I clutched my bag tightly and glanced about the bustling airport. Taking a deep breath I exited the building and kept my head down. I glanced about the crowds and finally noticed a thin woman with a beaming smile, small frame, and dark wild and curly hair. She was holding a sign that said my name in scrawly print and I awkwardly went up to her. "Uhm… hi… I'm Conor," I said shuffling about in my too-small falling apart shoes.

"Wow, I barely even recognized you!" She beamed before pulling me into a hug. I felt undeniably awkward as she squeezed the life of me. With an excited laugh she let go and said, "well I'm obviously your Aunt Sherry but just call me Sherry. So shall we be on our way?"

"Okay," I replied quietly. I followed her out of the throngs of people and we entered an old car that had rust coloured paint. My messenger bag was tossed haphazardly in the backseat and I awkwardly sat in the passenger seat.

She sped out of the airport and while driving haphazardly said, "So I guess I should tell you about where we live. By the way it'll take two or three hours to get there so want to grab a bite to eat beforehand?"

"I don't care," I replied despite the fact that I was fucking starving and hadn't eaten in two days aside from a bag of chips I nicked in the airport.

"Awesome, we'll go to this great Indian place I know about… you do like Indian food right?"

"I've never had it," I replied with indifference.

"You're bound to love it. Some of it is really spicy but you can get stuff that isn't. Anyways I guess I should tell you about our home. Well we live on the outskirts of this really nice town, it's not like a lot of places it's size though as it's really been shaped by the fact that during the Vietnam War a bunch of draft-dodgers moved there so it's all liberal and awesome. And well we live just out of town on a… well the best way I can describe it is a hippie commune. Now before you get any stigmatized notions in your head it isn't as if all of us are acid dropping nudists. It just means we basically live like anarchists… or actually no we're more like communists. Basically we pool together our resources and just co-exist. You will be required to do some kind of thing to better the community but don't worry it's not like I'm turning you into some kind of a sweatshop style child labourer," she explained.

"Okay," I replied with apathetically. What the fuck did I get myself into? Fuck, I'm going to be stuck with some cultist freaks that will treat me like a slave… talk about awesome.

"Yeah it's actually really neat. We aren't like some communes as we aren't totally self-sufficient and have to drive in to the town for work and school… or at least the high-school kids go to regular school. But we are constantly improving, we recently got new solar panels and our power bills are flirting with non-existent, plus we have these great gardens full of organic fruits and vegetables. We aren't the biggest of communities but it's really amazing, we can go through the rules when you meet everyone else, it's going to be so great."

"Alright," I replied. Fuck… this is so fucked, what kind of crazy ass hippie cult member did I end up saddled with? I fucking hate those peacenik hippie types, all 'love' and 'peace' and 'happiness'. Putting flowers in the barrels of guns does not stop war. Protesting doesn't do anything. This world is shit, the politicians are corrupt, the environment is destroyed, the human race is disgusting, and it's only a short matter of time before nuclear war breaks out and we're all finally wiped out. Good fucking riddance. We soon pulled up to a little restaurant and my nose was assaulted with a barrage of scents as soon as we entered the dark restaurant. There weren't many people in it so we where seated immediately and we both surprisingly enough ordered water with lemon. I felt so awkward as we waited for our food to arrive, however Sherry seemed to not notice or just ignored it and continued to yammer on about her weird hippie cult.

"Oh geez here I am going on and on. Why don't you tell me something about yourself?" she asked cheerfully.

"Uh… I'm Conor, I'm sixteen, and I just started grade eleven," I replied.

Her eyes furrowed in either frustration or confusion for a split-second and then she said, "No tell me something real… like your interests and dreams."

"Oh… uhm I-I don't know," I replied feeling so weird. Fuck I don't have any dreams or goals or hobbies. My life isn't about that kind of shit, my life is about surviving from day to day. Why dream of the future when you need to focus on living through the day? She gave me a pointed look with a raised eyebrow that clearly said 'that isn't going to work'. With a heavy sigh I added, "I like music I guess… I'm not a musician though."

"What kind of music? Whose your favourite musician?" she asked excitedly.

"Uhm I dunno… I guess I like Elliott Smith."

"Who else?"

"Uhm… Bright Eyes, The Good Life, Bob Dylan, Sufjan Stevens… stuff like that," I replied.

"Oh man you're a folky too? That is so awesome, I love that kind of music. What's your favourite Bob Dylan song?"

"Uhm… Don't Think Twice It's Alright."

"Nice choice, mines Mr. Tambourine Man."

I had no reply to that and thankfully plates of food where set in front of us. My mouth started salivating at the scent of it and I eagerly cut up the crepe stuffed with potatoes. The food was actually really delicious and nowhere near as spicy as I had anticipated (but apparently I'm supposed to put 'chutney' on it but the 'chutneys' looked weird so I erred on the side of caution). It was also served with a spicy vegetable soup and I ended up eating so fast that my stomach hurt.

