Believing is Seeing

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Chapter 12

The Punishment

“Now look Honey, your father and I are going out to lunch, call us if you need anything, and are you absolutely sure you can walk home?”

“Exercise will do me good mom. Besides, I want to check out this side of town anyway. Have fun.” I got out of the car and smoothed down my jacket, said goodbye to my mother, and slammed the door shut. She watched me until I got to the doors and went inside before she drove off.

The halls were hauntingly silent, without as much as a sneaker scuff from some person not paying attention to their feet.

I kept walking until I found a door covered in construction paper (for reasons I do not know) and looked at my watch.

Seven Fifty.

“We’re early.”

Don’t you mean you? I thought we discussed not being ‘us’.

“Whatever.” I knocked on the door. When no one answered, I was going to knock again, but the door whipped open and I was face to face with a much older woman.

“Fresh meat! What are you doing here? Get in trouble?” She cackled as she held the door open for me.

Mrs. James was wearing a black skirt and a bright yellow blouse. She looked like a demented wasp.

“You’re the first one here. Grab a seat. Heh heh. You picked a horrible day to get yourself thrown into weekend prison.”

There were several round tables, and I sat at the one in the middle. The two other tables were bare, and I wondered what kind of Saturday school this was.

“Aren’t we supposed to get separate desks?” I asked, scooting the chair closer to the table.

“You sure are.” She said, grinning.

I was beginning to have slight misgivings.

A loud banging sound outside the door caused me to jump, and a guy in full piercing came in.

“Isn’t that why you got thrown in here the first place?” Mrs. James asked slyly when he sat down at the table closest to the door.

“I’m showing my individuality.”

“Like the rest of your friends?” She retorted as several of his friends walked in. They were pierced just like him, and sat down at the same table.

Several more kids came in, some looking like me, curious about the arrangement, and staring at the pierced kids. These sat at the table farthest from the door, away from the others. The others seemed to know those guys, and sat with them, joking and making a lot of noise.

A couple minutes later, after Mrs. James had reached over with a meter stick and swatted one of the louder ones, a few more walked in, the most interesting of which was a girl with the most bizarre fashion sense I’ve ever seen.

She was black, and she was wearing a straitjacket. An actual, black straitjacket. With shorts, purple no less. She was also wearing flip flops and was wearing blue eye shadow and dangling alien earrings.

Oh, and she was about six feet tall.

I mean, holy cow. I feel appropriately minute.

“Nikki, have a seat and stop dramatizing yourself!” Mrs. James barked.

Nikki looked around and set her eyes on me and grinned wickedly. I blinked at her, and then looked behind my shoulder, wondering if there was a funny poster or something. The chair next to me screeched, and I looked to see Nikki reclining on it next to me, grinning at me. I was startled to see fangs, but had to kick myself mentally when I realized they were plastic.

She’s a freak!

I silently agreed with him.

“Alright! We all here?” A man had somehow materialized in front of the room. I stared at him.

I seem to be doing a lot of that.

“Good! Now, I’m Mr. Gheller, and today we will be having group discussions.”

Mrs. James looked like she was bearing holding back a ton of laughter.

“We will be discussing why you are here.”

“We know why we’re here.” The first pierced boy grinned. “Setting off firecrackers. Not a crime.”

“It is when you do it in the classroom.” Mr. Gheller said reprovingly. “And you, Sean, should know that.”

“Details.” Sean waved it off.

“Now, to those of you who are new to this, sadly not as many as I wished, I am required to try to help repeat offenders with their problems-”

“So, basically what you’re saying is that you want to get a little counseling in for all of us so the people that are new never want to come back and face the embarrassment and hope the ones that aren’t finally get tired of your yapping and stop.” Nikki said, managing to get the entire speech out without any impediment due to the fangs noticeable.

“You have a very blunt and ineloquent way of putting it. You are of course, correct. Embarrassment is a fine tool to use in the war against delinquency. Take the fangs out of your mouth, Nikki, you are not a vampire, no matter how many Dracula movies you watch.”

“You say that now.” She muttered as she pulled the fangs out and pocketed them.

“Now, you will all introduce yourselves.” Mr. Gheller started at the closest table to the door. I didn’t listen to them at all, wondering why Mr. Gheller was counseling when he was obviously not the school counselor, and it wasn’t until an elbow was shoved forcefully into my ribs that I noticed that it was my turn.

“Uh…Helena Harrick.” I fumbled.

“I see. I take it you got in trouble for not paying attention in class?” Mr. Gheller said, smiling thinly.

“No, sir. I was late to class one time to many.”

“Because you weren’t paying attention to the time?”

“Because somebody’s eggs exploded.” And that someone is not here, which I have noticed very quickly, and I am not pleased about that.

There were a couple of snorts, and Nikki was looking at me with what looked like admiration.

Mr. Gheller looked a little speechless. “And how did that happen?”

“I’m…not entirely sure.” I said truthfully. Mr. Gheller shrugged and went on.

“Alright, we have all been introduced. Now, I want you to learn more about your neighbors at your table, and be honest.” He turned to talk with Mrs. James.

“So, neighbor…” Nikki squinted at me. “What do you like to do?”

