Chapter no 44

The Locked Door

Marjorie has her back to our table again in the cafeteria. You’d think by now, she would know better.

We have not said a word to each other today. She didn’t even look at me when she came into the classroom this morning, like what happened yesterday was erased from her memory. That’s probably a good thing.

“Her hair is so gross,” Tiffany says. “I wonder if she even washes it.”

A discussion follows about whether or not Marjorie washes her hair. It seemed clean enough to me when we were walking together.

Tiffany removes her straw from her drink and starts shaping a scrap of a napkin into another spitball. “I’m going to bet you guys,” she says, “that if I throw one spitball into her hair, it’s going to stay in there all afternoon. Maybe all week!”

I watch her stick the napkin into her mouth to moisten it. “Hey,” I say. She grins at me. “You want to do the honors, Nora?”

I don’t smile back. “I think you should leave Marjorie alone. Enough already.”

“Seriously?” Tiffany rolls her eyes. “Marjorie totally deserves it. She’s so gross.”

“She doesn’t deserve it.” I fold my arms across my chest. “What you’re doing is really mean. You need to stop.”

“Oh yeah?” Tiffany’s pretty green eyes meet mine across the table. “Or else what?”

“Or else,” I say quietly, “you’ll be sorry.”

For a good minute, Tiffany and I just stare at each other. It’s the ultimate blinking contest. She blinks first.

“Fine.” She tosses the straw back onto her tray. “Whatever. It’s getting boring to make fun of Marjorie anyway. It’s too easy.”

I hope this is the end of the bullying. I hope after today these girls quit making fun of Marjorie for good. But I’m never going to find out. Because

at that moment, the loudspeaker blares out: “Nora Nierling, please report to the principal’s office!”

The other girls giggle and make “oooh” sounds. I grab my tray and I bring it to the garbage to dump out the remainder of my lunch. I know I’m not coming back.

When I arrive at the principal’s office, I pause outside the door for a few seconds. As soon as I go in there, my whole life is going to be different. There’s nothing I can do about it, but I just want to wait a little bit longer. I want to hold onto my old life just a little bit longer.

When I get into the principal’s office, Mrs. O’Leary is sitting at her desk. She’s been the principal for about a zillion years, and I’m willing to bet this particular situation has never come up before. Also, there’s a policeman next to her. They both have matching frowns on their faces. It’s the kind of look adults get when they have to give some really bad news.

Nora, your parents were killed in a horrible car accident. Nora, your house has burned to the ground.

Nora, there’s a meteor headed towards the earth, and we’ve all got about an hour left to live.

“Nora,” Mrs. O’Leary says, “Officer Varallo would like to have a word with you. Would you have a seat?”

I sit down in the little wooden chair in front of the principal’s desk. It’s the first time I’ve ever been sitting here. I’ve never been in any real kind of trouble during my time in elementary school.

I look up at the police officer, wearing a blue uniform with a badge on his chest. Unlike the principal, he looks really young. Like, younger than my parents or any of my teachers. They stuck him with the job of coming to talk to me, I guess.

“Nora,” he says. “I’m afraid your parents are in some trouble.” “What trouble?” I say.

“They’ve…” He scratches at his neck. “We’ve had to take them both to jail, unfortunately. And it may be a while till they get out.”

“Your grandmother will be coming to pick you up,” Mrs. O’Leary says quickly.

I look down at my hands. My nails are bitten almost to the quick. I can’t even remember biting them. I always used to have nice nails.

“Nora?” Mrs. O’Leary says. “Are you all right, dear?”

“Yes,” I say.

Mrs. O’Leary is giving me a strange look. She probably thinks I should be more upset than I am. Or asking why my parents were thrown in jail. Wouldn’t an ordinary kid have questions? So I must not be an ordinary kid. She’s already psychoanalyzing me. The daughter of that monster is also heartless. She didn’t even cry when she heard what happened! She just sat there, like she didn’t even care.

It’s not my fault I’m not like everyone else. But that doesn’t mean I’m like him.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Nora?” she presses me.

I clear my throat, trying to work up the nerve to ask the question I’ve been thinking about all morning. I’ve got to ask. I can’t stop imagining that scared blue eye staring out at me. I need to know.

“Is Mandy Johansson still alive?” I blurt out.

Officer Varallo looks taken aback by my question. It’s probably the last thing he thought I would ask. He scratches at his neck again and drops his eyes.

“No,” he says.

She’s dead. I was too late. And then I burst into tears.

You'll Also Like