Casey Jones knew she wouldn't hug her mom. Not in the school parking lot.
She would be standing beside her friends, and the upperclassmen would be walking by.
Her mom knew it, too. So Cindy Boles snatched a quick snuggle from her daughter as the two stood in the family's living room Monday morning.
On the first day of high school, goodbye hugs happen at home, if they happen at all.
Casey joined 23,479 pupils who went back to school Monday in Aiken County.
"I believe I'm more nervous than they are," Mrs. Boles said of Casey, a freshman at Silver Bluff High School, and Taylor Boles, a third-grader at Greendale Elementary School.
"Does my hair look OK?" Casey asked.
It was 7 a.m. Casey had been up since 5.
"I probably got up too early," she said, teasing the family's cat, Lucky, with her finger. "I feel like it."
By 6:30 a.m., her brand-new white sneakers were laced to perfection, her blond curls were dry and her lips shined with pink gloss.
Casey didn't eat breakfast, saying it makes her feel sick. Instead she fed her frog, Big Bertha, a cricket and listened to a compact disc by her favorite band, Creed.
During the ride to Silver Bluff High, Casey, 14, clutched her schedule. The paper's creases were worn from days of unfolding and folding it for her friends.
"It's going to be confusing," Casey said. "One hall is even numbers; one hall is odd numbers."
At the end of the day, Casey said the worst part was walking through the crowded hallways.
"I only got lost once," she said.
Mrs. Boles drove past New Ellenton Middle School on the way to the high school. Casey finished the eighth grade there in May.
"Those kids are going to have a boring year without us," Casey said.
She is on to bigger things. She will play the flute in the Bulldogs' marching band and focus on keeping good grades for admission to college. She wants to be a forensic scientist.
So far she has never missed a day of school.
Aiken County schools Superintendent Linda Eldridge said the first day was smooth and positive.
"Everywhere I've been I've seen smiling faces and students already at work," Dr. Eldridge said.
Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.