Idea : Book 2 with a cool fantasy world the protagonist doesn’t care enough about.
Process : …
Edited? : Not really.
———– Read some! ———–
None of you shall stay here any longer if you do not want to,
but there is another journey which you must take before you can sail homewards….*[ The Odyssey, Book X, the Internet Classics Archive.]
The doorbell rang. Standing in front of the door, as she had been for the last few minutes, Naomi Littleton placed her finger between the braille-indented pages of The Odyssey and reached for the handle.
“I’ll get i— never mind,” came her brother’s voice from the hall. Seeing her in preparation, he turned quickly and went back into his room.
Naomi opened the door partway. The cool autumn air brushed around her, sending chills over her shoulders and down the back of her neck. “Good evening. May I help you?”
“Ah— good evening… is your mother — or father — at home?”
“My mother is here. May I tell her who is calling?”
He cleared his throat. “Of course. Jerome McKele.”
The name seemed familiar. Naomi glanced to the picture of the dancer in the living room, then opened the door fully. “Please come in.”
“Thank you.” He wiped his feet on the mat and stepped inside just as Naomi pushed the door shut. Although it was only October, he smelled like the snow, and wore a heavy black Chesterfield overcoat, though no gloves. He stood only several inches above Naomi’s 5’5” and she thought he must be older than 30 but younger than her mother. Having seen this several minutes before, Naomi went to the kitchen where her mother sat at the table with a cup of coffee. Her head rested on her hand, and she was flipping through magazines without enthusiasm.
Naomi placed her fingers against the wall. “Jerome McKele to see you.”
While Naomi closed her eyes, trying to decipher what that tone of voice meant, Angie Littleton stood and walked swiftly to the front door.
“Mrs. Littleton?” Naomi heard behind her.
“I’m Jerome McKele. Pleased to meet you.”
They shook hands. Naomi marked her page with a bookmark, then turned, bringing the book to her chest.
“I’m sorry to drop by like this,” the man said, still sounding nervous but less cold. “I wasn’t even sure I had the address right.”
Angie waited for some more explanation, when there was none she asked “Are you related to Jenner McKele?”
“Jenner? I have a cousin named Jenner.”
“You look a bit like him.”
“Well that’s a funny coincidence!”
Naomi smiled at his sudden jolliness.
“Why, then, are you here?” Angie asked, trying not to sound rude.
Jerome brought his hand up to scratch his chin, then cleared his throat and rubbed his hands together. “Well I — weren’t you — didn’t Tina call?”
Naomi perked up at the sound of her aunt’s name.
“Tina?” Angie repeated.
Jerome and Angie stared at each other blankly for a few moments, then Jerome began to laugh. “Well, I’ll be a blow-in! ‘The dogs themselves will know,’ says she. Of course she was lying… she’d never tell her mum now, would she?”
“Tell her what?” Naomi could tell her mother was becoming continuously more agitated.
“Let’s start again, now,” Jerome said, taking off his hat and holding out his hand. “Jerome McKele, Tina’s husband.”
Naomi could imagine her mother’s brain as a virtual dictionary: right now she was creating a new entry and linking it back to the one for her little sister. Eventually she must have saved her changes, for she reached out and shook his hand again. “Pleased to meet you,” she said faintly.
“Seems I have some stories to tell.”
“Seems so. Will you stay and take a seat? Or, well, stay for dinner, won’t you?”
“It would be my pleasure.” He gave her a sweeping bow, then hung his hat on the hatstand and began undoing the laces on his boots.
Angie swept back into the kitchen, banging pots and spoons in what was supposed to be an organized manner. Ever since Mark disappeared she had taken to preparing preparations for the meals she would make over the week. To Naomi it seemed an attempt to appear organized, but she liked the look on her mother’s face as she set up these ‘meal box stacks’. “It is more efficient,” Angie told her daughter. “I can cut all vegetables at the same time, which means washing the cutting board and knives only once.” Before, Angie dealt with meals like she dealt with everything: logically, calmly, and with no preparation. She’d never needed preparation, so clearly could she see the problems before her. It wasn’t just meals now, either. The fridge and walls of her office were covered in sticky to-do notes, so whenever she felt her mind wander she could pick up a new task. Naomi had thought at first that her mother took her father’s absence rather well. Life continued as usual. Except that it didn’t. Little by little, Angie began to change things. Last week she’d purchased a new toaster and given the old one to Skip to disassemble. Of them all, her little brother probably been best fortified, perhaps for the wrong reasons. Naomi plucked a blue sticky note off the doorway to the living room and crumpled it in her palm, then moved into the living room and moved the couch one foot away from the doorway. Who needed a reminder for something like that? Clutching the note harder than necessary, she stepped back in the entry way and waited while Jerome grabbed his suitcase from the sidewalk.
