Nicole Cariola was an intelligent girl by anyone's standards. Her love of learning, coupled with an encyclopedic knowledge base, made school and testing easy for her. Her teachers loved her, her classmates respected her, and the administration kept an interested eye on her. Top of her class repeatedly, and never a boast, Nicole Cariola had a lot of people expecting her to do some big things.
Nik's definition of big things and theirs were very different.
Nik wanted to be somebody nobody knew about. Nik wanted to be like her brother, be a con artist. There was something about the thrill of using one's own skills to trick people out of their money that got her heart pumping. The danger, the challenge, the flush of victory. She'd experienced all this secondhand, in Jazz's shadow. She was ready to be in the spotlight for once. She wanted to stare down some rich old codger and take his money with a smile on her face. She wanted to engineer plans that baffled lesser minds than hers. She wanted to be somebody in the seedy, underground world of con artists.
But all of that would have to wait until Algebra was finished.
Nik sat near the front of the room. Not the front row; that was for brown-nosers and chatterboxes. Nik sat two rows back, close enough to miss nothing and far back enough that she wasn't a prime candidate for getting called on. She lounged idly, her left hand jotting down notes and figures absentmindedly while her right hand embellished her calligraphic "N". Ambidexterity was a useful talent during math classes. Still, Algebra was the one subject where she felt that she needed to devote at least some attention to the class. You could memorize facts for other classes; math was a practical endeavor. If she didn't do problems, she'd never get better at math. and math was the one subject that she felt would be useful to her in her planned career.
When there came a lull in the form of another girl asking for an explanation, Nik rested her left hand while beginning a new doodle with her right. She'd never had much talent for art; it wasn't something you could learn from a book, and she didn't have patience for something with no tangible value in the real world. Her scratchings on the borders of her notebook served merely as an exercise in imagery, an outlet for her suppressed boredom. A glance at the clock told her that school was already up; it was time to leave. Without noise, she began to pack her pencils and book away. Just as she finished zipping her bag, the bell rang.
Gracefully, Nik rose and strode out of the classroom, smiling briefly at her teacher before she exited. The rest of the class muddled about with their books and supplies, caught off guard by the day's end.
There was never a time to not be prepared.
Nik walked out into the central courtyard of the school building, her bright blue eyes scanning the road for her brother's beat up sedan. Sure enough, he was there, wasting the time away by ogling the older girls. Nik shook her head. She walked up, opened the door, and slid inside, waiting for him to speak. Jazz always asked about her day when she got in.
Up close, however, she could see she had been wrong. He wasn't ogling girls. He was staring distractedly into space. Something was on his mind.
Buckling up, she studied his face. He looked troubled. He wasn't going to ask her about her day.
"Jazz, what's on your mind?"