That Sucks

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The next Monday
is a cooking lab day
in home ec.
There aren't enough stations
for our newly-grown class size,
so Mr. Barnes splits us
between his classroom
and Mrs. Harrows' next door.
Natalia and I end up
in her former teacher's room
with a few other pairs,
and as Mr. Barnes has to
jump back and forth
between rooms to supervise,
we're left mostly alone.

Alone.
Great.
My heart is doing
weird flips in my chest,
and I have no idea why.
Natalia is a grade
above me, though,
so I put it down to
nervousness around someone
who is my sister's age,
and probably is superior to me
in every way.

Yeah.
That makes
total sense.

"So you're
Eunice's sister,"
she says again today -
but her tone is different,
more conversational than
the other day.
"What must that
be like?
I had a class with her
last year, and she
was a little..."

"Crazy?"
Unconsciously, I
flash a small smile,
and she mirrors it with
one of her own.
My heart is beating
even more erratically, now;
self-consciously,
I drag my eyes away
from her.
"She can be
a handful at times.
Sometimes I wonder
which of us is
actually the older one."

Usually, I don't,
because it's an understood thing
that Thias is older
than the both of us,
and therefore more
adult-like
and responsible.
Between Euni and I, though,
it's hard to tell.
I'm too young
to act like an adult,
and Eunice is too
impulsive
and borderline childish
to be considered responsible.
I don't know how
Mom and Dad
built up the courage to
let her drive their vehicles.

But Natalia
only nods sagely,
as if she had expected
such an answer.
Maybe she had.
"I don't have
any siblings,"
she sighs mournfully
as she stirs the contents
of the pot of something
we're supposed to be making
for class.
It looks a little
suspicious to me.
"It sounds like a lot
of fun.
Eunice said you have,
what,
three more of you?
Two?
Sounds like a party,
for sure."

That's one way
of putting it,
I guess.
Having six people
in the house, constantly
fighting over things
and getting in each other's way,
is pretty tiring,
in my opinion.
But it isn't like
I would trade my big family
for anything.
There is no way
I would ever give
any of them up, even for
a little peace and quiet.

But,
"I have
three siblings,"
is all I say to her
on that subject.
"Eunice,
my older brother, Matthias,
and my little brother, Eddie."

She whistles.
"So you're the
middle kid.
I've heard that
can be pretty rough."

"Well, I mean,
Eunice is too,
technically -
and look at how
she's turned out."

I mean that in
the least serious way
possible -
my siblings and I
are never really serious
when we talk about each other.
Teasing and joking around
is commonplace for us,
even when the butt of
our joking is
nowhere in sight.

But I guess Natalia
wouldn't understand that,
being an only child
and all.
Her expression changes
first to shock,
then to incredulity,
and then, finally,
to mirth.
A bubble of laughter
escapes her lips as she
reaches to turn the heat down
on the oven.

I can't believe it
for a second.
I made
Natalia Davis laugh?
Is this
really happening?
I think back to
the day I saw her on
the football bleachers
and wonder if that laugh
came a lot more easily
than I would have given it
credit for.
Something inside me
settles down just a little
at the thought.

My stomach is still
doing backflips
into my throat, though.
I don't think
that will change any time soon.

I look away for a moment,
focusing on cutting up
the last few vegetables
that we need to add
to our soup pot.
Our dish is already starting
to smell a little strange;
without meaning to,
I imagine it as
a witch's cauldron,
and I'm cutting up
the frog legs and eyeballs.
I cringe
at the thought.

"I can't imagine
having no siblings,"
I tell her honestly
as I start on the
'frog leg' celery stalks.
"It's weird to think
of never having anyone
be in your way,
or ask to borrow your stuff,
or just be an
overall nuisance
because you're related and
they can be."

Natalia stifles
another giggle.
"It's really lonely,"
she tells me -
and I assume she's
being completely truthful, too,
by her tone of voice.
I stop my chopping
long enough to stare her way.
"My parents are
away a lot on business.
My cousin used to
stay with me
when I was younger,
but he's in college now,
so he can't."

"Don't you have
any friends who could
keep you company?"
I ask,
surprised.
My thoughts again go
to the football jocks
on top of the bleachers -
the one who kissed her.
"Or, you know,
that you could stay with
until your parents get back."

She makes an impatient noise,
as if my ideas are
nothing new to her.
"I'd have to stay with them,
like, twenty-four seven,"
she says.
"My parents are
never around these days.
And anyway,
I don't think anyone would
willingly want to
put up with me for
a few months at a time,
even if just to
make me feel
a little less lonely."

'I would,'
my brain inexplicably supplies -
but instead,
I just nod sympathetically.
"That sucks,"
is all I can think of
to say -
and I immediately cringe
at how unconcerned
it sounds.

Natalia doesn't seem
to notice, though.
She nods as well
and says, in a
somewhat lighter tone,
"Yeah, it does.
But, you know,
that's the price of
having successful parents.
Or so they've
told me..."

And thinking of
my own successful parents,
and how they never fail
to make time for
their family, I
can't really agree.
For the first time
since I've met her,
I think I'm truly
starting to feel sorry
for Natalia.

×

I absolutely adore the fact that I get to develop Nat's character more in this story, because I think I'm really starting to get to know her as a character. (For those of you who don't know, I'm a hopeless character development addict--)
I'm gonna have to rewrite the epilogue of Misalignment at this rate because I feel as though I probably portrayed her really badly since I didn't know any better. Cool beans.

So anyway, if you guys liked this chapter, it'd be much appreciated if you would vote and leave me some feedback! What do you guys think of Natalia so far? I'm personally questioning what Matty sees in her 'cause she is definitely not this perfect little angel girl, oml. I mean, y'all will see more of that later, but I mean... Whaddya doin', Matty?

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