“Are you staying long?” Naomi asked.
Jerome popped the case open and pulled out a digital camera. “That depends on your mother. Would you rather I didn’t?”
Unsure how to answer that, Naomi looked down at her book for a moment. “Please come sit down,” she said, raising her eyes again.
Jerome leaned toward her and waived a hand in front of her face. She blinked and stepped back, bumping against the wall.
“Oh. You’re the blind one?”
“The blind one?” Naomi’s crestfallen tone caused Skip to laugh.
“Skip, don’t tease your sister,” Angie called from the kitchen. Skip slid out from the hall and grinned at his sister.
“Then you are the one like your mother,” Jerome told Skip.
“No way,” the boy said in a low, worried voice.
Jerome powered his camera on. “Blame your aunt, then. She didn’t tell me much about you.”
“We don’t see her often,” Naomi said softly.
Jerome turned the display of the camera to them. “Well, do you want to see our— well, not you then, but do you?” he asked Skip.
“Wedding photos. There aren’t that many.” He passed Skip the camera and went to the kitchen to help, though Angie would soon send him back to sit in the living room. Naomi sidled up to Skip and stared at the space where the camera was. Skip obligingly went through the photos then tried to hold the camera still for about three minutes while Naomi caught up.
“What do you think of our new uncle?” Skip whispered to her.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted.
“Me neither. I think I like him. Maybe it’ll distract Mom.”
“I hope so.”
The stir fry left to fry, Angie moved to the living room and also went through the pictures. Skip and Naomi, to either side of her on the couch, stared at Jerome, who stared right back. When at last he said something, it was not a welcome topic. “Where’s your dad?”
“Gone,” Skip said shortly, and waived a warning hand. Although it had been more than three months since he left — with no goodbye and no explanation — Angie hadn’t bothered calling any of their family. Maybe it was because they lived so far from all of them, but Angie didn’t seem to get on with the rest of her family… or maybe that’s why they lived so far away. Angie didn’t want to talk to her family, and she just as sure didn’t want to talk to Mark’s family. She wasn’t close to any of the neighbors, nor did she seem to have any particular friends, so the only other person who knew was Naomi’s best friend Helen. Naomi wondered what her mother would say if her aunt Marla called to talk to her brother, an occurrence not uncommon this time of year.
“Where is Aunt Tina?” Naomi asked.
“She’s still in New York, finishing up, er, stuff.”
“Stuff,” Skip repeated.
“Selling the apartment, actually.”
Angie stood up and passed the camera back to Jerome. “Where are you moving to?”
“Haven’t decided that, really.”
Angie put her hands on her hips. “Tina expects to stay here.”
“Ah, yes. That’s what she told me. But, I see, she never called to ask.”
The phone rang. Angie hesitated, glancing down at Jerome, then went to the kitchen to answer it. “Is what? Who? Oh. No. He’s not taking any work right now. Goodnight.” Skip and Naomi glanced at each other.
“Piano,” Naomi blurted. “Did you know, I go to an art school.” She stood. “May I play something for you?”
Jerome, noticing their discomfort, leaned back in his chair. “Please.”
Naomi walked across the room and slid onto the bench, brushing her fingers along the wood over the keys. She lifted it carefully, then began to play a Sonatina. Her mother did not return to the living room until the end of the first movement, then the phone rang again. Looking apprehensive, Angie answered it. Soon, raised voices could be heard, and Naomi finished the piece with reluctance. The lack of piano toned Angie down a notch, and she returned shortly.
“That was Tina,” she sighed, collapsing on the couch. Jerome said nothing, just nodded. “Well. She asked if you could both stay here a while. I told her you were already here and she was surprised.”
“I’m sorry,” Jerome started, but Angie shook her head. “No, no, it’s just Tina. This isn’t the first time. I mean—“ she let out a huff, “— that she’s expected something from me without asking.”
“That’s Tina to a T,” Jerome said with a smile. “But we won’t impose on you. We’ll get an apartment.”
“Mom, we have room downstairs,” Skip protested.
