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1 Lacey

    So my parents thought it'd be this amazing idea to have this back to school extravaganza the weekend before school starts. They even were so hospitable as to invite the family that moved in behind us a month ago.
    I know they have a little girl and a son who my parents say is my age and who Joy said was hot while I rolled my eyes.
    My room is in the back of the house upstairs so I can look down into the yard. They've got lanterns strewn about, there's a speaker in every corner of the yard serenading them all in smooth jazz and threatening to put me to sleep. I grab my flask and quietly open my door.
    No one's in the hallway so I slide out of my room.
    "Where are you going?"
    I turn to my sister, hiding the flask behind my back, under my sweater.
    "What're you hiding?"
    "Nothing," I say with some edge.
    She approaches me. Isadora and I look nothing alike. My hair is wild and brown, hers is limp and blond. She has milky white skin while mine is golden and tan. My eyes are slanted, hers are round. I was the only one with dimples. The only thing I had in common with my family was the green eyes.
    Things had changed since they told me last year that I was adopted. I started to notice all the differences. So I started to act the part; different. 
    I'd stopped listening to them. I started acting out, I guess. I started partying, drinking. And worst of all, I stopped dancing.
    Then at the end of the school year, my best friend told me he was moving away. That was the last straw.
Joy reaches behind my back and snatches the flask.

    "What do you think you're doing?" she hisses. "You have to stop this."
    "Keep it." I walk around her."
    "You're not allowed out. You're grounded, remember?"
    "I remember," I say going down the stairs.
    "Is it really that bad knowing that you're adopted?"
    "Don't be so dramatic!" I holler going out the door.
    I get into my car in the driveway and Dominic is already sitting in the passenger seat. His camo pants stand out against his black Jordans and t-shirt. Earrings shine against his dark skin. I see his smile in the gradual night fall.
    "Hey, stranger."
    "What're you doing here?" I ask reaching under my seat.
    "Come on, Lace. How many times do I have to apologize?"
    "You have nothing to be sorry for. Your parents are moved you away."
    "Then why have you been avoiding me for the past three months?"
    "Why hold on to you just to say goodbye at the last minute? It was hard but easier to imagine you already gone."
    "I fought with my parents to at least give us the summer. When the realized we weren't talking, we moved."
    "So what are you doing here then?"
    "I came to say goodbye in person. Plus, I thought we should talk. I heard from some friends-
    "And Linc."
    "And Linc, that you were having a rough Summer."
    "My Summer's been great."
    I take a long drink from the flask that was under my seat.
    "Partying, drinking, sneaking out...drinking? That's not you, Lace."
    I get out of the car and go lean on the hood. I take another drink as he gets out of the car.
    "What're you running from?"
    "You're no longer privy to that type of sensitive information."
    "I want to stay in touch. We can still go to college together like we always planned."
    "Since you've been hearing about me, you must know that I've stopped dancing."
    "Yeah and I'm really disappointed."
    I shrug and take another drink. He snatches it from my lips and empties the remaining contents.
    "Don't do this to yourself, Lacey. You're better than this. Being adopted doesn't change you. What you do with the knowledge of your adoption is what matters."
    "Shut up, Dom. You sound like everyone else. That's how I know this is over! Whatever it ever was," I add under my breath.
    When he doesn't say anything, I grab his shirt and push him without letting go.
    "Give me the flask and leave me alone."
    He slowly returns it to me and I get back in the car. He follows unfortunately.
    "Please, talk to me. I didn't want to believe my friends or Lincoln. I don't like seeing you like this."
    I would love nothing more than to talk to Dominic but I don't see any real reason. He's leaving again and I, at the very least, will feel alone again.
    I reach for the glove compartment where I've stashed yet another flask. He gets it  before I can and I literally climb over into his seat reaching for it. I look at him and he's already staring into my eyes.
