"Our Deer Fatter," said the preacher, "We ask askingly that Thou shalt smite the evil sinnars into hell, and bless us, Your good peeplhole."

About time, thought Hugo. Service was finally over. As he was about to stand up, however, the pastor continued.

"Before we leave today, we wood like to invite three new people into our loving, Chirsten community."

Hugo sighed and looked up. He definitely didn't envy the newbies-after three years of trying to escape this town, he couldn't see whyanyonewould join it voluntarily. He looked up at the pulpit, where the newcomers were receiving blessings. The first was middle-aged man, about six-foot-two, with thinning, blond hair and pale blue eyes. The second was a tiny woman about the same age as the man who must be her husband, with light brown hair and green eyes. The third person, probably their son-woah.

Hugo blinked a few times, trying to make sure he was seeing the boy correctly. Hugo didn't often care much about looks, butwow.The boy was about Hugo's age, but tall, with sandy blond hair that hung over eyes of the deepest blue Hugo had ever seen. They reminded him of the ocean on a sunny day back when he and his mother had lived in Santa Cruz, California. They'd spent many sunny days at the boardwalk, or just walking along the beach, enjoying the sunshine. But that was before, Hugo reflected bitterly. Before she'd lost her job at the university. Before she'd met James Holden and, desperate for money, agreed to marry him. Before she'd contracted Lukemia and died, leaving the then-thirteen Hugo stranded in Forks, Washington with James and his daughter, Mary.. In the two years since she'd died, the hole she'd left had only gotten wider and more painful.

"Partake of the holy wine of Our Lord Jeezus," the pastor-Hugo tried to think of him asmy stepfatheras little as possible-was saying. The family took turns drinking from the cup of communion remembered when he and his mother had done this, though Hugo had been given grape juice, being only twelve at the time.

After the three had sipped the wine, the parishioners were freed. Hugo waited by the door, hoping to be the first to meet the new boy. If, say, Carlisle or-heaven forbid-Erin got to him first, he was doomed. Most of the kids here had lived here their entire lives and figured all branches of Christianity were as cultlike and insane as theirs. They'd nearly murdered Hugo when he'd first moved here and, still being naive to the ways of the town, confided in them that he didn't believe in God. Since then, he'd "seen the light" and "converted to their insane branch of Christianity.

Anyway, he didn't want something like that happening to the new boy, and was relieved when the gorgeous blond walked out alone.

"Hi," said Hugo, walking up to greet the boy. "So, you're new here?"

"Yeah," the boy replied. He held out his hand to Hugo. "I'm Brian Hannel."

Hugo took Brian's hand and shook it. It was rough, like he'd done a lot of handiwork. "Hugo Smith-Holden," Hugo replied.

"Are you related to the pastor, then?" asked Brian.

"Well, he's my stepfather," Hugo explained. The two were heading up the little lane where the church sat, towards Main Street. "So, what did you think of the service?"

Brian didn't meet Hugo's eye as he said, "Well, it was… very different from any other service I've been to." Hugo almost laughed out loud at the understatement. He looked around to make sure no one was around before turning to Brian confidentially.

"I hate them, myself," he said, quietly.

"Really?" Brian looked both relieved adn bemused. "Why do you go then? Because of your stepfather?"

"Well…" despite its being the reason he'd wanted to talk to the new boy, Hugo wasn't exactly looking forward to explaining Forks life to Brian. "...Partially. See, in Forks… Church attendance is kind of required. Let's just say it's a very,veryreligious town." Brian nodded.

"I see," was all he said.

The boys had reached Main Street now. "Want me to give you the grand tour?" asked Hugo.

"Sure," Brian replied.

"Well, this is pretty much the whole town. That-" he pointed to a side street leading off the main road- "leads to the school-it's a K-12; we hardly have enough kids to fill even that. And that right there is the bookstore-they do carry more than just Bibles, thankfully, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anything by Philip Pullman in there-and that," he gestured towards the largest building on the street, "is the General Store. Their slogan is 'Everything from crosses to candy.'"

Brian looked around, amused. "It's a very cute town," he said finally.

Hugo chuckled. "Hopefully you'll still think so once you've been here a while. Speaking of which, I don't mean to pry, but whyareyou here?Almost nobody actually moves here."

Brian looked uncomfortable. "Well, my dad got this job that, uh, is around here," he said, staring at his shoes.

Hugo understood. Brian's dad had probably lost his job, just as Hugo's mother had, and Forks was the only place with a house they could afford-the housing market in the tiny religious town wasn't exactly skyrocketing.

"I see," he said. "Well, I have to go soon. James-the pastor-doesn't like me staying out too late. Want to meet up before school tomorrow, and I can show you where your classes are?"

Brian looked back up. "Sure," he said, "though if the school is as small as the town, I think I should be all right." He flashed a grin that Hugo couldn't help returning shyly.

"Okay. Well, see you around, then," he said, turning to walk home.

As soon as he had rounded a bend and was out of Brian's sight, he jumped up and down a few times in happiness. Somebody in this town with an ounce of sanity! Who was willing to hang out with Hugo! And who-Hugo couldn't deny it-was really,reallycute. He headed back to his house, a bounce in his step that hadn't been there for two years.


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