Chapter VI

So far, Thomas’ camping excursion with his father had consisted of about 2 and half hours in the car. Thomas had spend the majority of that time listening to his iPod. He had spend more time bonding with AC/DC than with his dad.
    The mystery enshrouding their destination had still not been lifted and Thomas was beyond anticipating what surprises lay in store for him. They had driven much too far past all signs of civilization for it to be anything good.
    Thomas rested his head against the seat and turned his eyes to the landscape. It was unlike anything in Virginia. Iceland had everything: flat plains and mountains, glaciers and volcanoes. This country had it all.
    Which didn’t narrow down where Thomas’s black Explorer was headed to.
    Thomas subtly glanced over at his father, suddenly feeling like he had been clinically insane when he had agreed to this. A weekend alone with his dad? Not even normal teenagers in normal families wanted to spend that much time with their parents. Thomas wondered if he could fake some sort of illness to get out of this. Or could he simply plead temporary insanity?
    Thomas groaned silently at the mountains looming ahead. This was going to be a long weekend.
    The longest.
    All this had only taken Thomas two minutes to think. What was he going to do with all of the rest of his time?

    Brina was lying on her bed, contemplating whether or not she should go to sleep at all that night, or ever again, and avoiding her maths homework.
    Her parents had announced that night at dinner that, due to their promotions, they would be leaving on a business trip to America. They weren’t sure on the exact date yet, but it would be a relatively long trip. They were going to have Helga there, but they were going to leave Brina in charge.
    Brina couldn’t help but snort at that. She couldn’t even control her own sleeping patterns, should she really be in charge of her siblings?
    Brina rolled her eyes. What was the point of having parents, if they were never actually there?
    Of course, Brina’s entire body recoiled at that thought. How could she think things like that, especially when Norie didn’t have both parents. Brina surprised herself sometimes with how insensitive and over-dramatic she could be.
    Brina shoved her math book off the bed and sat up. She didn’t want to think about any of that anymore.
    She stood up, left her room and went downstairs. Hale was watching television and Maura was coloring at the living room. Brina ducked into the kitchen.
    There was a letter on the table addressed to her. She wondered why her mother hadn’t mentioned it at dinner.
    Ripping open the envelope, Brina found a letter from Pala High School. It was about the Year 11 class trip they would be taking next month. Each year each class went on a trip somewhere, and this year it looked like they would be going to England.
    Brina smile. She’d been to England before, with her parents, but she could imagine what she and Norie would find to do there.
    She immediately sought out her parents, to discuss the trip. She found them in their home offices, typing on their laptops.
    “Mother?” Brina asked. “I got this letter and —”
    “Shhh! Quiet, honey,” her mother told her. “I’m working.”
    Next Brina had tried her father.
    “Father? I got this letter about the class trip and-”
    “Uh-huh,” he had mumbled. “Ask your mother.”
    Brina had rolled her eyes and stomped back up the stairs.
    Exasperated, she closed her door and leaned against it.
    She closed her eyes and let out a breath. When she opened them again, she saw her camera bag was peeking out from underneath her bed. Brina smiled. She picked up the bag and headed to the window.

