothering to whisper even though the teacher was still talking.

"I didn't think so either."

If it was at all possible, his grin broadened. It made him look younger. And like an imp. "Did you do the summer reading?"

I laid my arm on the desk and gave up on passing the class period staring out the window. "I read most of them last year. You?"

He winked. "Last week."

I was actually surprised he had read them at all.

"Mike, quit flirting and pay attention," Mr Dailey interrupted, smacking him upside the head with a sheaf of papers. "And Will, just 'cause you're new doesn't mean I'm giving you special treatment."

And he didn't. I offered answers only when called on but was satisfied to see the pleased look on Mr Dailey's face when he saw that I actually knew what I was talking about. Apparently Mike's random remarks about the stupidity of characters were to be expected, although they all were stemmed from valid points regarding the book.

I hadn't liked Wuthering Heights much either.

Gym class consisted of two teachers calling attendance – one for the girls, one for the guys, because apparently even co-ed gym classes required split supervision – and handing out locks for our gym lockers. The rest of the time was spent sitting on the bleachers in the gym talking and doing little else.


I looked up and was immediately dragged by the wrist by a very enthusiastic Mike up the bleachers to plunk down with him at the very top. I sat beside him, rather dazed, and blinked at his brilliant grin.

"You're not sporty, are you?"

"Umm, not really," I replied honestly.

"Sweet, me neither. Want to chase butterflies with me during softball?"

I stared at him for a long time and this seemed to amuse him. His gray eyes danced with laughter and his broad mouth – I noted absently that he had a rather nice mouth, actually – was twitching in an effort not to break out into a grin.

"Chase butterflies."

"Yeah. I hate softball and I'm too lazy to run."

My lips twitched into a smirk. "But you're willing to chase butterflies."

Now he grinned. "Barnick yells when I do it and that's what makes it fun."

That made sense. Mr Barnick looked like an angry squat man with no neck that had a penchant for yelling and little physical activity. He also seemed to be rather sexist, which made me want to spite him. Just on principle, you understand.

I grinned back and stuck out my hand. "Chasing butterflies it is."

Mike laughed and gave my hand a good shake. "Excellent! This will be the year of the slackers."

I shook my head and rested my elbows on my knees, watching as the last of the girls gave their numbers to the teacher. "So what else do you do to slack off?"

"I make daisy chains during Ultimate Frisbee."

"That's kinda girly."

"That's what Barnick says."

I felt another grin tugging at my mouth. "And that's why you do it then, right?"


"Sexist and a homophobe, fantastic." I rested my cheek on my fist and looked to see Mike grinning at me again. "Do you ever stop smiling?" I asked curiously.

"Nope." He stretched his long legs in front of him and leaned back, resting his shoulders against the wall. "Mom calls me Smiley."

I gave a short laugh and shook my head. "Cute." My butt was falling asleep from sitting in this position so I slipped forward into the gap between the seat and the next one, legs sprawled out toward the next row and shoulders resting on the spot I had been sitting in a moment before. "So what do you do during track?"

"Walk half of it."

That was fine with me. "Tennis?"

"Home run derby."

"Explain that one."

We ran through the rest of the sports that we would be subjected to during the year and I learned that he normally skipped most of the swimming unit, played goalie for lacrosse and soccer, hit tennis balls as hard as he could and didn't care where they went or who got them back for him, if they did at all, and grabbed random people's flags during flag football.

I hadn't been planning on making friends the first day – the first week, maybe, but not the first day – but I liked Mike. It was hard not to. We talked for the rest of the period, or rather, he talked and I added commentary when I felt it was necessary. We parted ways after the class finally ended – him yelling "See ya, gym buddy!" – and he went to art class while I went to study hall, which was uneventful enough to warrant a nap. I trudged back to my locker as the last bell rang and stuffed books into my bag before heading out into the parking lot where Lessa was already waiting beside my car.

Lessa never approached me during school and I hadn't expected her to. She hadn't acknowledged me much at our last school. At our old school it had taken people years to realize that we were sisters, despite our shared last name. I guess we just look that different. Lessa was the same height as me, but that was the only similarity. She was slender with long legs and large breasts, which she normally forgot were partially exposed half the time while I looked more athletic than I was, and my chest was mediocre at best. Her hair was short and a vibrant chestnut whereas mine was a boring dark brown. She wore makeup on a regular basis and was always wearing a jungle of jewelry. I, on the other hand, wore very little makeup – maybe some foundation and a little eyeliner – and a silver ring I never took off my thumb. She was beautiful whereas I, at best, was cute. The one difference dad always harped on me though was her size zero and my size seven.

Never mind the fact that the average American teenage girl is a size eleven or twelve. Never mind the fact that I was at a good weight for my height and build. If I weighed Lessa's hundred pounds I would look like a skeleton with skin.

I was tired of being compared to my little sister. Even though the one who did it the most was me.

I hate being my own worst enemy.