Meeting Norie Malin

Norie Malin was impatient. There was really no way around it. She didn’t like waiting for anything. Not grades, not letters, and especially not her best friend, Brina.
    It was the first day of school, and there were only ten minutes left until class started, and Norie had news that would take at least fifteen minutes to share.
    Norie leaned back against the lockers and sighed, tapping her foot and wondering where Brina was. Brina knew that Norie didn’t like waiting and the fact that it was the first day of school did nothing to help her mood. Because if there was one thing that irritated Norie more than waiting, it was high school.
    Norie crossed her arms and glared as some underclassmen walked past. Normally Norie wasn’t this mad, but there was just something about today.
    When Brina finally did find her way to her locker, there were only five minutes left until class started and there was no way that Norie could get all her news out in time. It would just have to wait until lunch.
    Brina struggled to open her locker and Norie noticed that she looked tired.
    “What’s wrong?” She asked.
    Brina looked over at her and shook her head, “Nothing, I just didn’t sleep that well last night.”
    “Well that’s because you fell —”

    Brina looked at Norie sharply. Why was she talking about falling?
    “ — asleep last night knowing that your freedom would be stripped away today and your creativity would be crushed, as well as the fact that all of your personal individuality was about to be stomped out.”
    Brina smiled at her own paranoia, she should have known that Norie would take this occasion to start into one of her infamous anti-school rants.
    As Norie kept raving about the horrors of adolescent education, Brina tried to shake off the weird feeling that the dream last night had left her with. It hadn’t even been scary or anything, just unnerving. It made Brina feel like something wasn’t right. Brina didn’t dream a lot, or at least not that she could remember. Maybe that was what made this particular dream so strange.
    Norie had stopped talking and was now looking at Brina with concern.
    “Nor, do you dream a lot?” Brina asked
    “At night,” Brina clarified. “Do you dream a lot?”
    Now if Norie had been just some random person on the street, or even just one of Brina’s other friends, she might have thought that this question was odd, and a little abrupt. But, Norie wasn’t just some random person on the street, or a different friend. She was Norie, Brina’s best friend in the world. The one Brina could always turn to, the one who always understood.
    And that’s why Norie answered, “Yeah, I guess.”
    “What do you dream about?”
    “Lots of things. Like last night I dreamed that the school burned down, so instead of coming to school, you and I skipped around town singing made-up folk songs and eating mangoes.” Norie laughed to herself. “It was a good dream.”
    Nope, Norie certainly wasn’t like any other of Brina’s friends.
    The bell rang, signifying that both Brina and Norie were late for gym class. Norie groaned and grabbed her magenta messenger bag and slung it over her shoulder. Brina shoved the last of her books into her locker, picked up her backpack and they both headed down the stairs to the locker rooms.
    Uniforms were required at the high school, another thing that exasperated Norie. The plaid skirt and tie, paired with the white collared shirt, she said, was totally archaic and restrictive.
    Usually the girls were required to change before gym, but since, on the first day of school, every teacher is required to give a spiel on the point of the class, they received a reprieve today. Coach McKellen stood in the middle of the basketball courts and lectured the class on the safety rules of the gym.
    Norie just stood there and picked at her black, semi-gothic nail polish, pausing only to shoot Coach McKellen annoyed glances at odd intervals.
    “Yes, Coach, we all know not to throw a javelin at anyone when they are not looking,” she said under her breath. To her, gym class was just something that messed up her hair and made her smell like sweat and mildew. She had to pass it to graduate, which was the only thing that kept her from skipping every day.
    Forty-seven minutes later, Norie and Brina were headed out of the gym and toward English class.
    English class was the closest thing that there was to Norie’s favorite class. She rocked at it. Her father took her on a trip to New York City once a year, so she picked up on a lot of slang terms that confused even the teacher.
    As the class filed in, Norie recognized familiar faces. Fionn Aster was there, her white blond hair even lighter from the summer sun. Nareena Campbell was there too, talking to Diedre Moore.  Caleb Lynch and Lanny Price were already sitting down.
    Norie set her bag down on a desk on the end of the middle row, behind Lanny. Brina followed suit and placed her stuff on the desk next to Norie.
    Mrs. Howling entered the room and all of the rest of the students settled down and took their seats.
    “Good morning,” Mrs. Howling said. Norie snorted, and Brina kicked the back of her desk.
    Mrs. Howling started to outline the class, and Norie’s mind drifted. There was something inhumane about making a teenager sit for eight hours. They were an hour into the day and she was already bored.
    Mrs. Howling passed out notebooks with everyone’s name on them.
    “These notebooks are for all of your English assignments, as well as any other thoughts that you would like to write in them.”
    Norie snorted again, but received no chastisement from Brina.
    Mrs. Howling prattled on about the upcoming semester and Norie spaced out again. The shuffling of papers and the clattering of chairs brought her back. Class was over and students were leaving the class room. Brina was waiting for her. Norie quickly gathered her things, placing her new English notebook on top of her binder.
    “Um....” A shaky voice came from behind here. “Norbertta?”
    Norie froze. And not just because she didn’t recognize the voice. Her eyes flashed to Brina, who knew exactly what was wrong. “What did you say?” Norie asked, turning slowly to look behind her.
    There was a boy there.  A boy Norie didn’t know. And he, quite obviously, didn’t know her.
    “Norbertta?” He had the gall to say again, though it was even less confident this time.
    Norie narrowed her eyes. “Why would you say that?”
    The boy looked puzzled — and terrified. “Isn’t that your name?  I mean, it’s on your notebook.”
    Norie looked down at her English notebook, and he was right. It was on her notebook. Mrs. Howling must have put it on there as a joke. She knew how much Norie despised her real name.
    Norie closed her eyes and exhaled. Then she turned back to the boy. “Okay, clearly you’re new here, so I’m going to cut you some slack. Now, what’s you name?” She asked him.
    “Thomas Foster.”
    “Okay, Thomas,” Norie said. “No one calls me....... that. Okay? No one. It’s Norie. Got it?”
    Thomas nodded his head quickly. His eyes were so wide that Norie could see white surrounding the entire iris.
    “Alright,” Norie said, letting out a relieved breath. The use of her christened name had an odd effect on her. Then she smiled sweetly at Thomas. “Now that we got that settled, what did you need?”
    Thomas still looked frightened. “I was just wondering where I might find Mr. Davis’ room?”
    “Yeah, uh, it’s just upstairs , the right hallway, first door on your left,” Norie explained, trying her best to sound pleasant.
    “Thanks,” Thomas said, and then he raced out the door.
    Norie watched him, then turned to Brina. “Do you think that I scared him?”
    Now it was Brina’s turn to snort. “Not at all,” she told her sarcastically.
    “I’m sorry if I was mean, but, honestly, I think what he did was worse. I mean, going around and calling me by my real name? Who does that?”