    Norie crammed the last bag into the back of her older brother’s rental car. She couldn’t believe her father was still sending her off to her aunt’s house. With all the family stuff going on and everything? It wasn’t right.
    Norie didn’t like be excluded, it wasn’t something she had a lot of practice with, nor was in a familiarity she wanted to gain.
    Aiden came outside, spinning the keys on his fingers.
    Norie looked up at him, impatient and unrelenting.
    Aiden stopped next to the car. “Now, don’t look at me like that. I didn’t make this decision. Dad did. I am merely the chauffeur.”
    Norie said nothing, getting into the car. Aiden got into the car as well. He paused before he inserted the key’s into the ignition, as if he was going to say something, but decided against it.
    Aiden had a lot of practice with Norie’s sour moods. He of all people should know that is was best to simply be quiet.
    Norie clenched her jaw and watched the road in front of them.
    It was a long, quiet ride. Norie wasn’t sure if she had ever been that quiet for that long before.
    When they were about half an hour away from Aunt Glenda’s, Aiden broke the silence. “What do you remember about mom?”
    Hearing Aiden lapse into the title of “mom” caught Norie’s attention the most. “Aiden, she left when I was eleven months old. What would I remember?” Norie didn’t mean the words quite as harshly as they came out.
    Aiden nodded. “Nothing, I guess,” he said, ignoring the fact that he didn’t really need to answer that question. “But, I don’t know. I just wanted to see if you had any recollections of her at all.”
    Norie chewed on her lip. “I remember someone humming to me. It was women’s voice, which is the only reason that it might be mom. Obviously it wasn’t dad, but it could have been Aunt Glenda, Grandma Kay....” But Norie knew that it hadn’t been one of them. It was her mother’s voice. The only fond memory she had of her. The only one she had of her ever.
    Norie’s mother hadn’t seen her in about 16 years. She had decided then that being a mother just wasn’t for her and had up and left. Aiden had been three at the time.
    She had come back once before. Norie had been eight and away at summer camp with Brina. Aiden was 11 and home when she had come to the door. Norie had received a call from Aiden. Her father came to pick her up the following day and they all went on a vacation in the country.
    Norie didn’t know what her mother had wanted before, and she didn’t know what she wanted now. But if a woman who abandoned her husband and children came back to them years later, it couldn’t be for any reason Norie wanted to know.
   
    Thomas slammed the car door shut and picked his suitcase up from the concrete. He squinted in the glare of the setting sun and looked up at the country inn his father and he would be staying at this weekend.
    As awkward and uncomfortable as this weekend was going to be, well, at least there was going to be running water. That was at least better than roughing it out in the wilderness.
    Thomas followed his dad wordlessly into the hotel. His father went up to check in at the front desk, and Thomas blinked at the environment around him, cursing the Spanish Inquisition.
    The hotel around him was completely covered in flowers. The outside, which had been covered in some kind of foreign ivy, had consisted of several flower beds, but nothing that would hint to the complete and utter obsession inside.
    Flowers and leaves covered the plush carpet, complimenting the floral wallpaper and light fixtures.
    That right, even the sconces were flowers.
    Thomas’s father acquired their key and they picked up their bags and made their way to the second floor.
    Thomas’s father stopped outside room 804 and handed Thomas the key. Thomas looked up at him, puzzled.
    “That’s your key.”
    Thomas nodded and turned to put the key in the lock. There was a sound of another set of keys jangling. He looked to his right and saw his father opening the next door.
    They had separate rooms? Seriously?
    As strange as it was to have different hotel rooms on a family vacation, and the fact that a dad had just got his son is own hotel room, this made Thomas feel a little better. At least he would have his own bathroom and, if he didn’t have to deal with his father the entire time, maybe he could pull this weekend off.
    Thomas smiled to himself and turned the key in the lock. The door opened and Thomas pulled his suitcase inside.
    The inside of his room proved to be even worse than the lobby. The comforters, the pictures, the curtains, all covered in flowery patterns and prints. The wall supported two giant floral wreaths.
    Thomas wanted to swear.
    He tossed his bag onto the table, sending a basket of potpourri skittering to the floor.    As Thomas studied the fallen petals, he was rethinking all of his hopes for this trip.
    He had been wrong before.
    This was going to be worse than commuting with nature.

