Chapter V

    “Yes, Kleenex.”
    Norie was sitting on her bed, leaning against the wall. It was 4:30 in the morning and dark. The green light radiating from her clock was the only source of light and it cast a strange hue throughout the room.
    Norie closed her eyes and let her head fall back gently against the wall. “Brina, that’s really weird. Even for 4:30 am, that’s really weird.”
    Brina sighed on the other end of the line. “Fine, then. Lose the analogy. But the dream is strange, right?”
    Norie nodded, even though Brina couldn’t see her. “Yeah, it is,” she said, thoughtfully. Well, it really wasn’t so much thoughtfully, as tiredly.
    Brina’s call hadn’t woken Norie up. She had never gone to sleep. She had just sat in her room and stared at the wall across from her. She had homework to work on somewhere, but she just couldn’t seem to find it. And she really didn’t care.
    Norie didn’t really care about a lot at that moment. Not her mom, her school, or her well being. She did, however, still care about Brina, which explained why she was talking to her at such an extreme hour.
    Norie yawned despite herself. “I just don’t know what to tell you. It’s odd, but I’ve never been much for interpreting dreams. I tend to stick to reading tea leaves.”
    Brina laughed quietly. “Okay,” she said.  “I guess there is nothing we can do tonight.”
    “Your probably right,” Norie sighed. “But we will get right to work on this in the morning though.”
          “Okay,” Brina said. “Well, good night. Or morning, rather.”
    Norie laughed. “Good morning.”
    After they hung up, Norie laid down and stared up at the ceiling. She tried not to think, about anything. Not her mom, not her dad, not her brother, who was the only one who could fix this all, but who just happened to be half an ocean away.
    Norie laughed at her awful situation. When you were in a situation like that, there wasn’t much else to do, but laugh. As the hysterics began to work there way out of her system, Norie rolled over and waited for sleep.
    In the morning, she regretted her late night. She was crabby and the bags under her eyes did nothing to improve her mood. Now, instead of just feeling tired, she had to look it as well.
     She couldn’t skip school two days in a row, so at quarter to eight, Norie drug herself out of the apartment and headed to the bus stop. Her father had left early again, so  she would have to take the bus. Which was going to do nothing to improve her mood.
    Norie climbed onto the bus and glanced around. Okay, so she could sit in between the nose-picker and the ninety year old woman, or she could sit next to the transvestite. What great prospects.
    Norie opted for standing. She gripped the metal bar overhead and tried to keep from falling into the lap of the fourteen year old Game-Boy player sitting on the bench beside her.
    The bus lurched at the next stop, and Norie bit back a curse. She got her balance back and gripped the book bag slung over her shoulder, loathing the bus.
    Moments later, a finger tapped her shoulder. Norie’s head snapped to look to her side, and found Brina standing there, blinking at her.
    “Hey,” Norie said, her bleak tone a clear warning to Brina.
    Brina nodded, noting the tone and visibly shrinking back, awaiting the torrent of Norie’s irritation.
    “I hate the bus,” Norie said.
    “I know.”
    That was all they said. Brina seemed to realize that Norie needed to think. Brina was good about that. She didn’t always have to be saying something. She knew that sometimes silence said it best.
    When the bus halted outside school, Norie sighed deeply and jumped off. She walked through the front doors, held open by some random freshman, and almost stomped inside. It was clear to everyone that she was in a bad mood, and students practically leapt aside to keep from crossing her path in the hallway.
