Chapter VII

The inside of Norie’s Aunt Glenda’s house wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t attractive either. It colors didn’t clash, but they didn’t compliment each other. It wasn’t necessarily cluttered, but nothing appeared to be in the right place.
    The result was a general feeling of erratic, aimless chaos.
    Norie never felt completely comfortable in Aunt Glenda’s house, but even she had to admit it had personality.
    Aunt Glenda had never been a world traveler or had an exotic career. She had owned a fabric shop outside Reykjavik and, as far as Norie knew, had never left the country. Yet, Aunt Glenda always had the strangest, rarest objects and artifacts. Digging around her attic was like going on an archaeological dig. Norie had no idea where she had accumulated all of the items, but some of them were absolutely phenomenal.
    “Is apple cider alright, dears?” Aunt Glenda called from the kitchen.
    “Yes,” Norie answered, for both of them. Aiden was preoccupied, studying some sort of Polynesian mask that was displayed on the coffee table.
    Aiden’s pocket buzzed, and he let himself outside to answer the call.
    Norie made her way over to a hutch and picked up her favorite artifact: a porcelain orchid. It was just a single flower, white, delicate petals, and a stem so thin, that it seemed the slightest touch would shatter it.
    But, as she had so many times before, Norie lifted the flower and held it between her thumb and index finger. She marveled at the weightlessness of the porcelain. It was like holding nothing, but it was unbelievably durable.
    Norie remember once when she was about six, she was holding that flower and it slipped out of her fingers and fell to the wooden floor. Norie immediately knew that she had broken the lovely figurine. She was heartbroken. But when she finally worked up the courage to look down at the floor, she found that the flower was still perfectly intact. The petals were just as glossy, and the fine stem looked just as insubstantial.
    Norie pulled herself out of her reverie as she ran her fingers over the flower.
    There was a great deal of clanking coming from the kitchen. Norie didn’t cook a whole lot, but she didn’t think that there was that much clattering involved in making apple cider.
    Aiden swung the mammoth front door open. Norie set the flower down and started into the kitchen with her brother.
    Aunt Glenda’s kitchen was a little less eclectic than the living room, but she seemed to have pulled every pot or pan out and laid it on the counter, table, or even the floor.
    Norie and Aiden exchanged glances before sitting down at the table. Just then, the tea pot let out a screech, causing Norie to jump. Aunt Glenda bustled with the tea cups and brought them to the table.
    “So, Aiden, what are you doing home? Isn’t school still in session?”
    Aiden tensed again, and Norie could almost see him searching through the files in his head, looking for something that wasn’t the truth, but that maybe wasn’t a lie either.
    “He missed his baby sister,” Norie interjected, hoping to end this particular conversation.
    Aunt Glenda chuckled and returned to the stove for the tea pot of apple cider. She poured the cider into the china tea cups and sat down at the table.
    It was so funny to see Aunt Glenda sitting in her own kitchen. Not only because she was so tiny, she needed a pillow to see over the table. But she fit there. Even in the apparently randomness of the kitchen, Aunt Glenda was a perfect addition that completed the picture.
    “So how long are you going to be home, Aiden?” Aunt Glenda asked.
    “Ahh, well, I’m not really sure. A couple days, a week, maybe longer......” Aiden trailed off.
    Aunt Glenda nodded. She took a sip of her cider. “And you will be spending all that time with your father, then? If Nora is here?”
    “Um,” Aiden started. He looked like maybe he was undecided on something. But, apparently, he made up his mind. “Well, if it’s alright, I was actually going to ask if it was alright if I stayed here tonight.”
    “Oh, well of course it is, boy. You are always welcome here.” Then Aunt Glenda disappeared. Norie saw her gray bun bobbing past the table and out into the living room.
    Norie quickly turned her head to face Aiden. “Your staying here?” she asked in a whisper.
    “I thought I might tonight.”
    Norie’s eye’s narrowed. “Why?”
    Aiden looked uncomfortable. “No reason.”   
    Yeah right. No reason.
    Norie knew he was up to something and she was going to find out what.

