A grainy cell phone video on YouTube shows an average looking high school cafeteria. What isn’t average is the rapt attention everyone has at two girls arguing. A short, blonde girl stands stoically while a tall red head is perched at her seat across a large cafeteria table. Behind the two girls is another brunette quietly crying. The sound is terrible, the words can’t be made out but it is clear the red head is relishing the talk down she’s giving the blonde, who just stands with fists clenched. Finally enough people quiet down to hear “…and what is a nobody like you going to do about it? You’re just a runt from a trash family that’ll never amount to anything”
Five seconds of silence seem like an eternity
Suddenly out of now where the table lifts completely, the redhead and her friends move quickly away as it flips over and lands with a deafening thud. Screaming ensues, along with the shouting of the camera person as they run away. The blonde girl has barely moved and looks down at her hands in horror as the video finally cuts off.
The video is titled: Mutant Girl Flips Table which is a poor title, one of the more boring super power altercations and only has 700 views. Still, that was probably the second worst day of her whole life and haunted her all summer. She was lucky she wasn’t expelled although she obviously could not go back to Mill River High. Flora still felt more than crummy about the whole ordeal. She was an uncontrollable monster; she could have killed Lucille and the entire cheerleader team.
“Don’t watch that Flor, it’s just going to get you in a bad headspace” her older brother, Hal, said as he moved past her at the kitchen table to get to the fridge. She closed her laptop, and sighed before hiding her face in her surgical gloved hands.
“I know…I just…I don’t know. Hal, what if they all hate me?” She asked.
“They aren’t going to hate you. They’re going to think you’re super cool” she didn’t need to lift her head to know he was grinning ear to ear “but for real, you’re going to be fine. You’ve made a lot of progress this summer, and I’m sure you’ll meet people in the same boat as you. I mean you’re a pretty okay little sister, if that makes you feel better”
She finally cracked a small smile, and lifted her head. “Thanks, it does coming from a pretty okay big brother” she was momentarily startled before a large hand came down on both their shoulders. Her father came in, tired but in a great mood, as always.
“Good Morning, pretty okay kids. You all packed up, sweetie?”
“Yeah, it’s all in the truck and tied down. I’m gonna go see Ms. North real quick while you have your coffee, Dad” Flora answered, getting up, and tossing her laptop in her backpack. Hal gave her a quick hug before stealing her seat.
“See you, Flor. I’ll try and see if I can stop by if I have any away games near Freedom City”
“I’d like that, Hal, good luck”
It was weird to think this was the last time she’d see her kitchen or even her house for a couple of months. Her small old house where she had grown up, the town of Danby, Vermont: her home. She walked over to the next small house, her second home, where Ms. North stood at her porch, anticipating Flora’s arrival. She had a mug of tea for herself and coco for Flora. The two didn’t really say anything as they sat on the steps of the porch looking out to the forests and mountains beyond. Finally Ms. North broke the silence.
“As much as I will miss having an extra set of hands, this is a very good thing Flora. I feel it” Ms. North said with a confidence Flora always envied.
“…Well, I guess you know best” Flora said, slightly teasing but still nervous “I know I keep saying it but…thank you for helping me get this scholarship, I don’t k-“
“You don’t, instead you know that you are going, and it will be difficult but rewarding. Don’t hide, Flora”
“I won’t” I can’t, she thought looking down at the now near empty mug, held by her gloved hands, watching the threads wriggling across her fingertips underneath. She put the mug down, and hugged Ms. North tightly before she heard her dad come out. They let go and stood up, Ms. North taking both mugs and looking towards her father.
“You’ll have a safe trip, so I won’t bother saying that, just have fun you two. Be sure to call, dear”
“I will! Bye, Ms. North!” Flora said waving a bit as she joined her father in the old Madison truck, letting out a breath as she buckled herself in. She gave her father a nod, and the truck sputtered before revving up and just like that, they were off.
It was a fairly long and quiet car ride; scenic views and old back roads before finally they got to more “civilized” highways. The radio was settled on a classic rock station, only interrupted by brief conversations by her dad trying to be encouraging. Flora knew he was nervous, more about her being away and not safe. Yet this was the only option, her family had done everything they could think of to help and nothing was working.
Finally they came up on Claremont Academy, school for the gifted. There were helpful signs and volunteers that directed the Madisons to the junior dormitory. Flora didn’t have a lot of stuff; honestly she didn’t need her Dad to carry anything with her strength. Still she let him grab a couple of boxes as she grabbed everything else with ease. They came to her room, and she opened it with her new key.
A small, white room with only one window, desk, chair, bed and wardrobe greeted them. Her dad let out a whistle to break the silence before putting down the boxes.
“It’s not terrible. Better than Hal’s freshman dorm” He said with a small chuckle, and Flora nodded a bit in agreement.
“Yeah, I’m sure it will look a lot better after we do some unpacking” Flora said, trying to be positive and excited. Her stomach was still a ball of nerves. Her dad set up her desk and sewing machine, while Flora worked on her wardrobe and the bed. It didn’t take as long as either of them would hope, and soon the cardboard was broken down, suitcase empty and a slightly cozier room was before them. Her father wrapped an arm around her and looked around, pleased with the effort. Unintentionally their gazes landed on the family picture on her desk; the one with all four of the Madisons.
“You know she would be so excited for you, probably would handle this better than I can” Her dad paused, trying to take a breath “ I know this has been a lot, but you’re going to make us all proud, and I don’t need Ms. North here to know that. Also, no matter what, you can call me. No questions asked, I’ll come”
They both shared a look, eyes wet, before Flora gave her dad the biggest hug she could without breaking his spine. “Thanks, Dad. I love you”
“I love you too. Now I should go, let you start making new friends, and get settled” He said, finally letting go, patting her on the shoulder one more time, giving her one more hug, before finally heading out the door. Flora watched him leave, waiting until she couldn’t see the old truck any more.
Then it was just her, all alone, in a state, city and school that was all brand new to her. She wanted to do nothing more than to hide. The thoughts interrupted as a flyer slid under her door. Cautiously, she took off her gloves, before letting her threads sling across the room, picking up the paper and pulling it back to her. She read about a beach clean-up project, still looking for volunteers.
“I guess I’ve never seen the beach before”
No more hiding, this was a new start.