“No one wants to stay down there,” Angie argued, and Naomi nodded, thinking of her father’s stuff still strewn all over the floor. “Skip could stay in my room for a while.” Skip didn’t look thrilled with the idea, but Angie put a hand under her chin. “I could sleep on the couch in my office. That would work. That would be fine. I’d like you to stay,” she told Jerome.
He tried to talk her out of it, she insisted, they started talking about Tina, and Naomi began to zone out. She looked to her right at the curtained window, imagining the street hidden from view, remembering the night her father left. He gave the impression he was off on a secret mission, but he didn’t have to leave like that, he didn’t have to leave them worrying like they were. The past year had seen Naomi somewhat disillusioned with her father. He’d been gone most of the time, had made no effort to attend her performances, and to top it off she learned he had been keeping secrets from her — secrets that involved her, secrets that might be able to explain why Naomi Littleton saw two minutes and fifty-five seconds into the future. At the end of her last school year, Naomi had been recruited by the headmistress of her school to rescue a friend. The headmistress turned out to be a scientist from another world who vanished with a transportation crystal. The friend turned out to be a spy and a thief who vanished in what was surely a more mundane but no less mysterious way.
“—tell him, Naomi?”
Naomi looked up at her mother, completely wandered from the conversation.
“About Clairmon,” Skip helped.
“Claire Monet Academy for the Arts,” Naomi said, looking towards her uncle. “I’m studying singing, and some piano. More piano, lately.” Naomi’s voice trailed off at the end, and Angie tried to push the subject a different way. Naomi’s best friend and singing partner, Helen, was studying abroad in London.
“I’m not going!” The blond had declared the last time Naomi saw her. “I don’t know why Mom absolutely has to be in London this season for whatever poop-ish reason — I’m not going with her. Dad won’t leave his quarry — will he? Whatever. I’ll cave in your basement.”
Next Naomi heard was a long-distance call from Heathrow Airport, where Helen would say nothing but apologize for leaving Naomi alone and request she play with her cats. “I’ll upload my part to YouTube, so we’ll still do a duet,” she said, almost in tears. Naomi didn’t say much, and hadn’t heard anything these last two weeks. For Naomi, singing had meant Helen, Helen had meant cake, and all together it meant all things wonderful. Without Helen, Naomi didn’t feel like singing. It was a horrible feeling, this lack of feeling. If she cried herself to sleep a few times after Helen left, well, that was only natural.
“Do you play any instruments?” Naomi asked Jerome.
“Used to play the fiddle, but that was a while back, don’t have one now.”
“Doesn’t Tina still have a violin?” Angie asked. Naomi looked at her mother. Jermone nodded. “But she scarcely lets it see the light of day. I’ve only heard her play once.”
“I’ll make her play for you, Naomi. She’s very good. Mother made her take harp lessons when we were young, as revenge she bought a violin and taught herself.”
“She didn’t like harp?” Naomi wondered.
“Tina was rebellious. If she’d had room or method to take the harp with her to New York. It’s probably still in Dad’s workroom.” Angie stared at a random spot on the wall and Naomi folded her arms. “I guess that means music comes from your side of the family.” Jerome fiddled with his camera and Naomi regretted her words. It seemed nothing said wouldn’t bring up painful topics. Or was it that they directed everything to misery? Naomi licked her lips. “Um. I work at a music store, and we have a display fiddle. Will you… play for me? After school tomorrow?”
Jerome gave her a jolly grin. “Sounds like a fun thing.”
“You could go with Mom and take her to work,” Skip suggested.
“What about you?” Angie asked.
“I can walk home just fine.”
“I have Poki,” Naomi pointed out. She had walked home plenty of times in the past. With Helen. Yet her mother hadn’t let her walk home on her own.
“You can meet us there.”
“Mom, I have basketball practice.”
“I know, so you can walk over with your friends afterwards….”
Naomi turned her head to study her new uncle. He looked and sounded more Irish than the McElroy sisters, though he had blond rather than red hair. Naomi was reminded of the school desk that now sat under Skip’s computer in his room — yes, that exact shade of blond. Because of Naomi’s condition, Angie had homeschooled her children until a few years ago. What was now Skip’s room had been the school room, and still had several bookshelves built into the walls. Little by little the books on math, science, language, and music had been replaced by sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks. Most of them were dog-eared and sticky-noted in a code of Skip’s making. Naomi didn’t know most of what her brother researched and talked about on ‘the forums,’ though she knew the blue notes marked anything to do with prophesies, seers, and time-travel. Skip had always been more intense about discovering the answers to the mysteries of her crystal balls. That was why she assigned him the task of online research of the hypothesized ‘parallel world.’ He spent more time than ever in his room compiling pages and pages of notes.