    Thomas finished settling in to his room. He saw no reason to unpack his suitcase. They were only going to be staying for a two days, and by the time he placed all his clothing in the drawers, he would just have to take it all out again.
    Thomas sighed deeply and looked around his room. He sat down on the floral printed comforter on his bed. He opened the door under the bedside table. There was a Holy Bible, a pen, a phonebook, and a pad of paper. There were also assorted coupons and pamphlets.
    Exasperated, Thomas slammed the drawer shut. He hadn’t heard anything from his father, and he certainly wasn’t going to be the first to initiate contact.
    Before he and his father had come out here, Thomas had thought he could handle this. Handle being with his dad. Sure, he had thought it would be a stretch, but, if he tried hard enough, he could do it.
    But now, sitting in this flowery hotel room, Thomas realized what an idiot he had been. He couldn’t do this. He and his father couldn’t spend a weekend together. What would they do? What would they talk about?
    Thomas stood and went over to the window. He slid the rosebud curtains back and looked out over the Icelandic landscape. It was so strange to look out the window and see mountains in the distance. Virginia wasn’t like that.
    Thomas sometimes forgot he was living in a completely different country. There were lots of differences between American and Iceland. A lot. But Thomas home here. And he hadn’t expected that.
    When Thomas had first started to get into trouble, his father had sent him to a child psychiatrist. Thomas had been fifteen at the time and insulted by all the stuffed animals and crayons in the psychiatrist. But he was a smart boy. He knew that his father wouldn’t let him stop going to see Dr. Jay, if he saw no improvement.
    So Thomas lied. He told Dr. Jay everything that he wanted to hear and graduated psychoanalysis with honors.
    His father never suspected that he was acting his way through. And he also never suspected that Thomas continued to do everything he wasn’t suppose to.
    Which was exactly what had landed him here.
    But even when Thomas’s father had announced that they were moving, even when he said that they were moving to Iceland, even when Thomas had become enemies with the most powerful girl in school on his first day, Thomas wasn’t sure he had ever truly regretted what he had done.
    As Thomas stared over at the door that adjoined his and his father’s room, he certainly regretted it now.   

    It was bright outside when Brina’s eye’s finally opened. She squinted in the direction of the clock, but saw nothing. She craned her neck, but still couldn’t find the numbers she was looking for. Brina rolled over, wondering where her clock had run off too, and —

    She crashed off the bed and onto the floor.
    Dazed, she sat up. She had apparently fallen asleep sprawled across the end of her bed, instead of lying on it lengthwise.
    She tried to remember what would have prompted her to fall asleep in such an odd position.
    Oh, right. She had been trying not to fall asleep, and had apparently done a very poor job of it.
    Brina stood up and stretched. Her muscles were tight and sore. She also felt a lump growing on the back of her head where it had collided with the floor on her very graceful descent.
    Brina rubbed her head and opened up her door. She stuck her head out of her room and evaluated the state of the house. She looked around the hallway: it appeared to be quiet.
    Now that couldn’t be right.
    Cautiously, Brina stepped into the hallway. She paused for a moment, bracing herself for the thunder of the stampede of her siblings.
    But there was no stampede.
    Quickly and quietly, Brina made her way down the stairs, and peered into the dining room. No one. Brina padded across the tile floor and looked in the dining room. There was no one there, either.
    That was really, really odd.
    Brina went back into the kitchen. Where on earth was everyone? She walked over to the kitchen sink and looked into the back yard. Seeing no one, she sighed and turned around.
    Brina’s eye fell on a piece of paper attached to the refrigerator. It was a note from Helga, saying that she had taken George and Maura to the park. Brina’s parent were at work, and Hale, was apparently upstairs.
    Brina went upstairs and tapped on Hale’s door. The room was much to quiet for her rambunctious fourteen-year- old brother.  Brina knocked louder when no one answered, her mind already running through the twenty-seven horrible possible scenarios her brother could have gotten himself into.
    As Brina was trying to remember the number for the police station, a sleep eyed and rumpled haired Hale came to the door.
    “What?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
    “Uh,” Brina said. She breathed out a sigh of relieve. “I was just checking to make sure that you were here.”
    Hale looked confused. “Where else would I be?”
    “I’m not really sure. But it was too quiet when I got up, so I went downstairs and found a note from Helga, saying that she took George and Maura to the park. I just wanted to make sure that you were here.”
    Hale stared at her strangely for a moment. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m here.”
    Brina nodded slowly. “So, mom and dad are gone too.”
    Hale rolled his eyes. “Go figure.”
    Brina laughed., but then became serious again. “Do you really think that they are going to leave me in charge while they are gone?”
    “That’s what they said, isn’t it?”
    “Yeah, I guess,” Brina said, thoughtfully. “It just seems kind of weird doesn’t it? That they would both leave for so long and leave us alone?”
    Hale shrugged. “When technically we won’t be alone, Helga will be here. No offense, but Helga will probably do most of the work. I mean, she pretty much does it all already. It’s not like mom and dad have ever been highly involved parents. I don’t really find it all that surprising.”
    “I guess your right.”
    Hale smiled a little and nodded. They stood there like that for awhile, before Hale slowly started to close the door.
    Brina stood out in the hallway, alone. She couldn’t remember a time when she had been able to do this before. There had always been someone around, running or screaming.
    But now Brina stood alone in the silence, wondering what had happened to her crazy, hectic, insane family, and why it was that she missed it so much.