We got back in the car and she plugged her iPod back into the stereo. Some acoustic guitar sprang forth from the speakers and Sherry said, "this song is Rocky Racoon by The Beatles… it is probably my favourite song in the entire world." I merely nodded and listened to the music. I was surprised to hear it was The Beatles… I mean you could clearly tell it was John Lennon singing but this was nothing like the 'we all live in a yellow submarine' Beatles I knew. This song sounded like it could be mistaken for a Johnny Cash cover. We sat in silence save for the music humming from the speakers and I was more than thankful. I don't know how to talk to people, I have zero social skills, and the fact that someone actually wants to get to know me is more than a little unsettling, what the fuck is her angle here? We finally got to the town where I would be going to school and I was surprised to see so many restored buildings in the downtown core and independent businesses, we left the town and drove down picture-esque roads. This entire place seemed to be out of a post-card, there is thick lush forest, mountains, all of that shit. We finally turned down a gravel road and I grimaced at what I saw up in the distance. Sherry parked the car next to a brand new minivan on a chunk of gravel that appeared to be a makeshift parking lot and I grabbed my garbage bag of possessions. I was glad to own basically nothing when it came to possessions as it was a bit of a trek to her house. The chunk of land surrounded by forest was admittedly really large and had about fifteen buildings all adequately spaced apart. I noticed some fruit trees and various vegetable gardens and Sherry opened the door of a tiny bright yellow house with the biggest smile ever. "This is our house, it's pretty small but that's okay as there's only the two of us," she said shuffling me in. She gave me the tour and finally showed me my bedroom. The house was admittedly really nice and cozy, the furniture was on the minimalist side but there was a lot of different artwork on the walls and various little knick-knacks, which gave it a homey feel. There was only two bedrooms and one floor but it was overall a nice place. My bedroom had cheerful spring green walls, a double bed, and what appears to be a handmade dresser. I unpacked my paltry belongings (one sweater, three shirts, one pair of jeans, two pairs of pyjama pants, five CD's, three books, a sketchbook, one mechanical pencil, harmonica, and three photographs), stripped out of my clothes, and crawled under the patchwork quilt.

The next morning I awoke, showered, got ready and noticed a note from Sherry sitting on the table.

Went to work! There is food in the fridge and cupboards. I'll be home around two, if you get bored you're free to read some of the books on the shelf. I also encourage you to explore your surroundings and to go and meet some of the others!

Love Sherry!

I snorted at her liberal use of exclamation marks and that she actually wrote 'love Sherry' at the end and threw it in the recycling bin and opened up the fridge. I found some weird rice dish sitting in some Tupperware and immediately groaned when I noticed there was no microwave anywhere. I ate the food cold and looked for a book on the shelf. I found 'The Complete Works of Allen Ginsberg' and decided to give it a go as I'd heard the name somewhere before.

Come two the door opened and a jubilant Sherry sashayed in and greeted me with a kiss on both cheeks as if we're in Italy or some shit and then she ruffled my curly golden-blonde hair which made me immediately stiffen and scowl and said, "Come on, get up, get up. We have many things to do. I have you an appointment for the doctor, the dentist, and we need to get you whatever you need to get."

"Okay," I replied pocketing my stolen iPod and setting the book back on the shelf.

We walked back towards the vehicles and I ignored the curious glances I garnered from random people hanging around out outside. I hugged my threadbare sweater close to my body and was more than happy to be leaving the cult despite the fact that I'd have to face my most feared enemy; the doctor. As soon as we got in town she pulled up to a clinic and we sat around the sterile smelling waiting area. My name was called and Sherry followed me in for my examination. She and the doctor seemed to be well acquainted and as it turns out he was one of the hippie freaks. "All right Conor I'm going to need you to strip down to your underwear for this so if you're uncomfortable with your aunt in here you should speak up now," he said pleasantly while reading the clipboard in front of him. With a heavy sigh I pulled off my sweater, ill-fitting jeans, and too tight t-shirt. When I was done I ignored the looks of shock and sat down on the exam bed. "Where in the world did you get all of those bruises?" Dr. (I don't even know his last name… what the fuck?) asked trying to cover up any surprise in his tone.

"Around," I said with a shrug.

"Okay then… why don't you step on the scale and we can get started."

I got measured, weighed, had instruments in my ears, nose, and mouth, had my blood pressure taken, and was basically poked and prodded everyfuckingwhere. When I was done I quickly yanked on my clothes and avoided any form of eye contact. As it turns out I'm physically fine aside from the fact that I am covered in bruises and am underweight. Once we got back in the car Sherry immediately asked, "where did you really get those bruises?"

"Nowhere really," I replied with a shrug.

"Conor I'm not going to stop asking until you tell me."

"I got them at the last foster home, the guy I shared a room with really disliked me."

"And your foster parents didn't notice or do anything?" she asked.

"Not really, they where kind of negligent."

"And they actually allow such negligent people to be foster parents?" She asked with an expression of aghast on her face.

I shrugged and replied, "When it comes to foster parents getting negligent ones is lucking out."

"What do you mean?" she asked cautiously.

"I was just lucky I ended up in a place that really wasn't that bad."

"How is it not that bad?"

"It just isn't. They weren't mean people or anything they just made us take care of ourselves, as they only took us in for the cash so they could renovate their house and shit."

"What the fuck? How is that lucking out?" she asked angrily.

"When you take into account that the rest of the foster parents out there aside from the handful of idealistic newbies are abusive child-molesters a little negligence is lucking out," I said dully. People who haven't been a part of foster care just don't get it. If you're a foster kid you get it, that's just life. But those outside of the system just can't wrap their heads around how everything works. I mean I've been in a lot of homes and honestly only one was good, I guess I was just really lucky that that was my very first home as well.

"And social services doesn't do anything?" she asked the anger never leaving her tone.

"Yeah… that's why I've been in like eight different homes."

"Eight! You've been in eight different homes?" she screeched.

"Uhm yeah… give or take."

"How are you so casual about this?" she asked emotionally.

"C'est la Vie."

The minute I said those words a look of shock and then an expression of the most resigned sorrow I've ever seen crossed her features and she asked, "do you need any school supplies or clothes or anything while we're in town?"

"No my school stuff should be in soon I mailed a box here a couple of days before I left," I replied.