    As she stamped to her locker, Norie noticed the time: 8:10. She was just as late as Brina usually was.
    Well, at least now she could be late to gym. A verbal sparring match with Coach McKellen might do something to improve her mood.
    Norie quickly threw her coat into her locker and slammed it shut. Brina, who had obviously made an effort to be quick today, was waiting by her side, and, together, they headed downstairs to the gym.
    The gym hallway was empty. Norie frantically looked for Coach McKellen, needing to find her anger outlet.
    “That’s just perfect,” Norie said out loud. Brina looked over at her. “The one day that I need him, he is no where to be found.”
    The expression on Brina’s face reminded Norie that Brina wasn’t privy to her thoughts, therefore she had no idea where that comment had come from. Norie didn’t feel like explaining at that particular moment, so she settled for shaking her head and forcefully shoving open the girl’s locker room doors.
    The two girls quickly changed into their gym clothes and made their way into the main gym. Class, of course, had already started. Coach McKellen was standing in front of the group of their classmates, all seated on the gym floor. In Coach Kellen’s hand was- well, what appeared to be a sword.
    “Woah,” Norie breathed.
    Apparently she breathed too loudly, because Coach McKellen swung the blade around and pointed it towards Norie.
    Norie’s eye’s may have widened a fraction of an inch, but, other than that, her body showed no other signs of being threatened. “So, you finally lost it,” she said.
    “Your late, Ms. Malin. Again,” Coach McKellen said through clenched teeth.
    “Yes, Coach McKellen, I know. I had to take the bus this morning and I was late. I would, however, like to take this time to personally apologize for the bus driver’s incompetence. I do believe she was trying to win something on the radio, and that may have impaired her driving. But, never mind that, I am willing to take the full blame for this situation. No — not just this situation, but for every single tardy in this school today. I am clearly at fault, and it would be truly heinous for me to let anyone else to take the fall. Don’t you agree?”
    The sarcasm in Norie’s voice for almost tangible.
    The class snickered; even at the point of a sword, Norie’s wit and theatrics were cutting.
    Coach McKellen stared at her, face red and eye bulging. Norie smiled at him innocently, knowing she had this victory in the bag. Coach McKellen knew better than to send Norie to the office. He’d done it once before, and that had been enough to show him the far-reaching effects of Norie’s charm. Still the fact that he had abandoned any thought of administrative intervention didn’t stop Coach McKellen from losing his cool.
    But, Norie thought to herself, this had almost been too easy. Not even really fun. Maybe she needed to provoke him let a little bit more.........
    Coach McKellen was still ranting at her. “Don’t let it happen again!”
    “I thought this was again.”
    Coach McKellen blinked at her and Norie waited for the explosion. “You — you — you,” he sputtered, waving the sword around.
    Norie caught the metal in her hand. “No offense, sir, but you really shouldn’t be waving this thing around. You could take an eye out.”
    Veins in Coach McKellen’s head were starting to pop out.
    One, two, three, three veins. Let’s go for four, Norie thought.
    “What are you doing?” the coach bellowed. He had apparently noticed Norie’s staring.
    “Counting the veins on your forehead,” Norie answered, blase.
    Coach McKellen glared at her. Norie smirked and took a seat along of edge of students, in-between Brina and Caleb Lynch.
    Now she felt  better.