    He presses his lips to mine, his left hand resting in the curve of my side. When I don't resist, he kisses on. I rest my arms around his neck and allow myself to be pulled in. He drops the flask and places his other arm around my waist. I feel his left hand touch my butt and pull away.
    "This is what I wanted this summer. We always thought we'd have time to be together and now I live on the other side of the country. I wanted us to be together."
    "Why didn’t you say anything?"
    "You were doing a really good job of ignoring me."
    "I mean before this Summer."
    He shrugs, "I don't know. You've always been so careful, I never thought you'd want to risk it."
    I start to move off of his lap and back into the driver seat but he holds me there.
    "I've always loved you, Lacey. We're good together, right?"
    "We are but this is the worst time to tell me this. I'm already crashing and burning."
    "Then let me save you."
    I let my head fall into his shoulder and his arms tighten around me.
    I don't know how long we sit like that. All I know is that the door opens.
    "Hi, Mr. Benjamin."
    "Hello, Dominic. What's going on here?"
    "Nothing. Just saying goodbye."
    "She's grounded."
    "I haven't gone anywhere, Dad. Geez."
    "I don't want to hear it, lady."
    "Go away."
    "Alright. That's enough. Inside. Now!"
    "Meet me in my room," I whisper to Jeremy.
    I get out of the car and head inside.
    "I'm just going to sneak back out. I don't know why you bother."
    "Because I love you," he says.
    Dominic's in my room before I get there. He's on his back in my bed and it brings back memories. We used to hung out in my room all the time but when we turned thirteen, my parents put a stop to that.
    So I started sneaking him in. Sometimes he'd even spend the night. I just never thought much of it because we were friends. There are some great memories of us in this room.
    "What's wrong?"
    I shake my head, "Just remembering."
    He stands and pushes my hair out of my face.
    "I'm sorry, Lace."
    I lean into him, picking up where we left off in the car. His hand finds its way under my sweater and he runs his hand along my back. I move back.
    "Don't worry. I just wanted to touch you. I always imagined that you had soft skin. Now I know."
    We sit on my bed and as soon as his lips touch mine again, my bedroom door flies open.
    "I'm going to kill you, Lincoln."
    My little brother is sixteen. He's blond like Joy with a buzz cut because he plays football. His green eyes shine through the darkness. His 5'10 frame fills my doorway and the way the light struggles to get around him, he looks completely ominous.
    "Since when are-
    "We're not."
    "So what do you call-
    He narrows his eyes at me.
    "Do you have my iPod?"
    I pull it out of my boot and hand it to him.
    "You know I hate when you do that. And the only reason you have my iPod, usually, is when-
    "Wishful thinking."
    "You're right."
    He eyes Dominic before leaving and closing my door behind him.
    "Maybe I should go," Dominic says.
    "Yeah. Good idea."
    He presses his lips to mine.
    "Keep in touch?"
    I watch him leave and sit on my bed.
    "You okay?" Linc asks ducking his head in.
    "Yeah. Thanks."
    "You know I love you, right?"
    I chuckle, "Yes, little brother. I love you too."
    He smiles and closes my door.
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2 Lacey

     Linc washed my car last night so he's looking especially shiny. Unfortunately for Linc, he has to slide in the back.     
    We go to a good school with multiple buildings, good classroom sizes and good teachers. They offer unorthodox programs and electives. The lunches are good. They try to keep things interesting.
     Everyone's flooding in when I park. Izzy practically hops out before the car stops moving.
     "Crazy chick."
     Once I've actually stopped moving, Lincoln slides out of the back seat.
     I have yet to get my schedule so I go inside to the office and have them print it out for me.
     "I think there's been a mistake."
     "What do you mean?" the office lady asks.
     "I've got Advanced Dance here."
     "That's no mistake."
     I turn to see a woman looking at the mail from her box. This woman shares my complexion and hair color. She's shaped like me almost to the tee.
     "Who are you?"
     "I'm Elizabeth Nightingale, the new Advanced Dance instructor."
     I raise an eyebrow. "What happened to Ms. Phillips?"