We pulled up to the dentist office where I received a cleaning and one filling (my very first! And I know I shouldn't be excited about cavities but I've only been to the dentist twice before, which is actually pretty obvious when you look at my slightly crooked teeth) and I was having fun with the fact that my mouth was all frozen. It reminded me of the night Noah found a tube of expired 'Orajel' and I let him squeeze it into my mouth without realizing what it was and then we proceeded to stay up all night eating it and giggling like schoolgirls. We stopped at the pharmacy and I was told to stay in the car. Sherry came back holding a bag of vitamins and supplements and stuff and then drove us back to the house. We didn't talk at all except for small talk and I was eager to hide out in my too-bright bedroom. After a while there was a knocking on my door and I was called out for dinner. I awkwardly sat down on one of the mismatched chairs and put some food on my plate. "I suppose I should warn you, we're all basically organic vegans so you're going to have to go without meat for a while," she said with a sympathetic smile.

"I didn't eat much meat before anyways," I replied with a shrug.

"So how was your day?"

"Okay, I ate some rice, discovered you have no microwave, and read a book."

"Sorry about the microwave but I try to minimize my radiation exposure. What did you read?"

"Some poetry book by Allen Ginsberg."

"What'd you think?" she asked her previous excitement coming back.

"It was alright," I replied with a shrug.

"Come on what did you really think?" she asked pestering me into conversation.

With a heavy sigh I replied, "It was a little hit and miss. Some of it was idiotic and self-indulgent but he also had some really amazing and provocative pieces."

"Yeah that's the only bad thing about getting someone's complete works," she said with a nod. "Hey… why didn't you go outside and meet anyone?"

"I'm not a very sociable person."

"Oh… okay then. Well on Monday you'll be starting school so you're going to be forced into getting to know people. There's a few kids your age so you'll all be riding into town together, but don't worry they're all really nice and will help you get situated," she explained. Yeah I'm sure they're really sweet and nice, fuck it's not like I've never heard that line before. Sure they may be all polite smiles around you, but that doesn't mean they're actually nice people. "I guess now is as good of time as any to go over some rules with you as well. Basically the house rules consist of respect others and the world around you, don't lie, inform me or someone else if you go somewhere, and yeah that's all I can think of. The commune rules are no hard drugs, do your fair share of work, violence will not be in anyway tolerated, and yeah that's really it." I internally scoffed, these may be what the rules are on paper but somehow I doubt the real rules are 'be nice' and 'don't get too high!'

The next day I received a similar note except it said she'd be home at five-thirty instead. I went through the same motions and settled on reading 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac instead. I finished the book at around five and plugged my iPod into the small stereo and laid back down on the couch just letting the music wash over me. I didn't even notice when Sherry came home until she said, "geez how can you listen to this? It's so bleak and depressing."

"I like Elliott Smith," I replied.

"Sure he has a nice voice and his lyrics are good… but don't you feel sadder now?"

"Not particularly."

"Oh, must just be me," she said. "By the way this box came for you." I noticed the familiar box sitting on the floor and immediately grinned. I took the box to the middle of the living room where there was space and tore it open. The two binders I used for school where in it as well as a pair of leather work gloves, safety glasses, wire cutters, and excessive amounts of various types of wires (even razor and barbed wire). There was also a smaller box inside which contained knuckledusters, a glass pipe, a flask, a paltry bag of weed (less than an eighth), three hits of ecstasy (two purple lightning bolts and one green exclamation mark), two t3s, one 30 mg morphine, and two Dexedrine's. I pulled on my gloves and set the razor and barbed wire aside then took them off, pulled on my glasses and started to shape a piece of wire. "What're you doing?" Sherry asked curiously.

"Oh… uhm, I make wire sculptures," I said looking at the pieces of wire I was twisting together.

"You do?" she asked excitedly. "What are you making right now?"

"I think I'm going to make a tree."

"Awesome! Are you into any other types of art?"

"Uhm, no not really. I guess I've always wanted to try and make sheet and scrap metal sculptures but it requires a lot of expensive tools to like cut the metal and weld it together and stuff," I said picking up another piece of wire.

"Sounds interesting. So do you want anything in particular for supper?" she asked.

"No I don't care," I replied. The evening carried on in a rather dull matter I basically fucked around with wire and tried to pretend Sherry wasn't looking over my shoulder and making me feel awkward and nervous.

The next morning I was surprised to find Sherry still at the house and she explained that she didn't work on the weekends. It wasn't until the afternoon that things went to hell. "What are you doing in the house?" she asked with shock as she came in from doing whatever and found me on the floor working on my tree. I shrugged assuming she asked rhetorically. "It's beautiful out and winter is fast approaching so you're getting some fresh air, I don't think you've even been outside since you arrived! You're bound to get rickets if you hide out indoors all the time," she said picking up my box of wire. My eyes widened when she set it outside and then she gave me a look that said 'get outside before I wrap that wire around your throat'. With a resigned sigh I picked up my tree, cutters, and the loose wires around me. I nervously looked around and put everything back in the box, I noticed a couple of people where chatting in front of a house and three people where working in a garden. I quickly picked up the box and sprinted around to the back of the house so nobody would be aware of my presence. I let out a breath I didn't even realize I was holding as I sat down on the tiny strip of grass in-between the house and forest. I continued to work on my sculpture and didn't even notice when two people approached me.

"You're Conor right?" A voice said from my left. I looked over to see a tall girl with freckles, a round face, and red hair standing next to a boy with straight black hair, lightly tanned skin, and sharp features. They both appeared about my age and I immediately felt a wave of nervousness wash over me.

"Yeah," I quietly replied.

"I'm Khalil," the boy said pleasantly.