    “You know that I don’t agree with him, don’t you?” Aiden asked when he turned off the car in front of Aunt Glenda’s house.
    Norie knew that the only “him” Aiden could be referring to was their dad. And she knew that Aiden didn’t condone his shipping Norie off. She nodded, but it didn’t improve her mood in the slightest.
    It didn’t really matter what anyone else thought about the situation, she was still being sent away regardless, so why even bother with thinking?
    “I know that you don’t like being left out, and I know that it isn’t something you’ve had a lot of practice with,” Aiden continued. Norie shot him a look.
    But he was right of course. Aiden was always right.
    And Norie knew herself how out of practice she was being excluded.
    “And I know you don’t like not knowing what is going on, so I’m going to do something dad asked me not to do.”
    Norie wrinkled her eyebrows.
    “Dad and I set up a meeting with Regina tomorrow for dinner. Dad doesn’t want you to know what happens tonight, or even that is it going on. He asked me not to tell you. But I don’t think that’s right. You deserve to know. Your just as much a part of this family as we are. I didn’t tell him that I wouldn’t tell you, but I didn’t tell him that I would either, so he’s probably not going to be very happy with me.
    “But, no matter what he emotion he is experiencing, it won’t change my mind. It wasn’t right for him to try to keep this a secret from you and it wasn’t right for him to try to make me as well.”
    Norie looked at her older brother and remembered why she had been so upset when he had opted for school one thousand miles away. “Thanks,” Norie said. And she meant it.
    Aiden smiled a little and opened his car door. He popped the trunk and lifted Norie’s duffel bag out of it. Norie brought her pillow and her shoulder bag out of the car and the pair walked up Aunt Glenda’s pansy lined walkway.  There was a quilted cat’s face hanging on the outside of the ancient door. Norie cringed inwardly as Aiden clanged the giant flower door knocker.
    Seriously, a door knocker?
    Norie had forgotten how out of touch with humanity Aunt Glenda was. She felt a new surge of spite towards her father for banishing her there.
    “One minute!” Yodeled Aunt Glenda from inside.
    Aunt Glenda was apparently right behind the door when she said this, because seconds later the giant oat door was swinging open, and Norie found herself engulfed in musty scented, iron yarn.
    “Oh, my little Nora!” Aunt Glenda warbled, nearly strangling Norie with her grasp. Aunt Glenda was only five foot one, but she had one heck of a grip. She also used her own, private pet name for Norie, Nora, which was the only exception allowed.
    Norie grimaced, but painted a smile on her face anyway. “Hi, Aunt Glenda.”
    Aunt Glenda pulled back for a moment, pulling her shawl tighter around her. She tilted her head back, so she could see through her half moon glasses.
    “Good gracious, Aiden? Is that you?”
    Aiden grinned. “Hey, Aunt Glenda.”
    “Dear boy, it is you. No one else addresses me by calling me straw. Honestly, “hay” as a greeting? Who ever heard of such a thing?” Aunt Glenda appeared to be talking to herself. “Well, never mind that, give your Aunt Glenda a hug, young man.”
    There was something deeply humorous to Norie about watching her 20 year old brother, with his broad shoulder, and who Norie could never remember being any shorter than 6 foot, hug her tiny, stooping aunt. Norie snickered quietly. Aiden narrowed his eyes at her good naturedly.
    “I thought that David would be dropping her off,” Aunt Glenda said.
    Aiden stiffened slightly. “Some......things came up,” Aiden told her.
    “Work?” Aunt Glenda sighed. She didn’t wait for confirmation from Aiden. “I keep telling him that he works too much. Not enough time to drop off his own daughter?” Aunt Glenda made a clicking sound with her tongue, as she turned and pulled open the large front doors. She disappeared behind them.
    Norie looked at Aiden, inquisitively. Aiden met her glance and shook his head. The look in his eyes was clear: they weren’t telling Glenda about their mother’s return.
    Norie nodded slowly, as Aiden pulled open the front door and they both entered Aunt Glenda’s house.

    Brina made the decision to simply not go to sleep that night. She was exhausted from her lack of sleep and her nocturnal torments. The more she resisted, the more tried she got, but Brina was standing her ground.    
    Dreams should not control the dreamers life. That was not how it worked, and that wasn’t how it was going to work.’
    Brina had taken pictures until the last nights had gone out in the city. She finished her roll of film and she was going to have to take them into the darkroom at school to develop them.
    Once, she had asked her parents to turn Hale’s room into a darkroom. They had, of course, said no, but Brina still dreamed of one day having her own darkroom.
    Brina had always wanted to be a photographer. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else all day, every day for the rest of her life. Taking pictures was one thing that she absolutely loved to do. And it was one thing that she was good at. In fact, it was probably the only thing in the world that she was better than Norie at.
    Norie couldn’t take a picture to save her life. She was far to energetic and impatient. Whereas Brina could sit for hours just to get that one perfect shot.
    Brina didn’t know what it was about photography that made it so appealing to her. She was sure it wasn’t solely because she was better at it than Norie, though that was obviously part of the draw. People just weren’t generally better than Norie at anything. Norie was all-around talented. She was very blase, about it, of course, which was what made it bearable.  If was obnoxious about it, students would have staged a coup by now.
    Brina swivelled in her desk chair, wondering what Norie was doing. Probably having a blast somewhere. Even in the hills of trees that surrounded her aunt’s house, Norie could find an adventure anywhere.    

The End

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