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The unseen foot snagged my ankle, and I went down in a heap on the dirt street. Books went flying, sending small clouds of dust into the air when they landed. I scrambled to retrieve them before somebody else decided to relieve me of the burden. I had no idea of whose foot had caught me, or whether it was an accident or deliberate. And I didn't care. The only thing I wanted was to get home as quickly as I could and forget about school for a few hours.

That wasn't about to happen.

As I reached for my last book, a boot came down on top of it, pinning the pages to the ground. Startled, I jerked my hand back and looked up from the ground to the owner of the foot. Had I been standing, I no doubt would have looked down at him - I've always been tall, even if I was a bit scrawny at that time - but crouched as I was, he made for an imposing figure.

"Hey, Dirtface," he said with a crooked smile on his face.

"Dirtface? What-" My question was interrupted as another foot caught me between the shoulder blades. My books went flying yet again, and I sprawled in the street, the weight on my back grinding my face into the dirt.

"Good one, Ro," the voice from above me said. "Dirtface, ha." He stepped a little harder as if to make his point. From the weaselly tone, it had to be Fen, Ro's most frequent accomplice.

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