"I'm Jasmine," the girl said sitting down on the grass.

"Uhm hi," I replied picking up some more wire.

"Are you making a tree?" Khalil asked sitting down next to her.


"So where'd you move here from?" Jasmine asked picking up a piece of loose wire.

"Toronto," I replied.

"What's it like there? I've never been on the east coast."

"I dunno, like anywhere else I suppose."

"You cannot be serious," she said flatly.

"Why not? Streets, houses, people, all the same shit that every town has."

"That's such a ridiculous answer," she said with an eye roll, which just caused me to shrug and hope they'd take the hint and leave me the fuck alone. "Come on, what is it really like living in such a large city?"

"It's noisier," I replied boredly.


"And the air is dirtier? What do you expect me to say? Am I supposed to go on about the 'urban experience' and prattle off crime statistics or something?" I asked sarcastically.

"I don't know, I was just hoping you'd at least have something interesting to say about it," she said with an unwavering smile. "So do you do a lot of wire art?"

"I guess," I replied.

"Is it hard?"

"Takes a bit of practice," I replied bending some wire.

"How long have you been making sculptures?" Khalil asked.

"Few years."

"Do you do any other type of sculpture or art form?"


"Well are you interested in any other type of sculpture or art form?" he asked.

"Not really."

"I'd love to see your other sculptures, maybe you can show me some time? Hey Jasmine we should get going I promised to show Skye something," he said standing up and dusting off his tight jeans.

"All right, nice to meet you Conor," Jasmine said standing up.

"Yeah it was nice meeting you, guess we'll see you around."

I merely nodded and immediately felt better once they turned the corner and where out of site. Finally they're gone! Fuck that was so weird and awkward and they're most likely going to end up being as annoyingly curious as Sherry is. I continued to play around with wire until I finished up the tree. I went back inside when I was done and blanched when I noticed three people aside from Sherry sitting at the small kitchen table drinking mushroom tea or something. I was beckoned into the kitchen and I tried to pretend that I was completely unphased, as three strangers looked me over. "Conor this is Linda, Jenny, and Stephen," she said motioning to the three people sitting around the table they where all middle aged and whilst Jenny looked like a straight-out of Woodstock the other two looked rather straight-laced if you ignored subtleties and the lingering scent of marijuana in the air. "So did you finish the sculpture?" she asked excitedly when she noticed the box in my hands.

"Almost," I replied indifferently.

"Ooh how much is left?" she asked eagerly.

"I still have to glue it to a flat rock or chunk of broken off cement or something so it has a stand."

"Can I see it?"

"I guess," I replied awkwardly setting my box on the counter and pulling out the tree.

"How long did that take you to make?" Stephen asked as I set it on the kitchen table and backed as far away as was socially acceptable.

"I dunno, couple of days," I said shrugging.

"Impressive," Jenny said before taking an obnoxiously loud slurp of her tea.

I felt weird with all of those eyes on me so I just picked up the box and went to my room, completely abandoning my sculpture. I don't care if I get reprimanded or whatever for being so 'insolent' but I have nothing to say to these people and I hate feeling awkward, which is unfortunately something I perpetually experience. I grabbed one of my books (The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner) and sat on the bed reading the book I knew word for word. About an hour or so later Sherry came knocking at my door and after I yelled a half-hearted 'come-in' she entered.

When I awoke I slammed the alarm with a groan of frustration and crawled out of the warm cocoon of blankets. Yawning I rubbed the gunk out of my boring grey eyes and stumbled to the bathroom. I went through the motions of getting ready for the day and gathered all of my school things. I slung the messenger bag on my shoulder and glanced at the clock. Hm, might as well start heading towards the vehicle area, however I will be smart about it and shove some headphones in my ears beforehand; effectively blocking everyone and thing out. Jasmine and some other girl where already there chatting amongst themselves and as I approached they leaned in a bit closer together as they talked… I must clearly be the topic at hand. Once I was in the vicinity however their conversation immediately ceased and they where all fake smiles. It wasn't long however before three more people where also standing around near us (Khalil included). I merely listened to my music as we all stood around; I was rocking out and kicking gravel around boredly. Finally two more people approached and we could get in the vehicle and go. The van held all eight of us and it was cramped to say the least and I was shoved in-between the window and some guy with purple hair and a really stupid looking 'bridge' piercing. I pretty much blocked out everything and just stared outside the window until I felt a headphone being ripped from my ear. I looked over to see Khalil turned around and holding the black cord. "Stop being anti-social, you should at least know everyone's name and allow us to look over your schedule before school starts," he said with a grin. I yanked the schedule out of my bag and shoved it at him with annoyance. He took it and his smile was unwavering as if he didn't even notice my open hostility and then proceeded to introduce me to people I could give a fuck about. The girl talking with Jasmine earlier had blue hair, was apparently in grade nine, and went by the name of Astrid. Purple hair boy was named Cosmic River but went exclusively by River and was in tenth grade. Skye was a girl in grade twelve, had the body of a runway model, and the longest hair I've ever seen (to her waist!). Celeste was in grade eleven, had really short hair (which matched as she was lacking in height), and was the only person to give me a nod instead of some idiotic blathering about how happy she is to meet me and a barrage of insincere smiles, which immediately put her in my 'good books'. The last person I was introduced to was Orion, he was practically a walking stereotype of faggotry and it looked like a rainbow puked on him or something, he was also in the twelfth grade… I immediately wanted to smack him. As it turns out Jasmine was in grade twelve as well and Khalil was in grade eleven. I ended up sharing an art class with Celeste and an English class with Khalil; the rest of my schedule however was happily cultist free.