Sleep. Boston sniggered. I reached up to the marble and tapped it.

“I like to read.”

“Ever read Dracula?”

“Yes.”

“Really?” She seemed interested now. “You like horror novels? Movies?”

“Sometimes.”

“My hero is Frankenstein. Misunderstood genius, not a madman. You know, that was the name of the scientist, not the monster.”

“I heard that.”

“You don’t talk a lot do you?”

“Sometimes.”

“You ever talk in something beyond two syllable answers?”

“Maybe.”

She stared at me. I held it as seriously as I could before I cracked a smile. Then she laughed.

“You were messing with me! Okay, okay, you’re a cool girl, shorty. Helena, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I love your necklace. It looks like one those forbidden treasure pieces in the Mummy Tombs. Where’d you get it?” She gestured at it.

“I found the marble, and my mom made it a necklace.”

“Never seen a marble look like that before. Kinda like my bracelet.” She pulled up the sleeve of her jacket (a good ways-the straitjacket may not have been wrapped and secured, but the sleeves were really long.) and pointed at the blood red triangle set into a tacky tin bracelet. “I do a little jewelry work, I found this baby sitting in a tree, would you believe it? And I had this piece of junk arm band thing and decided to spice it up.”

“It looks good.” I said, trying to be nice. Actually, it had a simple, yet incredibly warped appearance, at least to my eyes. The bracelet itself was nothing special, but it looked as if the setting was burning it and bending the metal.

“No it doesn’t, but it gives it a forbidden treasure kind of look, doesn’t it?” Obviously, she was really into her horror genre.

“Okay, now we will talk about how we can improve!” Mr. Gheller’s voice cut through the building noise so well that some people winced.

“Let’s see…Actually become Wolf-girl, never cook again. I think me and Helena figured it out, can we go?”

“Sit down and be good Nikki. Please don’t cause more trouble than you do at school.”

“I don’t cause trouble! Exhibiting my likes is no crime! The head cheerleader walks around in her outfit everyday of the week, why can’t I just do my thing like her?”

“School rules state that you must not display an exhibitionist manner, which you do when you walk in dressed like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

“I don’t have that costume yet.” Nikki said sulkily. From the costume or being scolded, I don’t know.

“Yes, well, like it or not, you are very disruptive. Now, how can you improve, since you decided to volunteer?”

“You can’t tell me a cheerleader always in uniform isn’t exhibitionist.” She said, not answering the question.

“She does not wear it everyday. Alright. Helena?”

“I will never offer to watch someone’s food again. Let some other poor sap have exploders.” I said, promising silently to follow through with the statement.

Here, here, sister!

“I don’t really think you two are taking this seriously.” Mr. Gheller said severely.

“We’re supposed to?” Nikki asked.

And it went downhill from there.

“Get out of here, we don’t want to see you for another week!” Mrs. James called after the crowd of kids making their escape through the halls.

Mr. Gheller had yelled himself hoarse in the first hour, and then assigned Sean another five Saturdays when he overheard the boy telling the others how to download prank programs off the net and install them on school computers. Between the smart comments and the ‘innocent’ questions, I was supremely grateful that the man hadn’t rewarded us all with a couple extra days.

Mrs. James didn’t make things any better with her snorts of laughter and half audible comments, either.

“Hey, where you going after this?” Nikki asked, towering over me.

“I’m going to look around town and then go back to my house in time for dinner and a movie.”

“Cool. Hey, you wanna come over to my house?”

“Um…” I wasn’t quite sure about that. “Don’t most Slasher films start out this way?”

She burst out laughing. “Okay, I’ll give you that one. Nah, I need some help helping Grandma blockade the monsters back into the cellar.”

“Excuse me?”

“Grandma had a little too much fun when she was younger, and now she thinks the monster that killed Elvis is in her cellar. Other than that she’s perfectly sane. But every month right before the full moon, she gets me to help her lock up the cellar.”

“Ah.”

“It’ll be fun! Besides, you are the only person who knows anything about the classic monsters that I know of. We should like, have a movie night.”

“You make friends really easily, don’t you?”

“Not really. You’re one of the only people that weren’t so freaked out by me that you look at me like I’m growing an extra head that looks like Barbara Streisand on a bad day.”

“….Right. Well, tempting as your offer is, I have to decline.”

“Old fashioned parents?”

“Just about.” I said.

Has more to do with you, Vampire girl. Boston said. Another one that had been less than helpful with his little comments. It’s hard to keep a straight face talking to the teacher when someone is making ribald comments about said teacher without prejudice.

“Course, I don’t mind freaking people out. It’s fun.” She said, talking mostly to herself.

I didn’t comment on this.

She kept musing on this train of thought until we got outside. Sunlight seemed to bring her out of her reverie.

“Well, have fun wandering. I gotta go home. There’s a really bad insect flick on the old movies channel after the Revenge of the Mist, and I don’t want to miss it. Ciao!” She waved and jogged off.
Another interesting girl.

“Don’t say stuff like that, you’ll create a jinx.” I muttered as I turned to wander down a street opposite to the one she had taken.

Since when do I cause you trouble?

I didn’t comment on that one, either.

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