“I’ve got homework,” he said now, slipping off the couch.
Angie caught his arm. “Dinner will be ready soon.”
“Yeah, ok.” He waived to Naomi and went to his room, closing the door behind him.
“He does a lot of homework,” Angie noted.
“He’s self-disciplined,” Jerome approved.
“No, he’s lying to me,” Angie said bluntly, and Naomi winced. “They think I don’t notice what goes on in the house,” Angie continued, leaning back and looking up at the ceiling. “But I can hear every footstep from my office. I always know when they’re home from school, when they’re playing Pictionary in Naomi’s room, when Poki is being fed. I could always tell how many pictures Mark had to develop because he’d come upstairs and stare out the window here after every 7 exactly. The house is too quiet these days. Skip is gone at school and has basketball practice, when he’s home he’s always at his computer. Naomi is hardly home. She has extra piano practice now, she works part time, and she takes Taekwon-do. Why am I complaining to you? I’m sorry. Dinner’s ready.”
Naomi waited for her mother to leave, then she sighed. “I’m glad you’re here,” she told Jerome. “When does Aunt Tina come?”
“It depends on when the deal is closed. They were supposed to close yesterday but the buyer found a rotted floorboard. What happened to your father?”
Naomi looked down. “We’re not sure. He just left. But… I think he’s on a mission. I just don’t know what for yet.”
“Oh? A mission?”
Naomi nodded. “Yup. Do you like to read?”
“We have a lot of books here. Do you mind if I read?”
“Go ahead.” What Jerome chose to make of the drama Naomi couldn’t tell, but he chose a book from the shelf near the piano and they sat in companionable silence.
Monday was Naomi’s favorite day of the week, and she woke to her alarm with a smile on her face and unusual energy. She dressed and washed while humming arias, put away dishes from last night softly singing Carmen, then slipped quietly out the front door.
“It smells like snow,” she said to her dog. Poki was tugging at her leash, anxious to run around. Naomi slipped sunglasses over the bridge of her nose, tucked her stick under her backpack like a ninja sword, then let Poki lead her down the driveway while she bit into an apple. By the time she was down to the core they had reached Ned’s house, and Naomi was joined by her morning escort.
“Guess what?” Scarlett said over Ned’s “Good morning.”
“You never guess. Well, Claire has set a wedding date for next January.”
“Yeah and you never ask either. I’ll tell you anyway. She picked January because ‘everybody gets married in the summer’ and because Prince Charming finishes his undergraduate degree next December so he’s going to take a break for the spring then they’ll both resume school in the summer.”
“I wish we could go to New York for the wedding.”
“I know! Dad still says ’No, I have a deadline in January.’ I’m like, ‘Dad, I’m talking about more than a year from now,’ and he totally doesn’t get it. He got this idea for a new series and abandoned the White Collar — you know that one I told you about the translator who dies from smelling a suit, which is due in two weeks by the way — and he’s impossible! He forgot to feed Pollywidgeon while I was at school on Friday and all the birds were screeching when I got home.” Scarlett took a big breath, then jumped in front of Naomi, putting out her hands to catch Naomi before she ran into her. “What’d you do over the weekend? I thought it would never end.”
Naomi laughed, and let Scarlett lead her across the street. “My aunt and uncle are coming to live with us.”
“Oh, that’s—“ Ned tried, but he was beat by Scarlett’s “I wish our relatives would just drop in some time! No one ever visits us anymore.”
“Don’t they come visit your mom?” Ned wondered. Scarlett’s mother had been in an asylum since falling off the roof some years ago.
“Yeah, sometimes, but that’s her, not us. Wait, is this the aunt that lives in California, or the one from New York?”
“New York. She just got married.”
Scarlett sighed dramatically. “It is the city of dreams.”
Ned stepped around to walk on the other side of Poki. “Naomi, are you going to the symphony this weekend?”
“Oh, I forgot to ask Skip what’s playing!”
“You know, phones don’t require sight,” Scarlett pointed out.
“I haven’t memorized the number.”
“It’s — well, it’s kind of expensive.”
“My dad’s former boss’s sister-in-law gave him some tickets. Three, exactly, so well—“
“Go on,” Scarlett urged.