     "She moved on," the office lady inserts.
     I turn back to the new lady. She looks familiar.
     "Do I know you?"
     "I don't know. Are you a serious dancer, Lacey?"
     My eyebrow furrows this time. "What?"
     "Well, are you?"
     "Not anymore."
     "Which is why I requested you in my class."
     "Who are you?!" I inquire, indignant.
     "Lower your voice, Miss Benjamin. You know who I am and I know who you are. You are a talented young ballerina who has all the potential in the world but is too stupid to appreciate that. You're a natural who understands that she still must work hard.
     "You're the girl all the others hate because you're so much better with so little effort but they hate you even more because you still drive yourself. You don't let yourself relax just because it's so easy.
     "I've heard about you regardless of how little you think you are. You're a dance prodigy whose capabilities branch outside of your chosen craft. You do ballet but you can dance any style. I can see it in your lifts, in your bounce but most of all, in your joy."
     We eye each other for a moment longer.
     "I gotta go."
     "Afraid I'm right?"
     "More like afraid you're in love with me."
     "Lacey Benjamin!"
     "It's alright, Ms. Turner. She's entitled."
     At my locker, I see the boy who moved in behind me. His locker is right next to mine. I roll my eyes. Izzy was right about one thing, he's smoking. He looks like he walked right out of a modern day Outsiders movie.
     His jeans are dark blue straight leg and lead down into stylish distressed combat boots. He's got on a black t-shirt that says "Black Shirt" in grey letters and there some other writing on it. That's covered up by a dark blue jean jacket with the sleeves rolled up slightly. And he wears his oily black hair like Josh Duhamel in Safe Haven.
     "Why do I get the feeling you've been avoiding me?" he suddenly asks.
     "Why do I get the feeling I don't care?"
     "I didn't peg you for a sharp tongue."
     "I didn't peg you at all."
     I hear him laugh and I have to suppress my smile.
     "That your brother's car that sits in front of your house?"
     "That car is none of your business."
     "Hey, Lacey!"
     I don't even have to turn. I know the voice belongs to Jonathan. Outsiders catches my eye and I go back to my locker. I then feel someone invading my personal space and now Outsiders is standing right next to me, intense green eyes I hadn't noticed before trained on me.
     "What're you-
     "What's up, Lace?"
     Jonathan is now on the other side of me.
     "Just talking to my friend," I answer placing a hand on Outsiders' chest.
     Outsiders' eyebrows go up and I shoot him a "shut up" with my eyes.
     "Oh. Am I interrupting something?"
     "Yeah, dude," Outsiders answers.
     "Who are you?" Jonathan asks.
     "I'm her 'friend'," he implies.
     "So fast after Dominic?"
     "Dominic and I weren't a couple. He was my best friend, jerk!"
     I slam my locker and walk away.
     "Stay away from her," I overhear Outsiders say.
     A locker closes and he catches up to me.
     "Why'd you do that?"
     "We're neighbors."
     "I guess."
     "So...have you been avoiding me?"
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3 Liam

    That was my first time really seeing Lacey. Isadora had come over with her mother to welcome us to the neighborhood and she was really friendly. I could tell she thought I was appealing but she wasn't my type. Later on, I'd met Lincoln when we were both in our separate back yards and I saw him kicking a soccer ball around. We got to talking and I found out that he played football but was interested in soccer now too. He's an interesting kid.
    Lacey was the only one who'd I'd seen from afar. I'd see her coming or going. I normally wouldn't care but her sister was so sociable and her brother was friendly. She seemed like the complete opposite. I'd seen her sneaking out a few times. I knew she drank because she had a stash in the tool shed in their backyard.
    There wasn't much to do in this thoroughly suburban town so I had nothing but time on my hands and I'd creepily spent it watching her. I found her fascinating. She didn't quite seem like she fit her family. Bubbly mother with an equally bubbly blond daughter. Solid dad with an equally solid son who was just as blond.
