I'm a morning person. Not one of those overly-cheerful morning people you want to strangle, but I do like mornings. I like to be up before everyone else and, since Mom hates mornings, I like weekend mornings when I can have breakfast with Dad.

UIL meet mornings are the best because Dad usually makes a doughnut run and Cas joins us. They're both in kitchen drinking coffee when I stumble in. Cas offers to pour me a cup of that sludge but I scowl and pull a Java-Punch, a totally awesome mocha-flavored energy drink, out of the fridge.

"That stuff will stunt your growth, kiddo." Dad isn't fond of my J-P addiction, but so far there isn't anything else that gets me going in the mornings. Besides, as I've pointed out a thousand times: as far as addictions go, this is one of the most harmless I could come up with.

"Yeah, Dad, and I'd be really concerned about that if Dr. Hernandez hadn't told me, in seventh grade, that I was pretty much finished growing." I flip open the box of fried sugar and pull out the last chocolate iced doughnut. I clearly remember that doctor's visit. I'd cried for twenty minutes after Dr. Hernandez made his announcement. I had dreams of being an Amazon, and star basketball player, like my grandmother and my mom's sister. Unfortunately, along with the coloring, I got the Malone short-genes, too.

"Caston says you have a date tonight. Who is it with and where are you going?"

I choke on a mouthful of doughnut and glare at Cas through watering eyes. He told my dad already? I was going to tell Dad at breakfast and then talk to Mom about it during a lull at the meet. Now it looks like I was trying to hide it. "Victor Holloway. He's on the soccer team. I don't know where we're going yet. We haven't made firm plans."

"We're having dinner at the Shack and then we'll catch a movie," Cas speaks up from the counter. He shrugs when Dad and I both stare at him. "Vic and I talked about it last night while you and Stephanie were doing whatever it is you girls do in the bathroom for half an hour. There'll be six of us total."

Since it's a group date and Cas is going to be there, Dad doesn't give me too hard of a time. He does take way too much pleasure in making me blush, though. I can only imagine the grilling he's going to give Victor tonight. Fathers can be so embarrassing.

Cas in no help, either. He grins as he tells Dad how I was so flustered over Victor that I ran outside and forgot my purse. While technically that is true, he's twisting it around so that Dad thinks I was flustered because of Victor himself and not the shock of it all. When I narrow my eyes at Cas and send him a glare that promises very painful payback, he just laughs. Jerk.

"Don't we need to be leaving now?"

Cas wipes his hands on a napkin and glances over at the clock. "I'm ready if you're ready, Kels."

I'm not quite ready, but I want to get out of the house before Cas can make up any more stories to tell Dad. It only takes five minutes to pull my hair up in a ponytail, grab my Hargrove HS hoodie, and my UIL bag. I keep it packed with my MP3 player, a couple of computer games, and a book or two. Since it's getting cooler outside, I've added a travel pillow and small blanket.

I kiss Dad on the cheek, grab a fresh J-P and another doughnut, and then follow Cas outside. His car is parked in our driveway. It's just easier to ride with him on the weekends. He's got the radio set to 'so-long-eardrums' as usual, but I turn it off as soon as we're on the street.

"Who are bringing tonight?"

"Alicia Ryan."

Alicia is another Honors Student and has been in a couple of our classes. She runs track and I think she's our class treasurer. I don't think I've ever seen her with Cas before. "Steph and LeBlow rounding out our cozy sextet?"

"Yeah." Cas looks away from the road to stare at me. "You're going to have to be nice to LeBlow. Not only do we want to keep Victor from realizing just how much of a harpy you are, it's not fair to Steph. She's always stuck in the middle and, if you make her choose Kels you might now like the results."

Cas is always lecturing me. Sometimes I wonder if he really isn't my older brother instead of Clayton's. It's annoying but, and how I hate to admit this, he's usually right. I can't be completely sure that Stephanie would pick me over Jim LeBlow and I'm a complete bitch for even putting her in that position. "Gotcha. No jibes at the creep." I smack him on the arm. It hurts my hand more than it probably hurts him, but seeing him wince is worth it. "I am not a harpy."

"See, when you say that and your voice squeaks, you just prove my point."

He saves himself from being hit again by pulling into the school parking lot. There are too many witnesses. I settle for slamming my door as hard as I can. Mike and Josh from my team are waiting by Adair's car. Since the three of us also do Computer Applications, along with whatever else the head of our school's UIL program Mr. Bates signs us up for, we've got laptops and portable printers to haul with us. Our equipment gets loaded into the back of the bus and Mike volunteers to sit and keep and eye on it.

There are no journalism events at this meet so Steph isn't here. Fortunately there are only twelve of us going to this meet so no one has to share a seat. I pick one across from Cas, take out my pillow and settle in for a nap. Cas wakes me up when we're almost there. It gives me enough time to make sure my hair doesn't resemble Medusa's and down my J-P.

We follow Bates and Adair into the Santa Rosita HS cafeteria. Bates has a schedule of events and is quickly handing out slips of paper with event names, times, and room numbers. See, this is the problem you run into when the UIL head is also the guy who has taught all your Honors/AP math and science classes. He knows what you can do.

And that's why I get stuck with two math and a physics event in addition to my two computer events. I knew I should have failed a couple of assignments last semester. There's a German competition and Bates gets that gleam in his eyes I know is going to mean trouble for me. Last year I had a scheduling problem and had to choose between Home Ec and German. Needless to say, ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch.

By the end of the day, I've been in six events and placed in four. It's not as bad as it sounds. I did better than I'd hoped. I didn't want to place in physics or German at all. If you place, Bates expects you to do that event every time. Crap. Cas, of course, placed in the top three in every one of his seven events. No surprise there. His brain is magic.

In between events, I play twenty games of FreeCell, try out a new first-person shooter game Cas suggested, and gorge myself on nachos, greasy fries, and diet soda. Cas and Mike keep me company. Cas borrows Josh's laptop and they somehow create their own gaming LAN. It's fun to watch them play.

We're on the bus headed home when my cell phone rings. It's Erin. She's heard about my date with Victor and is going to come over and help me get dressed for it. Hello? Haven't I been dressing myself for years? There's no use arguing with Erin so I don't bother.

I know it's wrong, but I keep hoping the bus will have an accident. It doesn't. My second wish is that Cas has a wreck on the way to my house. He doesn't. I try my best to fall and break an ankle in the house but I'm not that big a klutz. I can't even make myself slip in the shower, though I do twist my hip a little. Unfortunately it's not a date-canceling injury.

I let Erin pick my outfit. She, in a rare show of good taste, picks out a pair of black jeans and a red sweater. Simple yet not too casual. My stomach is in knots when seven o'clock rolls around. Erin, who refused to leave, is sitting on the living room couch between Mom and Dad. When the doorbell rings, I wipe my palms on my jeans and open the door.

Victor thrusts a nice bouquet of yellow roses, pretty but not my favorite flower, into my hands. He leans in to kiss me on the cheek but I quickly step aside. Definitely too soon for that. Dad clears his throat from behind us, so I step back to let Victor in.

My date takes one look at the threesome on the couch and gulps. Mom's got her 'teacher-face' on, Erin's grinning mischievously, and Dad looks like a cop ready to start an interrogation. Grinning despite my nervousness, I link arms with Victor. "Family, this is my very sweet and easily intimidated date, Victor. Victor, meet my absolutely psychopathic and utterly embarrassing family."