“I was,” Ned said with good patience. “So Naomi, would you like to go? With me? And Scarlett?”
“Because I’m owl-droppings,” Scarlett lamented.
“Really?” Naomi clapped her hands. “Oh, I’m so excited! This will only be my second time!”
“Me too,” Ned admitted.
“It’ll be my first,” Scarlett said in triumph.
“Poor Scarlett,” Naomi and Ned intoned.
Scarlett put a hand to her chest. “But do not cry for me, my friends — classical music isn’t really my thing.”
Ned bit his lip. “Then you’re not coming?”
“Phh. Of course I’m coming. Free tickets? Who passes up free tickets? Oh, I brought some coupons for ice cream, wanna go after school?”
While Ned explained to Scarlett that it was cold, and she explained that ice cream defies all weather, Naomi just grinned. It was easy to talk about money with these friends, and they were so unembarrassed by their lack of it. Clairmon was a high-class high-tuition school, and a lot of the wealthier students were a bit snobbish. Ironically, poor students were able to attend the school because of scholarships, which usually indicated their extraordinary ability. Except Naomi. The headmistress had offered Naomi a scholarship because she wanted to use Naomi’s future-seeing abilities to break into a house and steal back her transportation crystal. At first, that knowledge made Naomi feel sadly inadequate, but she’d gotten over it, thanks to Ned and Scarlett. Their friendship almost made up for the lack of Helen. Almost. Naomi still hadn’t told them about her sight, and she wasn’t sure she ever could.
They arrived at school a half-hour before class would start, and there separated ways. They took two classes together, those being Math and Astronomy, but the first class for Naomi and Ned was 2nd Year Music Theory. Despite her love of music, Naomi had not studied Theory with enthusiasm before she met Ned. Maybe it was because she shied away from anything having to do with math, or because she hadn’t been able to easily get a hold of a music theory book in braille. The summer had changed her mind regarding the subject. Because Naomi had been ‘kidnapped’ by her headmistress, her mother insisted she take some sort of self-defense class, and because her pen-pal Joey liked Taekwon-do, that was what Naomi chose. What may or may not be coincidentally, Ned started at the same time, so he would come over to her house an hour before walking with her to class, and they spent the time discussing musical theory. Ned would read articles and chapters out aloud to her, he would explain the concepts she didn’t understand, and then usually she would get frustrated and ask ‘What for?’
“Somebody once needed to figure out why the stars changed,” he said at one point. “Somebody had to know why the sun set. They weren’t content with ‘it is because it is.’ Somebody wondered how a bird could fly. Somebody wondered why it rained, why it thundered. If no one asked questions, civilization would never have progressed.”
“But I don’t really care why it rains,” Naomi moaned, falling onto her back. “It just does.”
“But think of what you can create with the knowledge.”
“Actually I moved back to music. Can’t you find a way to apply these concepts? You know most of it intuitively, try to consciously think about it next time you play a piece on the piano.”
“It’s like knowing why Alexander Dumas wrote the Count’s adventure the way he did. It takes the simple mystery out of it. I feel kind of disillusioned with Debussy now.”
“Don’t say that. It doesn’t mean he didn’t create something beautiful… you can just admire him more for it.”
“I guess.” She didn’t like it, at first, analyzing her favorite pieces of music. It seemed to take the enjoyment out of playing. But then she started playing by herself. Because music had always been a bit hard to read for her, Naomi liked finger exercises and playing around with chords and scales. She could go for hours just moving from one random piece of melody to another, some based on sounds she’d heard, some unfamiliar. For some reason, though she loved doing that, Naomi never thought of writing her own music. Playing around with theory, though, she began to experiment, and discovered another thing she absolutely loved to do. Her mother complained the house was too quiet now, that was probably because most of the summer was accompanied by Helen endlessly pounding out melodies on the piano. She’d tuned it three times.
Thus, Music Theory was one of her favorite classes, and Music Theory was in the morning on Mondays and Wednesdays. Making, as noted, Monday her favorite day of the week. It was also nice having friends in her classes because they could help her take notes. Naomi’s teachers were all very helpful, sending her home with notes they had put together, or even (in the case of her piano teacher) recording the notes so she could review them herself. Teachers and students don’t always have the same perspectives, though. Naomi could take some notes by herself, but, because she saw the notes appear before she had actually written them down, she would often get lost and end up writing over previous notes or missing chunks of text. She still stubbornly refused to allow her mother to buy her a special little computer designed for blind people.