We got to the school just as the bell was ringing and I was given the leeway to be late as I was after all the new kid. I didn't bother going to my locker to dump my things as I didn't have much for books and teachers can legally search your locker but they cannot search you or your bag if it's with you. I wandered to my first class (biology) and the teacher thankfully didn't make me do any type of introduction thing and just let me blend into the background (not before grabbing a textbook from the library of course!). I then had psychology, which was easy fucking peasy as I've read psych. textbooks and shit before (you know, 'know thy enemy' and all that jazz). Then it was time for art class, which would hopefully go well. I was the first in the class as it was near the class I was currently in and I didn't have to go to my locker. I sat at a back table and as the class filled up I was avoided like the plague (awesome) but alas Celeste decided to sit down next to me. "I see you've taken up residency in the loner corner as well," she said pulling a thick sketchbook out of her bag.

"I guess," I replied with a shrug.

"Here's a little warning, the teacher is perpetually stoned… even if you puke on canvas he'll give it a 100% if you go on about how it is a reflection of your own inner turmoil or some other shit like that," she said before pulling out some pencils and starting to sketch.

"Thanks for the heads up," I replied. She nodded and then the class started. It was a free time day and we could do what we want… I opted to fuck around with wire as usual. Celeste was honestly my favourite person in this entire province, she wasn't nosey, kept to herself, didn't yammer on, and when she did say something it wasn't small talk or inane ramblings, it was actually something intelligent or constructive. I was to sit with her at lunchtime and I was actually a little happy about the invitation, I could dig sitting around with her. I went with her to drop off her books and we then made our way through the masses to the cafeteria. The cafeteria was bright blue and white and filled with tons of people and tons of tables… all broken down by subculture of course. I was walking towards a two person table Celeste and I where going to commandeer in a sparsely populated area next to a wall when I literally ran into some moron shouting over his shoulder and holding a tray of greasy cafeteria food.

"What the fuck?" he said angrily his dark brows furrowing in anger as his tray clattered to the floor and his food went flying. He pushed me as soon as he noticed it was I who ran into him (or more like he ran into me) but as soon as I stumbled I took a step forward. "Look what you did you little fuck, you're going to regret that," he spat venomously pushing me again (but I took a step back to where I was, when someone pushes you, you never let them think they won).

"Oh get the fuck over it princess," I said defiantly and with a cold glare.

"What did you say to me?" he asked his voice raising.

"Are you deaf or stupid? I clearly said 'get the fuck over it princess'," I said in as patronizing of a tone as I could manage.

"Do you have any idea of who I fucking am?" he said pointing at himself in a self-indulgent manner and as if he was the next best thing since sliced bread and decriminalized prostitution.

"Yeah I know who you are. You're just a scared little kid whose pathetic insecurities cause him to lash out on others to feel better about himself. I even bet you jack off in front of the mirror while using your own tears as lube, your type usually does," I replied with a smirk.

"You little faggot," he seethed his face starting to turn red and balling his right hand into a fast. "I'm going to fucking kill you."

"Now, now. Don't be ridiculous we are on school property, during school hours, if you even tried to punch me the fight would be broken up instantaneously. I knew you where an idiot, but I didn't think you where that stupid," I said in a sugary sweet and condescending tone.

This just made his face turn even redder and he pushed me out of the way and stormed out. I felt pretty fucking satisfied with myself and when the confrontation was over was surprised to see everyone in the vicinity was staring at me. I walked past his tray and headed towards the table we scoped earlier Celeste in tow. We sat down and pulled out our packed lunches (it feels so weird to have a packed lunch and not just stealing things from a convenience store). "You shouldn't provoke Toby, he is officially the asshole of the school. He is an asshole to everyone and is constantly picking fights, plus he has that whole bullshit 'popularity' thing on his side. He's going to fight you, you know and you'll probably lose as you look like you stepped out of Auschwitz and while he isn't the biggest of guys he certainly isn't tiny by any means especially in comparison," Celeste said casually while unpacking everything.

"I get in a lot of fights," I said shrugging.

"Try not to let the adults back at the commune know or you'll be forced through the most mind-numbing lectures about war and violence and fuck it's horribly dull and long-winded," she said screwing the lid off of her water bottle.

"I take it you know from experience?"
"Yeah I got in a fight with this girl in grade nine," she said with a shrug.

We continued to eat lunch and made small amounts of conversation but we mostly just focused on our own art (she does these amazing charcoal sketches). Once lunch was done I went to English and took a seat in the far back. I was tapping the edge of my disk with my index fingers when Khalil sat down next to me and then gave me a really pointed look. Which obviously just elicited an eye roll from me. "Why would you provoke him like that?" he asked shaking his head after a couple of moments.

"There's a difference between provocation and standing your ground," I replied with a shrug.

"Do you have any self-preservation instincts at all?"

"Not really."

"How can you—" he started to say but was cut off by the teacher starting attendance. He shot me a look as if to say 'this isn't over'. But I ignored it and was happy that class was wholly non-interactive. Khalil was told to shut up every time he attempted to lecture me (twice) and I got to read a great short story with a wonderfully ironic ending. I bolted from the classroom as soon as the bell rang and Khalil was fast on my heels. I did however manage to ignore him as I speed walked to my next class and his ranting was immediately drowned out by the barrage of people emerging from classrooms (which also helped us to be separated). I got to my sociology class and people where already whispering about me and most likely my confrontation with Toby. Class continued on in a boring manner (I had to take notes) and when the bell rang I casually exited the school and started to head towards the van. The van however was parked rather advantageously for specific individuals. Due to us being late we where parked on the very end of the parking lot and nearly off of the school property and I leaned against it boredly while Astrid and River talked about something mundane but kept glancing at me. Next out came Celeste and Orion, then Khalil came up to the van and he started to lecture me, but his lecture didn't get far as Toby confidently approached the van and pushed me roughly.

