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Chapter 1

It was supposed to be a trip to the Grand Canyon, a trip I didn’t want to take In the rees in the desert--there’s no way I could survive that and two days in the car with my dad and the Step on enta with black streaks or black withon your perspective My tattoos--a Celtic armband, a daisy chain on my ankle, and a heart somewhere the Stepmonster will never see And what a bad influence I am on Billy, my half brother--who’s only a baby for Chrissakes, and who probably thinks my tattoos are cartoons if he even notices them

On top of it all, it was Labor Day weekend, the last days of freedouitar in this band, Clod, and ere supposed to be in this Indian Summer music festival in Olympia with a bunch of really serious bands, the kind with record contracts It was the best gig we’d ever gotten and a giant step up from the house parties and cafés we usually played Of course, Stepet that She thinks punk rock is so in the basee his baby soul Now I can only practice in Jed’s basement, which Stepasp--with a bunch of people, none of whom are his parents

So, I politely declined Okay, maybe not so politely Maybe lass," which only caused her to flounce off to Dad, who asked me in that weary way of his why I’d been so rude I told his like e of his nose and said it wasn’t up for discussion We were going as a faive up that easily I tried allNone of it worked Stepmonster refused to discuss it, so it was just rief, so I had to give in

I broke the news to my band Erik, our stoner of a drummer, was just like, "Dude, bummer," but Denise and Jed were really upset "We’ve worked so hard--you’ve worked so hard," Jed said, totally breaking o I didn’t know a C chord fro, or should have been Clod would be playing the Indian Summer Festival as a trio I was coh it was kind of nice that Jed see was fishy when that Fridayup the turd-mobile, the hideous brown minivan Stepmonster insisted they buy when Billy was born Meanwhile, Stepmonster and Billy were nowhere to be found

"God, she’s always late You know it’s a form of control?"

"Thank you for the psychoanalysis, Brit, but yourwith us"

"She’s not my mom, and what’s the deal? You said it was a fao, had to "

"It is a fa my suitcase into the back "But two days in a car is tooto fly down anday fishy e approached Las Vegas and Dad suggested we stop Back when Mo we’d do Juas or San Francisco I re a heat hen none of us could sleep; at one in the s into the car and drove into the es since Dad had been cool like that The Stepmonster had him convinced that spontaneity equaled irresponsibility

Dad bought io and even smiled a little when I made fun of some of the fanny-packed tourists Then ent to a cheesy casino don He said no one would care that I was only sixteen and he gaveinto the slotup to be not so bad after all But when I spied Dad watchingthat he looked, well, empty, like someone had taken a vacuu He didn’t even get excited when I won thirty-five bucks, and he insisted on pocketing theI didn’t notice Idiot- fun with the Dad I’d been as, he turned quiet and broody, just like he was after everything happened with Mo wheel hard, and the whole thing was just so weird and perplexing I got a little preoccupied with trying to figure out as up with hi east toward the Grand Canyon, but had turned north into Utah All I saw out the as rust-colored clay cliffs, and they seeh to me When we pulled off at soured ere stopping for the night at another lance Red Rock Academy looked like soe stucco building Except Red Rock was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, there was no pool, and the yard was filled with piles of dusty cinder blocks instead of trees To top it off, there were two freakishly rounds

"What is this?" I asked Dad, s now

"It’s just a school I want us to take a look at"

"What, like a college? Aren’t we ju junior year"

"No, it’s not a college,school"

"For who?"

"For you"

"You want to sendyou anywhere We’ll just have a look"

"What for? I’ school next week, my school, back ho so well back at your school"

"A couple of C’s Big deal, Dad It’s not the apocalypse"