“I’m not actually blind and I don’t like computers,” was her reasoning.
Regarding other things, however, her resolve was fading. For as long as she had been aware of her curse, she had determined there was a way to make it go away, that someday she would see like normal people. Where the events of May had given her the first clue in discovering the nature of her ability, it had crushed her hopes. The words of Claire Monet, ex-headmistress of Claire Monet Academy, had lead Naomi to believe she was descended from a Seer in the world Claire was from. That Seer had somehow come here, and the ability had resurfaced in Naomi. She’d asked her mother if anyone in their family had exhibited any sort of the same behavior, or if anyone had been blind, and what about Dad? but either the headmistress was wrong, or Seer ability skips generations. Whatever strange reasoning concluded such, Naomi always assumed that if her curse was some sort of biological mutation there would be a way to reverse it. The same reasoning should conclude the same thing if it is a biological power, but in her mind it was not so. Thinking she would see normally someday had allowed Naomi to adapt to situations less than ideal. Like the stick. Blind people should have a stick. Her brother told her so when she was younger, and she had found a stick (fallen from a tree) and used that until a few months ago when she asked her mother for a real white cane. The one she had now could fold and be stored in her backpack, which meant she was much more inclined to take it around with her. She’d always relied more on her black lab, Poki, and left the stick at home. Now the stick was stuck in the backyard and Naomi found herself really appreciating the capabilities of the cane. Skip had printed a sticky label with her name and address to attach to the cane, and in doing so had named the cane MysteryCurseBuster. Naomi did not so much approve of the name as want the address label, and it made her brother happy, so she let him stick it on. Skip told her she could nickname it ‘M.C.’ “Like ‘My Cane’!” but so far Naomi had called it appropriately ‘my cane,’ alternatively ‘the cane.’ Occasionally she fell back into her old habits and referred to it as ‘the stick.’
“Watch the stick,” said the loud brown-haired boy who sat behind her.
She tapped it against his foot. “Hi to you too, Joe.”
Joe reached out to pull her braid but Ned whacked his hand. “What are you, twelve? Leave her alone.”
“‘Leave her alone’,” Joe mimicked.
Naomi set herself in her seat. “Sit, Poki.” The dog sat next to her, wagging her tail happily. It thwacked Joe’s foot and Joe patted Poki’s back with his tennis shoe. Naomi leaned over to her left and whispered to Ned, “Is the teacher here yet?” The teacher, Mrs. Alex Zochee, would be unpacking her things in about three minutes, but Naomi could not hear her now. Ned shook his head, then blushed at his classmates’ snickering and said “No, not yet.”
“Ned, can I borrow your notes from last week?” asked the girl who sat in front of Naomi. While they discussed the notes, Naomi turned her head to the empty desk on her right. For almost a year, the seat to the right of Naomi Littleton had always been occupied by Helen Choi. Naomi didn’t talk to people much, she didn’t know anyone else’s name, and Helen was a bit snobbish and wild. The two were always together and always somewhat removed from the rest of the class. That was what had been. What was differed greatly, as accented by Helen’s empty desk, but then not so greatly, as accented by the still-empty desk.
“Naomi, you’ve gotten taller,” Joe complained, sitting up straight in his seat. Naomi hadn’t noticed any change in her height, but then she hadn’t been paying it attention. “Why do you get to sit in the front anyway? You don’t need to be able to see well.”
“It’s easier to hear, sitting in the front.”
“If you wanted to sit in the front, you could move,” the girl behind him suggested.
“Move? Nobody moves after the first week of school.”
“Have it your way.”
“You could move, Laura,” another boy suggested.
“I already tied all my luck charms to this chair.”
“Who sits there after you?” wondered the boy.
“Some lucky dude,” Joe helpfully guessed.
Thick heels turned through the doorway and entered the classroom. “What is the square root of 81?” There was a split second of silence.
“Six!” blurted a kid near the back.
“Nine,” Ned corrected.
“This isn’t math class,” groaned Laura.
“I had to see if you were awake,” Mrs. Zochee explained, starting to unpack her bag.
“I don’t think we are,” someone said.
“Let’s fix that. Ned, please pass these out.” His enthusiasm and dedication for the subject had quickly made Ned her favorite student. Without fail, upon receiving the stack of papers, Ned would pause in front of the class and start reading. Naomi brushed her palm over her notebook, feeling the indentations of pen on the page, then turned to a blank sheet and clicked her pen.