"We aren't in school anymore faggot," he said malice clearly in his eyes.

"You are aware we are on school property," I replied with a smirk. "Here Khalil make yourself useful," I said shoving my messenger bag into his arms and casually sticking my hands in my pockets. "Now if you truly want to settle our petty little dispute in such a barbaric manner I am more than willing to accommodate, but I do have some level of intelligence so I'd prefer to do this where it won't be broken up immediately."

A shocked expression crossed his features for an ephemeral moment before he finally said, "If we go up a little ways it's more surrounded by trees and it isn't school property."

I shrugged and started to walk forward and followed him maybe twenty feet away and was surprised to say the least. You couldn't see the school from here and it was probably where kids smoke a lot of weed during school, kind of private, kind of public, and just off school jurisdiction and radar. Toby's friends as well as the people I was getting a ride with and a few casual observers surrounded us in a circle as we stood on the patch of grass. I took a deep breath and slid my fingers inside the knuckledusters I always keep in my pocket. I kept my hands hidden and he violently pushed me but I just stumbled and walked right back up to him. "Is that it?" I asked with a raised eyebrow and smirk.

"You need to learn some fucking respect," he said delivering a solid punch to my stomach.

"Really now? And why the fuck should I respect an idiot like you?" I asked with a wry grin. Fuck he better hit me again. He fucking better hit me again. That comment made his face turn red and he clenched his jaw and then delivered another solid blow to my chest. This time he grazed my solar plexus and I grimaced a bit but knew not to show any signs of weakness. "Come on princess is that it? I've received worse beatings from schoolgirls," I said with a smirk. His face contorted in anger and his eyebrows furrowed even deeper somehow and he landed a solid blow to my jaw. That time I did stumble a bit and had to catch my balance. Which was fucking perfect, this is just the moment I've been waiting for, it's been clearly established that he has initiated all physical contact (I even let him hit me thrice before retaliating!) I couldn't help but let loose a devious smirk as I pulled my hands out of my pockets and delivered a swift punch to his kidney and then went for both of his shoulders/clavicle area so he couldn't block worth a shit. I had a lighter bracing my left hand but my right one was the showstopper. I refused to give him the upper hand for even a moment now that it was in my grasp. My fighting style was not sophisticated I can admit and I've never been great at it either. However I have one secret weapon that has got me out of many a scrape. I immediately punched his nose with my left hand and loved that I could hear a sickening crack beneath my fist and then with my knuckleduster clad hand I punched his jaw in an upward motion as he groaned in pain. His head spun up sickeningly and he basically lost all motor skill. I punched him hard in the solar plexus and he basically fell to the ground. I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction as he lay on the ground unmoving and just to be a cunt I gave him two swift kicks in the ribs. I then casually slipped my hands back into my pockets, let my knuckledusters and lighter go, walked up to Khalil, grabbed my bag, and headed back towards the van. The people I was with followed and we all entered the van (Jasmine and Skye where standing in front of it looking annoyed and impatient) and we all seemed to be shrouded in silence until we where all in the vehicle and on the highway back to the house.

"So how'd you learn to fight like that?" Celeste asked from beside me.

"I spent most of my life in the slums of Toronto and consorting with undesirable people; you either learn to defend yourself or die," I replied with a casual shrug.

"Or die? Geez you make it sound like you lived in Harlem or something, you only lived in Toronto it isn't like you where anywhere actually crazy," Orion said with a roll of his cosmetic covered eyes.

"I never once made a comparison to Harlem or anything like that. I was merely stating that if you live in a large city and associate with certain people the chances of death and getting into fights increases by the ten-fold. Besides what the fuck would you know about the urban lifestyle or hell, even the real world? You live with a bunch of cultists in the middle of fucking nowhere," I replied venomously.

Those words immediately made him shut up and he pursed his lips and crossed his arms. I rolled my eyes and nestled my headphones into my ears. The rest of the car ride passed by uneventfully and I was happy to enter the house and be free from everyone else. Sherry wasn't home but I guess it's safe to assume five-thirty is the average time she gets back then. I sat at the kitchen table and quickly finished up what little homework I had and decided I might as well go and get high or something… isn't like there's much else to do and my while I may have won that fight Toby can pack one hell of a punch. I went to my bedroom and pocketed the weed, pipe, and lighter… where should I smoke this? Fuck stealth, the place reeked the other day. I opened up the window as wide as it would go, packed a bowl, and took a deep hit and tried to get as much of the smoke outside as possible. Just because I said fuck stealth doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to make it as noticeable as possible, besides stagnant smoke in the air is a little gross. When I was finished I packed everything back up and laid down on the bed. Fuck what is there to do? There is no TV, no internet, I am in the middle of fucking nowhere with cultists, and I don't want to read. With a heavy groan I got up and plugged my iPod into the living room stereo and collapsed on the sofa. Fuck, why can't this place at least be somewhere urban? Somewhere I can actually find something to do. I guess I could fuck around with wire… but I don't really want to, I have like no ideas or anything. Fuck maybe Celeste knows of something interesting to do… no fuck that, I am not going to go to some chick I met today for inspiration on what to do, besides I don't even know where she lives exactly and I'm not venturing outside if I can help it. I should try and keep my exposure to these freaks to a minimum. I mean sure right now they're just going on about veganism and smoking cannabis but I don't really know what they're about yet… which is dangerous. They could seriously actually be a cult… I mean Charles Manson's cult was basically just some weird hippie commune. Two years just think two years and that's the maximum. But then again I usually don't stay one place for more than a year… if this place ends up too weird for my tastes I guess I can always just get in as much trouble as possible. Besides this may be advantageous when I get moved from here I'll probably go to a town further west; this place is too small to replace me in a home here. I will then slowly inch closer and closer to Vancouver and that city is in some circles considered The Holy Grail for drug users. Hm, that reminds me I'm going to have to find some drug hook-ups and ways to get cash. A job is out of the question as I am out of town… but I can use more dubious methods for quick cash. Besides I need to start saving up, the day I turn eighteen I'm thrown out with my small bag of belongings and I really want to put off being a statistic… sure it's inevitable but I might as well try and put it off for a little while.