    Brina laughed, but the question was probably legitimate.  When Norie had first started here as a freshman, word had gotten around pretty quickly that anyone who dared to refer to her as anything other than Norie had it coming. A promise Norie had made good on by slugging Walter Kingston in the face for calling her the “Not-Name”. He had been a senior and she had been a sophomore. After that, the population of Pala High, had used the name Norie frequently, and with respect.
    Brina knew that in a matter of hours the story of the latest “Not-Name” transgression would infect the school. Brina didn’t know how the story would get out, all she knew that the high school gossip mill had unlimited powers and resources and it would find a way.
    It was unfortunate that the new student had made such a fatal error. Now, for the duration of his Pala High School experience he would have rumors circulating of his name calling faux pas.
    In most schools, this wouldn’t be as big of a deal, but at Pala High, Norie had a special dominance. She didn’t try to get it, she didn’t even really want it, students there just had an almost magnetic need to please her. It was almost as if they couldn’t help it, but Norie wished that they could. Their constant sucking-up was weak and she didn’t care for it.

    Norie and Brina split up for their next classes. Chemistry for Norie and Ancient Civilizations for Brina. As Norie walked through the halls, headed for class, she could hear her name being whispered in the gangs of students along the sides. And by the time she reached her class room, Caleb Lynch was already waiting with questions.
    “Did you hit him?” He asked, anxiously.
    Norie glared at him. “Excuse me?”
    Caleb ignored the look. “Did you punch the new kid for calling you the Unspeakable?”
    Norie had to smile at this. There were tons of nicknames given to her real name and she had never heard that one before. “No, I didn’t hurt him.”
    Caleb looked disappointed.
    Norie rolled her eyes and pushed past him. She selected a seat in the back row, where the trouble makers sat, and sighed dramatically as she sat down. The seats around her filled fast, but she made sure to place her backpack on one seat next to her, saving it.
    Mr. Heightenburg walked into the classroom, followed closely by a brown-haired, trouble-faced Thomas. Norie looked up and motioned for him to take the seat next to her. Sure, she could have told him that she had the same class next, but it was more fun this way.

