Angela woke to the sound of the running in her own mind. She rolled over and looked at the alarm clock. The digital display blazed red with two sideways dots that blinked like a cheap neon sign. Five oíclock in the morning. It was an alarm clock, but Angela didnít bother to set the alarm for school any more. She was waking up earlier and earlier and going to bed at eight or nine in the evening. Her life was slowly wrapping around the night to better suit her desire to be alone.

She reached out from under he covers and grabbed her favorite blue and gray cotton bathrobe off of the chair nearby. It was a huge robe, meant for an adult man (a big adult man), but Angela loved it because its size made her feel smaller, thinner. Wearing it, she didnít feel so guilty about eating two bowls of Captain Crunch cereal an hour before her mother would wake up and feed her bacon and eggs for breakfast.

The early morning was the only time Angela could really concentrate on her homework. Normally she raced through her assignments in the class just before the one where they were due, but lately she had realized that when she woke up and had time to waste, she didnít mind so much wasting it on math problems and English essays.

Long ago she had come to terms with the fact that it was impossible for her to study in the evening. After dinner, when it got dark outside, her brain ceased all ability to focus on anything visceral. Words and pictures made her weary and she could not read, could not even watch a video without falling asleep soon after starting. Then, somewhere around two or three in the morning she would wake up in whatever chair she was in, and she inevitably would be twisted in some odd position with either a stiff neck or back, or else one or more of her limbs would have lost circulation and commence to sting with electric pain as the blood slowly revived her ability to control her crushed muscles.

After her classes there were simply too many distractions for her to think about homework. This was her time. When the school day was done Angela walked the streets of the neighborhood and tried to decide what kind of house she would like to live in, grow old in. She thought that with the perfect home it wouldnít matter if she was fat and ugly and had no family to share it with. She had no doubt that in the future she would be able to afford whatever residence she wanted. Somehow she knew that she would be some kind of success, either a famous writer or researcher or professor. She was miles ahead of her classmates in terms of pure knowledge about certain matters.

Every day she tried to read something challenging, to learn something new. She did not want anyone to mention something she did not know about or hadnít heard of before. She filled spiral notebooks with facts she collected about the world, and then she sorted her notes into computer files and filled folders and drives with all the information she had accumulated. She worked on her personal projects just before dinner, and all weekend long. The only thing that worried her was her inability to read in the evening without a great weariness descending on her, engulfing her in sleep with hardly any warning, robbing her of huge chunks of her precious time.

But now it was morning again and she wanted to get her crap assignments out of the way so that she could get back to reading about Ethan Allenís capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. She had formed a love of the history of the battles of the Revolution, and was reading everything she could get her hands on that dealt with the subject. No one else seemed very interested in this war other than a few stupid propaganda Disney films they showed in the public schools. Angela was captivated by the fight of the American underdogs at the only time in U.S. history when they really were underdogs. Politics didnít mean anything to her at all; she could care less about the global ramifications and shifts in political ideologies. She only wanted to witness the passion of the men that died fighting a seemingly unbeatable foe, a British redcoat so proud and formal that he would clutch at the neck of the rest of the world, draining his victimís lifeblood into his own cofferís while holding the flailing body at arms length so as not to mess up his uniform.

Slowly but surely Angelaís morning peace was broken as the rest of the household woke up and invaded all the spaces of the house with the noise of getting ready for work and school. Before she knew it her mother was in the kitchen, banging the pots and pans as if in a makeshift one-man band and making the dishes in the sink sound like a re-enactment of the sinking of the Titanic. Angela closed her book and slid off the living room couch in an attempt to creep back to her bedroom, but between her and the doorway to the hall was her eight-year old brother Nick. He was dragging behind him the cheap acoustic guitar their parents had bought him at the pawn shop in a fit of insanity.

"Angie, you got to help me write a song." Nick was not about to let her get around him, and he swung his guitar around to hold out in front of him and better block her way. "Iím ready to start my band Bleeding Spleens and I need a song. Every band has a song. Itís not a real band without a song." Half of Nickís dark brown hair was standing on end, and the other half was plastered down like a Jerry Lewis bowl cut. It looked like he hadnít showered in a week, though Angela was well aware that her mother made a point of shoving him into a bathtub at every opportunity, only to throw up her hands when he emerged like a clean Pigpen from the bathroom and immediately commenced to roll in his own filth.

"Ummm, donít you have to get ready for school?" Angela leaned over and smiled her biggest get-out-of-my-way-or-Iíll-eat-you-for-breakfast smile, but that only prompted him to drop the instrument and jump onto her neck and instigate some kind of primitive judo hold that she was certain some sadistic elementary school teacher had taught him in a fit of evil. Her reflexes kicked in and soon she was holding him upside-down by his ankles as his face turned various shades of red as he alternated screaming and laughing.

"Whoa, itís a little too early to be making so much noise, you two." Her father was stand in the doorway, sporting a fresh coat of shaving cream and holding his Track Two safety razor menacingly. "Angie, I think you had better put your brother down before we all go deaf."

She merely shrugged and tossed Nick onto the couch. "Excuse me," she said, in an effort to get around the half-naked Hulk-sized figure blocking her way. He glared at her, but she imagined a touch of sadness behind the white foam. In her mind he wanted some recognition of - if not a familial bond - at least his status of a human being as opposed to merely an obstacle in her path. But in his face was only the anger of shavingus interruptus followed by a rather dumb look of surprise that she didnít have more to say to her own father.

"And a good morning to you too." He turned, glacier like, and proceeded to start back towards the main bathroom from whence he came, which gave her brother just enough time to jump on her back and knock her down. She could not help but use Nickís cheap Harmony guitar to cushion her fall, subsequently smashing the little wooden instrument completely flat.