As I was grabbing a glass of water Sherry came in and immediately asked, "what the hell happened to your face?"

"What?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"You have a bruise on your jaw, what happened?" she asked in a concerned tone.

"Got in a fight," I replied with an indifferent shrug.

"What?" she screeched, "I thought I told you the first rule was no violence! Fuck why would you get in a fight? And on your first day no-less! What am I supposed to do with you? Come on, we have to go see someone, I still can't believe you would do something so irresponsible and horrible."

I didn't dignify her tirade with a response and elected to just follow her silently. Besides it doesn't matter what I say in my defence she'll just believe what she wants to believe; it's just how people are. I followed her around the 'yard' area until we finally approached a bright blue house; she knocked on the door and then let herself in. There was a child about age eight sitting on the floor with a book who happily chirped, "hello Sherry!" as soon as we let ourselves in.

"Hello Opal, is your mom around?" she asked sweetly.

"I think so," she said with a huge smile. Sherry thanked her and then dragged me into a dining room and sat me down at the large wooden table. I glanced about the room with indifference as Sherry left to find whomever; about ten minutes later she came back with three other people. There was two men and one woman, one of the men I recognized as Stephen. "Conor this is Lynette, Ellis, and you already know Stephen," she said introducing everyone and sitting down at one of the many chairs. "While we are a society of equal rights for everyone these three technically are the leaders of the commune," she explained. I merely raised an eyebrow and kept a neutral expression on my face. I immediately hated these three people with a passion; to be honest I think I just hated Ellis with a passion. The guy epitomized every hippie cliché to exist and was the only person here I'd seen who was old enough to have actually been around for the summer of love; I wanted to set his beard on fire.

Ellis was the first to speak and said, "hello Conor, I'm sorry we haven't been acquainted before." I fought back the urge to scoff and instead gave him a look that clearly said 'I don't believe you so cut the pleasantries and get to the point'. "But unfortunately we will be forced to speak of unpleasant topics. It's come to our attention that you've been engaging in acts of violence, is there anything you'd care to say about it?"

I was a little surprised I'll admit, the guy was pretty well spoken for an acid-freak. "I was attacked and I defended myself, that's basically all there is to it," I replied with a shrug.

"Could you go into more details?" Lynette asked pleasantly.

"There's not much else to say."

"Humour us and explain everything that happened in detail," Ellis said.

With a heavy sigh I replied, "some guy wasn't looking where he was going and ran into me at lunch. He freaked out and started literally pushing me around, I clearly wasn't going to let him think he could walk all over me so I countered his disparaging remarks with my own far wittier ones. Then after school he confronts me and we fight, he pushed me numerous times and hits me thrice before I retaliated in any physical way. Admittedly I kicked the fucking shit out of him."

"Was anyone a witness to all of this?" Stephen asked.

"Celeste was the only one to witness both encounters but everyone other than Jasmine and Skye saw the actual fight," I explained boredly. What the fuck is the point of all of this? Seriously, this is just pointless; give me my punishment and finish this charade.

"Well as long as Celeste can corroborate what you said to be true I don't see any reason as to why you should be punished. I just implore you to not take matters in your own hands again and instead contact an authority figure," Ellis said after a couple of moments.

"Okay," I suspiciously replied and I waited to see what was really going to happen.

"All right Conor well you can go back to doing whatever it was you where up to and Sherry will you please go get Celeste she's most likely sitting on the rock drawing," Lynette said with a pleasant smile. I wasted no time and immediately bolted out of the room before they changed their minds. I garnered many glances from people outside but I walked as quickly as possible and entered the house.

The trip to school was thankfully uneventful as I effectively blocked everyone out. School itself however was a little interesting. Rumour has it I broke his nose, jaw, and cracked one of his 'floating ribs'. So it basically means the entire school steers clear of me… which is actually really amazing. However come lunch hour I was called down to the office as the faculty had gotten word of it. When I entered the office however I was surprised to see Sherry and Ellis sitting around with the principal. "Conor please sit down," the principal Mrs. Montcreiff said in a serious tone. I sat down in the uncomfortable chair and patiently waited for it. "Do you know why we brought you in here?" she asked. This is a common trap; she is trying to get me to admit I did something wrong or at least something that could be perceived as wrong… always play dumb and make them come right out with it.

"No, why don't you tell me?" I asked dully.

She clenched her jaw briefly at seeing I wasn't going to fall for it and replied, "it has come to the schools attention that you and Toby Selmer where in a fist fight. His injuries are extensive and he has since been hospitalized and his parents are considering pressing charges. What do you have to say about it?"

"Firstly it's none of the schools business nor jurisdiction as it took place after school and off of school grounds. Secondly he was the one to initiate the fight and I didn't even retaliate until he had hit me multiple times," I explained in a calm and even tone.

"You broke his nose, jaw, and ribs," she stated bluntly.

"I feared for my own well being and was defending myself."