    Then there was the dark haired, freckle faced trouble maker with the gnarly car and attitude. Her family was tan over time whereas she was more of a natural golden color, the freckles lightly powdered across her face, eyes a hazel green and lips pinker than pink itself.
    I wanted to know more.
    "Thanks for the save, Outsiders."
    I have to laugh at that.
    "No problem. My parents call me Liam."
    "Good for them."
    She's funny.
    "Look, really, I'm grateful for the save but I can handle Jonathan. You don't have to hover."
    "Are you trying to get rid of me?"
    "Because I'm not looking for friends."
    "We might run in the same crowd."
    "That can't be considering the crowd I associate myself with has a total membership of one and she is accounted for."
    "Nice to meet you, Outsiders. Nice knowing you, Liam."
    I watch her disappear down the hall as my phone rings.
    "What's up, Matt?"
    "Just wanted to wish you good luck on your first day at your new school."
    "What am I? 12?"
    I hear him sigh, "Are you going to go out for soccer?"
    "Of course. It's the only thing that doesn't change."
    "Try to stay out of trouble, alright?"
    "What's that supposed to mean?"
    "No. Say it!"
    "You know you have the tendency to start slacking then your grades slip. You sneak out of the house. I swear, I don't know how you get away with the things you do. Just give our folks a break for a year and act like you have some sense."
    "Screw you, Matthew!"
    I hang up. If he weren't related to me and didn't get such great seats at the Republic games, I'd hate him. Openly!
This school is typical. Happy principal. Usual cliques. Decent teams. Same jerks. Some kid bigger than me bumps my shoulder and when I don't budge, he looks at me.
    "Watch it, dillweed."
    "Upset because you aren't as strong as you thought you were?"
    "I'll show you strength."
    "Josh! Get to class."
    A dark haired older guy eyes us both but Josh takes his advice right away, not looking at me twice.
    "You too, kid," he says to me.
    My eyebrows move even lower on my face as I turn back into the stream. Already I'm on someone's radar. Wonderful.
I tolerate my first three classes then it's on to gym. The dark haired guy from the hallway is here.
    "Alright everyone, lets settle down."
    Once the crowd is silent, he speaks again.
    "Looks like I'll be running gym this year so in other words, the curriculum will revolve around soccer."
    Some high fives are shared. I just feel a smile touch my lips.
    "You can either get dressed or not but I expect you guys to at least pretend to participate today, alright?"
    I decide against getting dressed. It's the first day and I doubt anyone's going to get any games going.
About fifteen minutes into gym, the games get serious. I’m sweating in a shirt I have to be in all day and I don’t regret it at all. I can tell these guys I'm playing with are on the school’s team. I got picked up by some red headed nice guy. He saw me dribbling a ball a bit and asked me to be on his team. This kid can play; all of them can but so can I.
    When class is over, the red head approaches me.
    “You’re really good!”
    “Name’s Jasper.”
    “You going out for the team?”
    “We were this close last year. I’m confident that with a striker like you on the team, we’d go all the way.”
    “What makes you think I’m a striker?”
    “Yeah, right. You dribble better than anyone I’ve ever seen in high school and you were shredding Josh and he’s one of the best defenders in state.”
    “Well, he’s not one of the best in Ireland.”
    “You coming from the UK?”
    “We’ve lived in the US for almost two years but I’m still pretty fresh out of Ireland.”
    “No wonder you’re so good.”
    “Yeah. We’re big Republic fans in my house. That’s how Da raised us.”
    The bell rings and we leave gym together. Lacey catches my eye as she leaves the gym as well. I don’t realize I’m smiling until she rolls her eyes.
    “You looked good out there, tiger.”
    Something about her calling me "tiger" just makes me feel so happy.
    I watch her continue in the opposite direction up the hallway.
    “You like trouble,” Jasper says. “Come on, mate. You’re gonna be late for class.”
    But my eyes don’t leave Lacey’s back until she turns the corner out of my site.
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