    Thomas was bored.
    The teacher at the front of his Ancient Roman History class was babbling on about something, but he was hardly listening. It was Friday and his usually mediocre attention span was microscopic.
    This weekend, he and his father were going out into the country. His dad had taken the weekend off, something Thomas had no memory of him ever doing before. Thomas wasn’t sure where they were going exactly, he wasn’t even sure if his father knew where they were going.
    But it was going to be fun.
    Yes, it was.
    Just he and his dad, out communing with nature. Having a great time. In the dirt and mud, with all the ticks and leeches.
    Yeah. Fun.
    But he could get past that. Thomas wasn’t what you might call a fan of nature, or any of it’s byproducts, but that would be okay. He would work through that to spend some quality time with his father.
    His father who was a self proclaimed workaholic and was never around.
    His father with whom he hadn’t had an actual conversation with in years.
    They were going to be together all weekend.
    Who did Thomas think he was kidding?  It was going to be weird, and there was no way around it.

    Norie’s anger was like a volcano. Brina had always known this, and, yet, it still seem to take her by surprise.
    When Mt. Norie erupted, it could spew lava, ash, and debris for miles, burying everything in it’s path. It could blow a hole in the side of the mountain, and send smoke 30,000 feet into the air. It could be the type of eruption that covered entire cities with lava and pelted them with pumice rocks, leaving no survivors.
    Or, Mt. Norie could be a slow eruption. It could simmer and boil, and then slowly ooze down the side of the volcano, slow, but deadly. Anyone caught in it’s path was a goner, but it wasn’t really that hard to get away from.
    But the worst thing about Mt. Norie? She could be dormant for days, months, years, and still come back with just as much force as ever before.
    Norie’s anger on this particular day, was like neither eruption type, though. She was angry enough to cover a city, but hadn’t picked a fight except with Coach McKellen, which was hardly unusual. Norie simply didn’t know how else to interact with Coach McKellen.
    If Norie had been feeling full-on Vesuvius, she would have started multiple verbal sparring matches in first period alone.
    So she wasn’t exploding. But she wasn’t calm enough to be the slow-moving eruption. She still went out of her way glare at people and make snippy remarks, but she didn’t apply herself in the way that she normally would. Brina wondered what was wrong with her friend. But the moment after Brina thought that, she realized what an idiotic thing it was to think. Norie’s mother had to be the cause of this. That was it. That had to be it. Brina had been so caught up in her own dream-drama that she forgot about Norie’s estranged mother coming back into the picture.
    Brina mentally kicked herself in the shins. She was the worst friend. This whole must really be bothering Norie. And why wouldn’t it be? It was a strange situation.
    Norie was still upset. That was clear. Her blatant aggression while fencing proved that. She dueled with tenacity and style. She beat everyone.
    But, of course, that wasn’t really all that strange. Norie was good at everything. She just didn’t always know it, or possibly, just didn’t care. It was difficult to tell with Norie.

    Fencing was fun. Norie was amazed that she could think that anything in gym class was fun, but it was true. Fencing was cool.
    And the look on Coach McKellen’s face when Norie beat him a duel was absolutely priceless.
    Even being sticky and sweating couldn’t damper the elevation in Norie’s mood. She made it through the day without biting anyone’s head off.
    The bus ride home was pushing it however. Norie grimaced as the bus screeched to a halt in front of her, wondering how many more times she could take this. One of these day riding the bus just might kill her.
    Brina had to stay after school today to take a math pop quiz that she had missed the day before, leaving Norie to battle the freaks on the bus by herself.
    She made it home, or to the bus stop a block away from her apartment. Norie exited the bus, appreciating the fresh air, and quickly turned the corner onto her street, wanting to get inside as soon as possible.
    Norie fished her key out of her bag and slid it into the lock. She opened the door and took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor. She walked to her apartment door and put the key in. She twisted the doorknob and stepped inside. And for the second time that week, there was someone in her living room that shouldn’t be.
    The brown haired boy looked up from the MTV program that he was watching and grinned. “Hey, baby sister.”
    Norie dropped her bag by the floor and kicked her clogs off. “What are you doing here?” She asked, running over to hug him.
    Aiden laughed. “Did you really think that I would leave you here to deal with Regina alone?”
    Aiden called their mom Regina, saying that she wasn’t his mother, so he didn’t need to address her as such. This used to bother their dad, but, what exactly could he do?
    Norie smiled at her brother. She was glad he was here. “But don’t you have classes?”
    A familiar gleam was in Aiden’s eyes when he answered, “‘Course, but there are ways around that.” He looked more serious.  “And your mental, and maybe physical well-being, is worth missing a few lectures for.”
    “Thanks. What a brother!”
    Aiden laughed, but the sound was off. They both knew that the situation was far more serious than they made it sound. The giant 900 pound polar bear in the room was going to have to be dealt with soon. Preferably before he ate all the furniture and scratched up the floor.

The End

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