"According to various testimonies you kicked him when he was on the ground," she said in the same tone.

"He is much larger than me and I was afraid he might get up and harm me."

"Conor you know as well as I do that you did this with malicious intent."

"No… he antagonized me, assaulted me, and I defended myself."

"Miss. _, Mr. _, what do you have to say about this?" she asked looking to them for support.

Sherry didn't answer, as she had looked shocked and pale ever since his injuries where listed out. Ellis answered instead and said, "We've already spoken to him about this and he told us all about it yesterday. We also had someone else corroborate it, he didn't initiate any of these events and while the fight may have been very violent it doesn't mean he is in anyway to blame or at fault in any of this."

She looked pissed off now and said in a dark tone, "that is all, you may leave now."

The next couple of months passed by uneventfully. Sherry realized I owned nothing when it came to clothes and forced me to go shopping (hitting up every thrift store in a 200-kilometre radius instead of just buying from a regular store and effectively saving hours of time), Orion gave me contemptuous looks as often as possible, my classmates kept as far away from me as possible, the 'cool' kids continuously made disparaging remarks about me but quivered in their shoes when I walked by, the rest of the hippie freaks realized I was an asshole and kept as little contact with me as possible, Celeste remained the only person I actually liked to be around, and I made a shit load of wire sculptures. I suppose I lied… the next couple of months didn't pass by wholly uneventfully. My nightmares had started coming back, they usually where only a once in a while thing but now I get one at least four times a week.

I awoke in a cold sweat and took a few deep breaths before sitting up and standing on shaky legs. God it was too vivid, too real. I don't even know if these can be called nightmares; flashbacks is a better description. I went to the bathroom to take a cold shower as sleep would be an impossibility now and proceeded to get ready for the day. It was still dark as I went about doing my chores for the day and then I spent the rest of it reading. Eventually it finally got time to leave for school and I went over to the vehicle area. I was the first one out as per usual and I stood around trying to keep my thoughts from straying towards anything other than the mundane. Eventually everyone emerged from their houses, Celeste gave me her customary nod, and we drove to school.

Throughout the day I couldn't help but be paranoid, in fact my paranoia has been increasing a lot lately. But then again I shouldn't think of that as bad; paranoia is healthy. Paranoia is what keeps you alive; it keeps you from getting too wrapped up in a false sense of security. It wasn't until English class however that things strayed from the usual mundane. We had this student teacher that started a couple of weeks ago, she was way too enthusiastic for my tastes. As if anyone gives a fuck about adverbs… hell I'm not even sure I know what an adverb is. I was writing in my notebook when I felt a niggling presence behind me. I cautiously turned around only to see the student teacher reading over my shoulder. "Leave my personal space," I quietly said sitting as far away as my desk would accommodate. What the fuck does she want? And why the fuck is she standing so close?

"I'm not in your personal space, I'm just trying to read what you have there," she said in an overly friendly tone while further leaning in to read the paper I had pulled away. What the fuck is her problem? What the fuck does she want? What is her fucking angle here and why won't she leave me alone? God why is she leaning even closer? Why the fuck is she doing this? What the fuck does she want from me? I took a deep breath and tried to count to ten… I need to control this emotion. But then she leaned in even closer and actually slid my paper nearer her and extended her arm over my desk.

"Get out of my personal space!" I exclaimed rising to my feet and clutching my pencil in my hands.
"Whoa… settle down there," she said setting a hand on my shoulder.

"Get away!" I screamed passionately and then I stabbed her in the stomach with my pencil. My breathing became even more erratic and I immediately backed away.

Her face contorted in pain and shock and before I could even comprehend anything Mr. O'Neil came up to me and said in a menacing and angry tone, "go to the office this very instant!"

Mutely nodding I gathered my books and meandered to the office. I was told to sit in the conference room until my 'parents' could be reached. I couldn't help but think about what I did… I just stabbed someone with a fucking pencil. If I wasn't a certified psychopath before I certainly am now. But why did she have to touch me? Why couldn't she just leave me alone? Why must everyone get in my personal space? Why does everyone derive some kind of sick pleasure from coming closer when I say back away? I know I shouldn't be able to justify it… I know I just stabbed her and probably obliterated her gallbladder… but she didn't go away when I told her to… twice… in fact she just came closer and closer. She fucking deserves what happened to her; maybe next time she'll actually respect the personal space of others.

About an hour later Sherry opened the door to the conference room and said, "grab your things, we're leaving."

"I have everything," I mumbled pocketing my iPod. We then made our way to the rust coloured car and she angrily slammed her door shut.

She sped down the road clearly enraged and as soon as we where on the highway she angrily flicked off the stereo and said, "what the fuck was that all about? You stabbed your fucking teacher." I shrugged and didn't bother replying she isn't going to want to hear the answer anyways. "What kind of answer is that? You better start fucking explaining this shit. What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you actually think its appropriate to stab people?" she angrily ranted. "Fucking answer me."

"I-I didn't mean to… she just… she just kept coming closer and-and I… she wouldn't fucking move, she wouldn't fucking move! And then she just came closer and closer and I don't know… I just acted on instinct," I quietly explained hating myself for fucking stuttering and jumbling up my words, what a pathetic sign of weakness.

She let out a heavy sigh and finally said, "we'll talk about this later." The rest of the ride was silent and I immediately barricaded myself in my bedroom. I threw some background music on and wondered where I'd get sent to. I'm obviously done here… hopefully it'll be in a big city or something.

I didn't leave my room until it was late in the evening and nobody made any attempt to get me. Once I was certain Sherry was asleep was when I finally left. I poked around in the fridge and was surprised that she made enough supper for me too.