    “Come on,” Norie yelled back at Aiden.
    The siblings had fled Aunt Glenda’s after tea to get some fresh air, and to dodge further questioning. They had started to hike a familiar trail leading into the hills and knolls surrounding the area.
    “I’m going as fast as I can,” Aiden replied, breathlessly. “I’m not sixteen anymore you know.”
    Norie smiled. “Yes, I know. Your twenty-one years must have taken quite a toll on your body.” She laughed.
    Norie looked around her, appreciating the light green grass and brightly colored wild flowers. A sparse forest lie ahead, and Norie propelled herself forward, jogging towards it.
    “Norie, wait up,” Aiden called. He sprinted to catch up with his little sister. Norie slowed, but didn’t stop completely
    It was still September, and the air was warm. The patches of shade that were offered by the forest looked inviting. The pair made their way to the trees and sat down beneath an old oak tree.
    “So, to review, why are you here?” Aiden asked, meaningfully.
    “My father thought that I needed a weekend away and this seemed like the perfect place,” Norie repeated, diligently.
    Aiden gave her crooked smile.
    Norie leaned back against the tree and sighed. “This is quite a pickle we are in here, Aiden.”
    Aiden chuckled and leaned back as well. “Yes, well, tomorrow this pickle is going to get even more interesting.”
    Aiden had explained to Norie how the meeting time had been changed. Norie still didn’t understand why, but she was tried of waiting to see what her mother wanted. If this had all been up to her, she would have just confronted the woman first thing.
    But Norie’s father was more passive than she was. And that may have been a good thing. He was university professor who taught English. His students loved him.
    Norie was pretty sure that if she was forced to teach children she might throw the chalk at them.
    Norie turned her head to look further into the forest. It looked darker in there than it had minutes before. Norie looked overhead and saw why. Even through the leaves of the trees, Norie could see the overcast skies. Darker clouds were rolling in and the daylight was dimming.
    Aiden noticed the shift in weather as well. “I think we’d better head back. Looks like rain.”
    “Excellent deduction, genius.” Norie poked fun at her brother. “But, I think we should keep going.”
    Aiden gave Norie a look. “I know you like adventure, Nor, but really, we should get back.” Aiden shook his head with a slight smile and turned to head back.
    Norie looked at his retreating figure and then glanced back into the woods.
    “Yes, I do love adventure, Aiden,” Norie said, jogging up alongside him. “But, if I remember correctly, so do you.” Norie stopped walking and waited.
    As Norie predicted, Aiden only made it a few steps more before he stopped. Moments later, he turned and shook his head at Norie. She raised her eyebrows and grinned.

The End

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