    Brina wasn’t having as much fun as Norie. Ancient Civilizations was boring, which was exactly why Norie had opted out of taking it. Brina, however, in some strange act of insanity had thought that it might be fun.
    She was wrong.
    As Brina looked around the classroom, she couldn’t help by laugh to herself about the excellent choice Mr. Havton had made in his career. It only made since that an ancient man would teach ancient history.
    Brina realized that Mr. Havton had, of course, not always been old, and that once again her feeble attempt at wit had failed.
    Brina knew that she wasn’t that funny. She did try, though, but it was hard having a friend like Norie. Norie was smart (when she wanted to be), funny (with a touch of dark wit), and she was nice (at least when it suited her). Brina was, well, not like that.
    Brina wasn’t quiet, but she wasn’t loud. She was creative, but not necessarily expressive. She had friends, and was fairly popular, but she knew that was only because of her close proximity to Norie.
    But, maybe that was enough. Some people didn’t have friends at all. Brina had lots of friends, sure, and if the only reason that she had them was because of Norie, well, that was okay. At least she had Norie.
    Brina was sitting in the back of the class as well, but not out of rebellion, as Norie was, but merely because the teacher didn’t generally call on those in the back row, and it was easier to not pay attention.
    The class past by at a glacial pace, the minutes slugging on, as Mr. Havton rambled and Brina drifted off, thinking about her dream again.
    She never did see whomever it was that was calling her from the corner of her room. The whisper didn’t sound like it belonged to anyone Brina knew. While she knew that, logically, her blanket wasn’t going to strangle her, she did wonder about the significance of that part of the dream.
    The problem was, that since Brina didn’t usually dream, she had never really paid attention to what individual things meant in dreams. She knew that a psychic or someone in the supernatural field would tell her that there was a meaning behind the whisper, the blanket, and the falling. But she just couldn’t see it.
     Brina could still feel the experience of free-falling. She wondered what it was that orbiting around her. She also wondered where the light was coming from. And the source of the heat. She wondered about the arms that caught her, just before she hit the ground.
    Brina also wondered about why this dream was bothering her so much. Why couldn’t she just shake it off, as so many other people seemed to do with dreams of their own?

    At lunch, Norie drug Thomas along with her to the table. She still felt bad about the gossip that would be going around about him, and she figured the least she could do was make sure that he had someone to sit by at lunch.
    Brina was already sitting at a table when Norie and Thomas got out of the cafeteria line. Fionn Aster was sitting with Brina, but the minute that Norie walked to the table, the rest of the chairs were occupied instantly. Norie quickly pulled out a chair and shoved Thomas into it, before sitting down herself. Chairs were pulled up to the table and after a great deal of squishing, almost one fourth of the junior class of Pala High School was crammed around one table.
    It was amazing the type of crowd that Norie could command.
    Norie knew that if she told them all to scatter, they would listen to her, but she didn’t feel like being mean. She was still trying to be nice around Thomas, and the last thing she needed was another rumor about her spreading around the school. So she let them all stay.
    “So, Thomas,” Norie said, trying to include the obvious outsider. “Your not from around here are you?”
    “No.” Thomas seemed like he wanted to add something after that. But he didn’t.
    “So where are you from?” Norie prompted.
    Thomas cleared his throat. “Virginia.”
    Twenty six eyes peered at him oddly.
    “As in, America?” Caleb asked him.
    “Um, yes?” Thomas’ statement sounded like a question. He was clearly alarmed by this sudden onslaught of attention.
    Everyone stared at him for a second longer, then they all turned to their leader and waited.
    Norie nodded at him. “Cool.” She opened her mouth to say more, but the telltale screech of the intercom shrieked and cut her off.
    Norie’s jaw tightened visibly as she cringed. She hated being interrupted, especially by school administrators.
    “Good afternoon, Pala High School students. This is your Principal Lynd speaking. I hope that all of you are having a pleasant first day of classes. I think this year is going to be one of the best Pala High School has ever had. Thank you and have a great day!”
    Norie cringed. Principal Lynd was one of those people who was perpetually happy. It was creepy and unnatural, and it bugged her.
    The conversation at the table veered off onto the subject of the carnival and chatter rang out consistently. Norie finished her lunch quickly and then motioned for Brina to follow her. The two walked off into a side corridor, where Norie could finally talk to Brina alone.
    “How long are you on restriction for?” Norie asked Brina as they stop to sit on one of the benches outside the main office.
    “Until Friday.” Brina sighed.
    Norie wrinkled up her forehead. “So does that mean that you can do something on Friday, or do you have to wait until Saturday?” Norie had never actually been on restriction, so she wasn’t clear on the details of imprisonment.
    “Um, I have to wait until Saturday, I think.”
    Norie groaned. “And there’s no way of being able to do something Friday?”
    “Not a chance.” The opposite of Norie’s father, Brina’s mother was very strict about restrictions.
    Norie let out a breath. “Well that is just great, then. Because Dad is shipping me off the my Aunt Glenda’s house for the weekend and I talked him into letting you come along too.”
    Brina laughed. “Wow. You are letting my come on a fun-filled weekend with you and your Aunt Glenda? What a friend.”
    Norie rolled her eyes. “I will just have to survive it on my own this time then.”
    “I guess,” Brina told her.
    The two got up, Norie eyeing some freshman that were hovering a little too close. Not that she could really blame them. The rumors about her were widespread and plenty. But what could she say? She had a knack for causing ruckus.

The End

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